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The Knife Angel - Rachel's Story

Rachel Webb lost her son, Tom, to knife crime in the centre of Derby Rachel Webb lost her son, Tom, to knife crime in the centre of Derby

“I remember going to the cemetery in complete shock and disarray - and just sitting there next to his grave to be with him.”

Rachel Webb has experienced pain and grief that no parent should ever have to suffer – knowing that her son had been stabbed to death – murdered – in his home city.

“I had a feeling of total disbelief and devastation that this could actually happen – because this was a preventable death.”

Tom, who was 22, was going about his daily life with his friends on St Peter’s Street in Derby, buying food and drink.

Minutes later, he was murdered by a 16-year-old boy after a row sparked by a friend’s comment about a young woman being ‘fit’.

Tom didn’t know his killer; there was no feud, no drugs involved, no reason to fight. In fact, Tom was trying to walk away.

Rachel recalls with vivid clarity: “It came out in the trial, that Tom had said three times ‘I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to fight you.’ The perpetrator had three opportunities to pull back, but he didn’t.

“That’s when I realised that this was preventable. This has to stop!”


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Tom Webb was stabbed in the centre of Derby

Soon after, one of the detectives who had been supporting Rachel asked her if she would like to go to see a sculpture that was being built.

Rachel agreed and so Lorraine Brewin, an officer with Derbyshire Police, took her to Oswestry, in Shropshire, to see it.

That sculpture was The Knife Angel. Rachel saw the sculpture being built and she was invited to inscribe Tom’s name on one of the 100,000 blades from which it is made.

Rachel recalls: “Up until then, I hadn’t known of anyone that had been murdered – I had never experienced that – and I felt completely alone.

“I remember crying in my bed – telling myself ‘you can live through this’ and that I couldn’t be the only mum to have been in this situation at some point.”

“But when I saw the Angel a huge wave of emotion came over me – I suddenly felt I wasn’t alone.  That sounds really macabre, but it wasn’t ‘thank God there are others’, it was a feeling of connectivity. It was a feeling of strength that these other families had stood in support of this monumental, powerful sculpture – standing up to violence and saying ‘we can’t tolerate this, we are standing up against violence in all its forms.

“I also felt a huge shock, knowing that these thousands of knives had been collected in amnesties. It was a feeling of ‘my goodness, look at how many of them there are’ and then I realised the mass problem we have.

Rachel can barely contain her emotion as she explains: “But it was also a feeling of honour that my son would not be forgotten – because when you lose a child, your biggest fear is that they will be forgotten.

“All their friends go on, and they get married and they have children… but my son wasn’t afforded his life; his life was taken from him and I didn’t want people to forget him.

“And so it is a huge honour to have his name on this amazing piece of artwork.”

Rachel immediately realised that the Angel needed to be seen everywhere because of its potential to be a fantastic tool for education.

One of the events being run around the Knife Angel's visit to Derby is a youth summit, to which 350 children from local schools have been invited – including the school that Tom’s murderer attended.

Rachel will speak at that summit at Derby Cathedral.

One of the requirements for the Knife Angel to visit a venue is that it has to have the support of the family of a local victim, and Rachel had no hesitation in offering her support when it was suggested it be brought to Derby. She is also immensely grateful to everyone who has offered their support to get it here.

“I’m absolutely thrilled!” Her passion is tangible.

“It’s a weird thing to be thrilled about a monument coming that is so deeply painful for me to see, but it’s the possibility of a change - of a future - that is imperative.”

Standing outside Derby Cathedral, The Knife Angel will be just a few hundred yards away from where Tom was stabbed. How will Rachel feel when she sees it there?

“I think I will feel honoured and proud.

“It is so powerful and impactful. If it changes just one person’s thought process then there will be a ripple effect, and the people that have seen it will go on and have open conversations in their homes and parents will have discussions openly with their children about how they’re feeling [about knife crime].

“I just want it to stop – I want these unnecessary deaths to stop. It all comes back to choices about what we do in our lives and I hope the Angel can lead the way on some better choices for people.

“We don’t want to have another mum sat next to a grave, in the mud, crying. It just has to stop.”

>> See also: The Knife Angel in Derby

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The Knife Angel outside Derby Cathedral

If you are concerned about knife crime in your neighbourhood or have any concerns about someone who you think is carrying a knife, contact Derbyshire Police using the following contact methods:

You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

In the event of an emergency you should always call 999.

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