'˜My son's killing was completely senseless'
A Derry mother whose son was fatally stabbed in London is to launch a campaign to educate young people about the dangers of carrying a knife.
Michelle McPhillips, who is originally from Derry but has lived in London for the last four decades, lost her only son Jonathan James (JJ) in February this year.
JJ was an innocent bystander when he was fatally stabbed in Islington.
Michelle said her son, a 28-year-old father of two, had ‘never armed himself in his life’ and his killing was ‘completely senseless’.
He was the tenth person to be fatally stabbed in London since the start of 2017.
Michelle now wants to teach children that the ‘point of a knife means a life.’
As well as educating others about the devastation of knife crime, she also wants to raise money for the London Air Ambulance and for her grandchildren’s future.
She will be holding fundraising events in London and events will also be organised in Derry this summer.
No one has been charged with JJ’s murder and Michelle said at the moment she is getting strength from doing all she can to assist police to apprehend those responsible.
Michell told the ‘Journal’: “I am concentrating on catching the killer, because I need justice for my boy.
“He was a completely innocent bystander who should never have been touched by anyone in anyway.”
Michelle said she is ‘completely numb’ as a result of JJ’s murder on February 24.
JJ had been out for the night with his cousins and when they parted ways, JJ went to sit on the steps of the town hall in Islington.
Michelle told the ‘Journal’ that ‘all hell broke loose’ when a 17-year-old was stabbed.
“JJ tried to get away from it all and he was stabbed when someone bumped into him. He had nothing to do with anything. Someone stuck a knife into his main artery and took out his heart and lungs. He was an innocent bystander.”
“He managed to run to a local nightclub and asked the security staff for help. There was no blood or anything, but he was bleeding internally and an ambulance was called.”
Michelle works just five minutes away from the scene of her son’s fatal killing and arrived there at the same time as the ambulance.
“I got into the ambulance with him and at that stage he was finding it difficult to breathe. He called out to me and grabbed my hand and I just told him to keep breathing.”
The London Air Ambulance came to JJ’s aid and Michelle watched on as they opened her son’s chest and massaged his heart in the street.
JJ was taken to hospital and had surgery to repair his heart and lungs, but Michelle said she belives her son was already dead through lack of oxygen.
“He had a bike accident when he was 11 and he was taken to ICU. When I spoke to him, his eyes would flicker like he knew I was there.
“I kept looking for all those signs of life in ICU after the stabbing, but there was nothing,” she added.
Four days after he was stabbed, JJ was declared brain dead and Michelle had to make the heartbreaking decision to turn off the Life Support Machine.
“I held him in my arms and put my hand over his heart. I just though they have taken your heart, but they are not taking mine. Twenty minutes later he passed away.”
The Derry woman, who has lived in London for the last four decades, said the London Air Ambulance gave her an extra four days with her son.
“They are so good at what they do and that is why I want to fundraise for them in JJ’s name.
“With those four extra days, they gave us the opportunity to say goodbye to JJ properly.”
Michelle, who returns to Derry regularly, said her son ‘loved life’.
“JJ fixed bikes and loved riding them. He loved life, loved music and was a very sociable person. When he had his children, four-year-old Lexie and two-year-old Evie, it made him mature and they are real daddy’s girls.
“I found out later that JJ was the 10th fatal stabbing in London in the eight weeks since the start of 2017. In April this year, there has been a total of 120 stabbings in the city.
“We don’t get to hear about all of them, because the surgeons have got so good at saving the lives of stabbing victims.”
Michelle said she is drawing strength from helping the police catch those responsible, as well as a fundraising campaign in aid of the London Air Ambulance.
There will be fundraising events in Derry as Michelle’s family here want to do all they can to help her.
She will also be raising money for her grandchildren’s future as ‘one day they will have to be told their father, an innocent man, was murdered. How do you tell them that without changing their world view?’
“At the minute, it is like I am watching somebody else’s life. You always hear about these things but don’t think it is ever going to happen to you and yours.
“I am completely numb, there has been a couple of times where I have broken down and screamed but I really haven’t released anything.”
Michelle will be taking part in march next month which will see the Islington community protest about the ‘scary’ rise in knife crime.
“People are taken away from families for no reason because of knife crime. I know my son inside out and know he never had any reason to arm himself with anything. I know he wasn’t doing anything to have something like this to happen to him. That is the bit I just can’t come to terms with. His killing was completely senseless.”
Michelle wants to go into schools in her local area to educate children about knife crime.
“I want to talk to kids about knife crime and the consequences of carrying a knife. Let them know that the point of a knife means life and this can affect anyone. I never had any reason to believe my son would go out and get knifed.”
She would also like a registration process for knives, similar to the licence procedure for anyone who owns a gun.
“Knives could easily be engraved with a registration number. Anyone buying a sharp knife should have to provide identification and register it.
I would also like to see harsher sentences for knife crime, because it is going the same direction as America with guns and it is scary.”
For more information visit www.facebook.com/justiceforjar and to donate to the fundraising campaign www.gofundme.com/3g7hjp4