The scene in Lupus Street, Pimlico
Hani Hicham Abou El Kheir, who was knifed to death in Lupus Street, Pimlico
Published: 1 February, 2013
by WILLIAM McLENNAN
AN estate rocked by the brutal murder of a 16-year-old boy united this week over calls for police and politicians to give better protection for their children.
More than 200 residents of the Churchill Gardens Estate in Pimlico met on Wednesday night in a community hall to discuss how to prevent “another tragedy on our doorstep”.
It followed the death of Hani Hicham Abou El Kheir, who lived with his mother on the estate. The teenager was chased through Lupus Street and fatally stabbed on Sunday night.
Sue Walsh, chairman of the Churchill Gardens Residents’ Association, told the meeting: “We need to feel safe and that’s one of the things that’s coming across from residents.
“There are not enough police on the estate, there hasn’t been enough policing. If there was, would this thing have happened?”
There were calls for “police on this estate at all times”. And one Churchill Gardens resident added: “We don’t want them in their cars, we don’t want Community Officers, they’re not fit for purpose.”
A fund was launched to help Hani’s family, who did not attend the meeting, and donations were collected.
Community leaders had wanted an open discussion and decided not invite councillors and police. TV news crews were told to leave.
The West End Extra was invited into the meeting to hear concerns that the estate had been misrepresented in national media reports as “gang plagued”.
But there were some concerns that teenagers could be “targeted” simply for “hanging around on the streets”.
Ms Walsh added: “We’re not saying our kids are perfect, but we do think an awful lot of the trouble is brought on to the estate from outside.
“At the bottom of this problem is our kids are neglected, they just don’t have enough to do. So we are trying desperately to set things up so that the kids are not hanging around on the streets, so they’re not being targeted – because that’s what they’re doing.
“Some of the ideas that I’m looking for is what we can do to engage our young people, because I believe once they get to 13 or 14 they’re lost. We need to get them involved, when they are young, with different groups and activities.”
The meeting was chaired by Mervyn Thomason, an official from CityWest Homes, the company which manages the estate. In a series of emotive speeches, residents expressed their outrage at the negative image their estate had received in national media.
Gisela Wright, who has lived in Churchill Gardens for two decades, said she was “livid” when she read about her home. She added: “Somebody has to do something about it and see our positive side.
“Somebody should come around here and see the playgroup, the children playing football and the morning coffees, and see the real side.”
Another resident told the meeting: “The most important thing we can do tonight is try to send a message to the outside world that this is a very pleasant place to live”
Vic Beauvois said allegations that the estate had a history of gang violence were “rubbish”. A public meeting, which is yet to be confirmed, is expected to take place next Thursday when residents’ questions will be put to police chiefs and councillors.
WITNESSES have told how a large group of teenagers wearing bandanas “casually walked away” after the brutal knife attack on Hani Hicham Abou El Kheir .
Hani was seen running through Lupus Street, Pimlico, at around 7pm on Sunday before he fell to the ground and was stabbed and kicked in the head by the 15 youngsters, the West End Extra understands.
One witness, who did not want to be named, said: “I had to give him my bodywarmer as a pillow. Someone was putting pressure on his wounds and someone else was holding his head. One was on his chest, one was on hand and he had another one in his stomach.”
The witness added: “I saw 10 to 15 teenagers chasing one other teenager. They were wearing black bandanas over their noses. The one that was being chased, he fell on the road and then everyone stabbed him and then a few of them came along and kicked him. They walked away casually, just walking away. I’m in shock, it was a brutal experience.”
Hani was taken to King’s College Hospital but died two hours later. A 20-year-old man was arrested yesterday (Thursday) but had not been charged as the West End Extra went to press last night (Thursday).
Police said they believe that at least 10 youths were involved in the incident and are “actively seeking those still outstanding”.
Hani, a former pupil at Pimlico Academy which is just over 200 metres away from the scene of the murder, was described as a “a popular boy who conducted himself in an exemplary manner” by principal Jerry Collins.
Police said they had spoken to many witnesses who saw the attack but are appealing for more to come forward.
On Monday, Westminster’s Chief Superintendent Paul Rickett said: “There are people out there who will know what has happened. I will urge them to come forward quickly so we can bring these people to justice.”
Chief Supt Rickett was speaking at a pre-arranged trip to Westminster’s anti-gangs programme with Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. The commissioner had been scheduled to be interviewed by the press, but plans were changed after news of the murder.
He told the West End Extra: “These incidents are incredibly rare, thankfully,” adding that Churchill Gardens had not become a hotspot for violence.
He said: “It has its own set of problems in relation to anti-social behaviour, but so do many other parts
of the borough.”