On the night of June 29 2008, 16-year-old Ben Kinsella’s family received the devastating news that would change their lives forever – Ben had been the victim of a knife attack and was fighting for his life in hospital. The talented schoolboy died later that night.
The murder sparked a countrywide outcry against knife crime, leading to a review and change of UK knife crime sentencing laws which, it was hoped, would begin to put an end to the devastating effects of people willing to go out carrying a blade.
Yet just over three years later, on November 5, 2011, in Hemel Hempstead, another talented and well-loved young man needlessly lost his life after becoming the victim of another knife attack.
Billy Dove, 21, was enjoying a night out with friends when he was fatally stabbed by 17-year-old Darren McGrath. The lives of his family and friends have not been the same since.
The harrowing stories of Billy and Ben are all too similar – young men with plenty of promise whose lives were ended so tragically short.
And that is why the families of the two victims have teamed up to do all they can to tackle knife crime and prevent any more families from going through the heartache which they have faced.
Ben’s family – including former Eastenders actress Brooke Kinsella – have set up an exhibition, aimed at demonstrating to children and young people the devastating impact of knife crime.
It includes films, interactive features and workshop activities to engage young people on the issues surrounding knife crime – and the Dove family have given their backing to the project.
Since Billy’s death, his dad Paul and the rest of the Dove family have worked tirelessly to tackle knife crime through the Billy’s Wish charity.
The charity aims to educate youngsters about the dangers of carrying a knife and Paul said: “It’s important to us that Billy didn’t die in vain and that he becomes part of a special legacy that helps stop this heartbreaking and soul-destroying crime.
“We would do anything to have Billy back and it’s important to us that Billy’s name lives on forever and he doesn’t become another statistic.”
Billy’s Wish has gone from strength to strength since its formation, and the latest part of its campaign is designed to educate youngsters in schools in Dacorum about the impact of knife crime.
One of the processes involved in this is taking groups to experience the Ben Kinsella Knife Crime Awareness Exhibition in Islington, London.
The exhibition offers a heart-wrenching insight into the impact that Ben’s murder had on his family, as well as the repercussions for anyone found to be carrying a knife.
An actor – pictured – in a mock prison cell delivers a hard-hitting demonstration of what life is like for a person convicted of a knife crime, and posters and artistic displays advise visitors on the paths which can be taken to avoid getting into trouble.
It is by no means a comfortable watch – there are parts of the exhibition which are genuinely upsetting – but the impact is powerful and the message is clear; there is no excuse for carrying a knife and the consequences are devastating for everyone involved.
Sally Masson, Paul Dove’s sister and Billy’s aunt, has been on several trips to the exhibition and she said: “This exhibition is amazing, a lot of hard work has been put into it and it is extremely emotional and hard-hitting.
“People see and hear the real life devastation carrying a knife can cause – not just for the person losing their life and their future – but how it affects their families and friends; the consequences of a split-second action.
“We are hoping that a visit to this exhibition will deter anyone from carrying a weapon in the future, and that the information they take away with them stays with them.
“Having lost Billy to knife crime we know only too well the devastation and we hope by running the school trips to the Ben Kinsella Anti Knife Crime Exhibition through Billy’s Wish we can make a difference and educate the children.”
Visits to the exhibition must be arranged in advance and are usually arranged via local authorities and organisations who have agreed to support and fund the exhibition.
Individual groups and organisations are welcome to attend for a small fee and should contact trust manager Abby Kegg on 0207 272 1968 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange in advance.
Billys Wish is providing a coach to the exhibition tomorrow, Thursday, priced at £3.60 per person, and anyone interested in going on the trip can book a place at www.billyswish.co.uk