The uncle of a teenage schoolboy who was tragically stabbed to death last June has spoken out on what it’s like to lose a loved one to knife crime, and why more conversations on the matter need to be had.
Luke Simmons-Hedges, 48, from Sydenham, South London recalls the poignant moment he first met his nephew, Jalan Woods-Bell, 15.
The schoolteacher was reunited with his blood-relatives for the first time in 40 years after he was adopted from a young age. Jalan, who was aged seven at the time, was the first family member to greet Luke.
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“He was quite cheeky in a funny way and mischievous with that smile… he was just a really good character and wasn’t one to shy away,” Luke told My London.
(Image: The Woods-Bell family / GoFundMe)
Luke says the picture used for Jalan’s funeral, which shows the teenager with a cheeky smile on his face was “very much him.” He added that his nephew had a supportive family and group of schoolfriends.
Jalan was on his way to his school in Hayes, West London when he was fatally stabbed multiple times near secondary school, Global Academy on Friday, 10 June.
A group of six people rushed to help the schoolboy, but he died at the scene.
A 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared at Willesden Magistrates’ Court the following day (June 11), charged with his murder.
Luke says the weeks that followed after Jalan’s sudden death were a “real shock” for the family.
“The first month is a real shock… we weren’t prepared for it. I’m a school teacher so unfortunately working in a secondary school in South East London, I’ve come across it a number of times. It’s not the first time and I wish it was, I wish it would never have to happen again,” he remarked.
Luke sadly lost a former student from Sydenham to knife crime less than two weeks after Jalan’s death.
Since the two tragedies, Luke has been raising money for anti-knife crime charities by completing half-marathons across London.
He is a member of Emancipated Run Crew (ERC), a running crew that supports and encourages Black people and people of colour to take up running.
The group completed the Black Crews United Carnival Run and wore ‘For Jalan’ t-shirts on behalf of Jalan last August.
Money raised is donated to the Kiyan Prince Foundation, which was set up by Mark Prince after he lost his son and budding young footballer, Kiyan Prince, 15, to knife crime when he tried to stop a fight in defence of a friend.
Luke wishes to continue Jalan’s legacy through fundraisers and completing half-marathons, but he also hopes it will open up more important conversations that need to be had on knife crime.
He said: “Paying it forward is my way of keeping it (Jalan’s legacy) going – you’re not by yourself as we’re all doing something actively together.
“Once you bring it to the forefront it’s not just about raising money, it’s also about why we do it in the first place. It’s an awareness of how people are thinking differently because of the lockdown and because of this, what seems to be a very small thing can be a very big thing.
“Because of isolation and because of how (young) people see things, because they haven’t had the opportunity to necessary integrate with other people due to the facts of lockdowns or isolation and various other things like this.”
Luke will be running the Adidas 1 Hour City Run on Sunday, 10 October in memory of former ERC member, David who died of cancer.
The group hope to raise £1,000 from their runs for the Kiyan Prince Foundation, as well as actively taking a stand against knife crime.
Head online to donate to ERC’s fundraiser.
Are you a Londoner who’s been affected by knife crime? If so, contact Ruby at [email protected]