A YEAR ago brothers Mohammed and Abdul Walker, then aged 15 and 14, stabbed two older teenagers in a shocking and unprovoked attack in the Whitgift Centre.
The victims, who were knifed in front of horrified shoppers, were the first of six young men, the youngest of whom was just 13, to be stabbed in Croydon across a ten day period in January.
Mohammed and Abdul, pictured here for the first time, were jailed for five years in December and can be identified because the judge lifted their right to anonymity, a rarity in cases involving defendants of such a young age.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Baxter, speaking to the Advertiser this week, said the sentences serve as warning of the consequences of carrying and using a knife.
He believes their example will support targeted police work which he thinks has prompted a 15 per cent fall in knife-related offences in Croydon, from 526 in 2013 to 446 in 2014. The fall in knife crime is even starker given that serious violent offences in general increased 33 per cent in the last 12 months, as reported by the Advertiser last week.
"It's no longer as attractive to carry a knife as perhaps it was a couple of years ago," he said.
"For example, knife enabled robbery is down 25 per cent in this borough because we've put significant resources into that area. We also have one of the best robbery detection rates in London.
"We're also doing a lot of work with Year 6 and 7 children to educate them about the dangers of carrying knives and the consequences if you are caught doing so.
"That's why I think [the sentences given to the Walker brothers] will have a huge impact.
"Two boys as young as they are being jailed for five years sends a message to their peers and others who are considering being involved in that world."
Mohammed and Abdul, now 16 and 15, were part of a group of five youths who, armed with knives, attacked Glodi Mobwano, then 17, and his 16-year-old friend, outside a sports nutrition shop at around 6pm on January 14. Glodi required treatment for a punctured kidney.
It is not known for certain which members of the group carried out the stabbing. The brothers were convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) and violent disorder under joint enterprise, a controversial legal doctrine which allows several people to be charged with the same offence even if their exact role in the crime cannot be determined. It was the prosecution's case that they, along with the other boys, who have not been caught, were "in it together". Neither brother gave evidence during the trial.
Families of defendants convicted under joint enterprise often argue their loved ones have been found guilty by association. Det Chf Insp Baxter believes the power serves as a deterrent to young men and women who find themselves involved in gangs.
"We're educating children that you don't necessarily need to be carrying the knife to be a killer," he said.
"If you are involved in the build-up or the violence itself, or you prevent the victim from fleeing, you may be found to be just as guilty as the person who carried out the attack."
The Walker brothers, who were already known to the police and the courts, lived in New Addington at the time of the attack. They are the most high-profile convictions following the spate of stabbings last January.
Six days after the Whitgift Centre attack, a 12-year-old was stabbed in the leg and hand during a robbery outside Tesco Express in Whitehorse Road, Selhurst. In June a 14-year-old boy from Lambeth pleaded guilty to GBH and was given a Youth Rehabilitation Order. A second boy, aged 13 and also from Lambeth, was given a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to theft of a knife. He was cleared of GBH.
Later that evening an 18-year-old was stabbed during a fight on the junction of Queen's Road and Pawsons Road, Thornton Heath. Six men aged between 18 and 21 arrested in connection with the fight and have since been released without charge.
No one has been arrested for stabbing a 16-year-old in the back in Parsons Mead in West Croydon on January 22. It is understood the victim declined to help the police with their investigation.
Two days later a 21-year-old became the sixth person to be stabbed in less than a fortnight when he was attacked in Woodville Road, Thornton Heath. Two men stood trial in September charged with GBH with intent but were both found not guilty.
While not within the ten day period, a 21-year-old was stabbed during an incident on the junction of Donal Road and Canterbury Road in Broad Green on February 23. Six arrests have been made but the CPS has decided there is not currently enough evidence to secure a conviction.
The victims survived the attacks and, thanks to the rapid work of paramedics, Croydon was spared a return to the summer of 2008 when Croydon was dubbed the knife crime capital of Britain following the death of three teenagers in as many months.
London Ambulance Service (LAS) attended 52 knife injuries in Croydon between January and November 2014, the latest available figures, but injuries – like offences – are beginning to fall with LAS attending 58 in the equivalent period in 2013, 72 in 2012 and 81 in 2011.
Det Chf Insp Baxter says the numbers, including a decrease in gang activity, lead to one important conclusion. "The borough is a much safer place," he said.