Wellingborough knife protest: 'People need to know what is happening here'

Hundreds of people took to the streets following the death of 16 year-old Dylan Holliday

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By Natalie Bloomer

As rain lashed down over Wellingborough on Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people took to the streets to take a stand against knife crime in the area. A protest march, which was organised following the death of 16 year-old Dylan Holliday, made its way from Queensway where Dylan was killed, through the town centre and up to the Hemmingwell estate.

Present at the event were members of Dylan’s family, including his father and several cousins. His best friend, who was with him when he was killed, was also there.

“Dylan was loved by so many people, he’s been snatched from us and we want justice,” his cousin Chloe told NN Journal as she walked side by side with other friends and family members.

Dylan’s name was repeatedly chanted as the march moved through Wellingborough.

The brother of Shane Fox who died from a stab wound to the chest on the Hemmingwell estate in the town in 2018, was also on the march. He told NN Journal the loss of another young life to knife crime is heartbreaking.

“In losing my brother I lost another part of me, we did everything together,” Craig Fox said.

“He was a young lad with a lot to live for. His son will never know him as he was only a toddler when Shane was taken.  

“It was nice to see the community coming together at the march. It’s good to see so many people wanting to make a difference. With hard work and dedication we should be able to make the changes that are needed.”

12 year-old Ivanna and her friend Kaya from Wellingborough said they were taking part in the protest to help spread awareness. 

“People need to know what is happening here, it is scary for young people,” Ivanna said.

MP raises issue with Home Office

Also present were local councillors Matt Binley and King Lawal and Wellingborough MP Peter Bone. Speaking to NN Journal before the march began Bone said he has spoken to Home Office ministers about the issues faced by residents on the Queensway estate and will be feeding back any suggestions the community want to make about what needs to be done.

He said a recent survey showed that residents overwhelmingly want to see more police on the streets in the area. 

“I would like to see more neighbourhood policing, more officers on the beat. I’m meeting with council leaders this Friday and I have already spoken to the police and Home Office ministers. 

“I want to hear what people think are the right ideas to improve the situation. I don’t think there will be a problem getting the necessary funding but we need to work out how that should be spent. 

“The tragic recent event is very rare. Queensway isn’t the sort of area where I would expect this sort of thing to happen.”

But for many of those living on the estate, stabbings and crime feel increasingly common and not unexpected at all. 

Rav Jones a founder member of the Off The Streets Facebook group and one of the organisers of the march said it is not correct to say knife crime is rare in the town.

“It’s becoming more common right across Wellingborough.”

“…I spoke to Peter Bone and told him we’re expecting the authorities to stick to their word. I’ve been in talks with the police, leaders of the council as well as the MP. They’re all saying that if we tell them what changes we want to see, they will listen. If something isn’t possible they’ve said they’ll explain why. I’ll be holding them to that.”

Speaking to NN Journal shortly after the death of 16 year-old Rayon Pennycook in Corby in May, Superintendent Adam Ward, the lead for knife crime at Northamptonshire Police said:

“It is youth knife crime that most concerns us in the county because young people often don’t realise the consequences of their actions. They can believe they are carrying a knife for protection but doing so makes them more likely to have it used against them.”

Residents unite

At a community meeting held at Glamis Hall on Queensway last week, residents came together to begin discussing the issues surrounding knife crime in the area. Among the key points raised were: the level of exclusions from local schools, more support and services needed for families and a better awareness of the problem from authorities. 

Senior members of North Northants Council, police officials and local councillors listened on as one person after another stood up to speak about their personal experiences and what they believe are the problems on the estate. 

Local community worker Michelle Rafferty told the room:

“We’ve lost lives - some to the grave, some to prison. I know as a community you are grieving.”

A local resident said:

“We need to get to a place where we don’t accept this as normal. People live in fear, not just on Queensway but all over the town. I’m sick of this being normal, we need to come together to tackle this.”

Another said they would like to see local politicians spending one day on the estate to understand what life is really like.

Leader of North Northants Council Jason Smithers told NN Journal it was important to him to be at the meeting. 

“What happened is tragic. We’re listening, we want to know what the issues are here and what people have to say,” he said.

Alongside Smithers was chief executive of the council Rob Bridge and assistant chief Exec Guy Holloway.

As Saturday’s march reached its end point at Eastfield Park, the crowd gathered to hear the final speeches. Local youth mentor Quinton Green who himself was stabbed seven times read a poem about his experiences. 

People in the crowd cried as he was then asked to read some words written by the teenage boy who was with Dylan when he was killed.

“Dylan this is for you, gone but never forgotten...young boys shouldn’t be buried by their mums... I lost Dylan, I’m broke.”

The next community meeting is on Monday night at 7pm at the Palm Beach club in Wellingborough town centre. 

Queensway is one of the areas NN Journal will be focusing on as part of our Levelling Up series. We’ll be holding an open newsroom on the estate in September (More details to follow).