Wellingborough stabbing: A community responds

Following the tragic death of Dylan Holliday we speak to the Queensway community

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By Natalie Bloomer

Within hours of the death of 16 year-old Dylan Holliday last Thursday night, the community of Queensway in Wellingborough began coming together to share their grief and discuss ways to make life safer for young people on the estate. 

Police were called to reports of a stabbing of two boys at 5.45pm that evening. Despite efforts to save him, Dylan died shortly after. A 15 year-old was also injured.

As soon as Rev Ben Lewis from St Marks Church on the estate heard about the incident he headed straight down to the underpass near to where Dylan’s body was found.

“There had been heavy rain and it was getting dark early, it was horrible. Dylan used to come to our mums and tots group when he was a toddler so many members of the church knew him and his family. I felt that we needed to pray down here,” he says.

On Sunday, around 300 hundred people turned out for a service arranged by Rev Lewis, including Dylan’s mum and other family members. 

“We had people of all ages, including some in their 90s. People just wanted to come together to pay their respects. Dylan’s mum was so dignified and brave, she said it was a lovely way to send him off.”

After the service, people released balloons and young men rode motorcycles around the field in memory of Dylan’s love of bikes. 

But along with the tributes paid to Dylan the community has also been discussing ways to tackle knife crime in the area.

A Facebook group which was set up after his death now has more than 3,000 members with people regularly posting ideas to engage young people and discuss problems affecting the area. 

Adrian Teale, 41, who is a member of the Facebook group and has also set up his own group Lives Instead of Knives says youngsters in the area need to hear from people who have been in similar situations to them but now realise there is a better way to live.

“These kids need role models. I’ve been in trouble in the past so I know what it’s like but I know there’s a better way.

“Our community needs to speak as one and let them know that knives are not acceptable. I want to bring together musicians, artists and other people to engage the kids and show them there are other ways. Every one of them has potential, even if they have a past.”

He says cuts to local services have had a big impact on areas like Queensway.

“The Sure Start Centre up here used to really help young families and give them the support they need. That’s gone now.”

Gang activity is rife on the Queensway estate, people here talk of dealers grooming young boys to deal drugs and carry out attacks on others. 

Rev Lewis says a major problem is exclusions from schools which leave young people vulnerable to being picked up by the gangs.

“If you walk around the estate and fields during the day, you’ll see youngsters hanging around who should be in school - some of these schools have a one strike and you’re out policy but what happens to them then?

“We see the big drug dealers coming up here in their Range Rovers getting these young people to wage war on their behalf. These exclusions are providing the armies for them.”

Joseph, 23 and Jarred 24, live on the estate and knew Dylan. They say that things have gotten a lot worse in the area in recent years.

“It never used to be this bad, stabbings and things like that were quite rare before but now they seem to be happening all the time,” Jarred says.

Joseph has a younger brother and worries about his future. When he spoke to NN Journal yesterday he had just returned from visiting the 15 year-old boy who was injured in the same incident as Dylan.

“He’s doing okay but he was so close to Dylan, they’ve been together since they were little so it’s going to be really hard for him. I have a younger brother and I used to tell him to get off his computer and go out but I won’t do that anymore - it’s safer for him to be at home.”

Both say more needs to be done to engage young people on the estate but they also think there needs to be a larger police presence in the area.

“This is the most we’ve ever seen the police around here. They’re walking up and down now but give it a few days and they’ll be gone again. It shouldn’t take something like this to happen to get them down here, they know the stuff that goes on, they should be down here all the time,” Joseph says.

Liz Coombes from Glamis Hall on the estate yesterday arranged for several people to go down to the underpass next to where the incident happened and tidy up around the area.

“We were at the service on Sunday and noticed this area looked neglected. We thought we’d just come out for an hour and see what we could do to tidy it up. We’re hoping to keep on top of it now.”

Coombes, a former councillor for Queensway, says there is too much reliance on volunteers to solve the problems the area faces. 

“We’re always having to fight to get anything done here, it wouldn’t take vast amounts of money to make a big difference. Even things like general maintenance, it sends a message that the place is not valued when it’s left to get in a state. If this was another area you can be sure it would be better looked after by the local authority. We shouldn’t have to be out here cutting back bushes and picking up litter.”

Dylan is the second 16 year-old to be killed in one of the county’s so-called ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods in the last three months. Rayon Pennycook was killed on the Hazel Leys estate in Corby in March. Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold says local organisations must work together to tackle the problems faced in these areas.

“Two teenagers have tragically lost their lives in recent months in Northamptonshire, and my heart goes out to the families, friends and communities that will be suffering the devastating impact of these incidents for years to come.

“Making communities safer and more resilient is not something any organisation can tackle on its own and needs all the organisations in the county – police, schools, health, housing providers, the local authorities – to work together.

“I believe passionately in early intervention and prevention.  That’s why I put young people at the heart of the police and crime plan and invested in a specialist team of case workers to work alongside other agencies and intervene directly to support the children of families who are experiencing difficulties such as mental illness, substance misuse or domestic violence at the earliest stage.

“I also set up a Youth Team to work with young people on the edge of involvement in gangs or criminal or sexual exploitation to build their self-esteem and confidence and feed their aspirations.

“The Youth Team are working closely with Police on initiatives that build partnerships and community relationships and alongside schools on education initiatives.  I intend to invest further so that every neighbourhood will be able to call on this specialist resource.

“Enforcement sits alongside early intervention and education - we need to know that knives are being taken off the streets. The Police are carrying out Days of Action and targeting stop searches to tackle crime and reassure communities.

“I will be asking the local authorities and other organisations to join me to discuss how we can do more to build stronger, safer communities in Northamptonshire. When I was re-elected, I made the point that we now, with two new authorities, have a fantastic opportunity to work together to better protect the people of this county and I call on us all to play our part.”