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Bishop of Croydon describes schoolgirl’s stabbing as ‘beyond tragic’

28 September 2023

St Michael’s, Croydon/Facebook

The Vicar of St Michael and All Angels with St James, Croydon, Canon Tim Pike, at the site on Wednesday, with the church’s sacristan, Dr Anthony Adeloye. The church’s pastoral assistant, Joe Allen, also attended

The Vicar of St Michael and All Angels with St James, Croydon, Canon Tim Pike, at the site on Wednesday, with the church’s sacristan, Dr Anthony Adelo...

IN THE aftermath of the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old girl, the Bishop of Croydon, Dr Rosemarie Mallett, has said that there remains “much work to do to on psychological and emotional well-being among young people, men in particular”.

Dr Mallett, who for many years has supported communities and young people in London affected by violence (News, 12 April 2019; Comment, 17 August 2018), also spoke of the need to provide “alternative options and visions for fruitful lives”.

“This is just beyond tragic,” she said. “We have been working hard in Croydon to engage young people, especially boys and young men, who may feel disaffected and drawn to negative behaviours, for money, for belonging, lack of hope or ambition, or due to peer pressure, among other reasons. We feel we have made some headway, but this incident really shows how much more there is to do.”

On Thursday, the girl was named as Elianne Andam. The attack took place on Wednesday morning, shortly after she got off the No. 60 bus at Wellesley Road, Croydon, outside the Whitgift shopping centre, on her way to school. Police were notified of a stabbing and arrived within two minutes, but officers and ambulance crew were unable to save her life, and she died at the scene. A 17-year-old boy was arrested in New Addington, five miles away, at 9.45 a.m., and, at the time of writing, remains in custody.

A vigil took place the day after the murder, outside the Whitgift Centre in Croydon. Shortly after the vigil, Dr Mallett read out a statement from the victim’s family. “We as a family are struggling to comprehend this painful tragedy that has happened to our beautiful daughter and beloved sister Elianne,” the statement said. “Elianne was a beautiful woman inside and out who loved Jesus. She was intelligent, thoughtful and kind and had a bright future ahead of her.”

The crime scene is located a few minutes’ walk from St Michael and All Angels with St James, Croydon. The Vicar, Canon Tim Pike, went to the site on Wednesday, with the church’s pastoral assistant, Joe Allen, and the sacristan, Dr Anthony Adeloye. They spoke to the security guards at the shopping centre, and to the police, who were “obviously very distressed by what had happened”, Canon Pike told the Church Times on Thursday. They had said prayers.

People in the area were “distressed”, he said. “We all feel diminished by it; sorrowful but, sad to say, not really surprised.” He had heard several people talk of “another” stabbing or “another” killing.

In 2021, Croydon was described as London’s “knife-crime capital” after five teenagers were stabbed to death in the course of the year. Between 2019 and 2021, Croydon suffered the highest volume of teenage violence in London (141) and teenage homicide (seven). Last year, no teenagers were killed by knives, prompting a cautious celebration of progress.

St Michael’s, Croydon/FacebookPolice attend the crime scene on Wellesley Road, Croydon, on Wednesday

Since the killing, people had been coming to the church to light candles, wanting to “pray and spend time in a peaceful, beautiful sanctuary, compared to what they feel is going on outside”, Canon Pike said. “For us, I was thinking about the sanctity of human life. It’s a blasphemy as well as a crime: the divine image in this poor girl’s face has been obliterated by what has happened. . .

“We are grateful for mass every day: we take it to the altar and offer it up. I think our congregation, the people who live here, who come to our church, draw solace from offering it to God.”

Anthony King, who chairs My Ends, a project that helps to combat youth violence in Croydon, said that the boy who had been arrested had been known to community groups for the past couple of years, the BBC reported. Mr King said that Elianne, a pupil at the independent Old Palace of John Whitgift School, was an “absolutely incredible young lady” who “had a bright future ahead of her”. Others described her as “jovial, very comedic”. She is the 15th teenage victim of homicide in London so far this year, most of whom were stabbed.

The Chief Superintendent for the Metropolitan Police’s South unit, Andy Brittain, said on Wednesday: “This is every parent’s worst nightmare, and I know the officers who responded this morning — along with our emergency-service colleagues — are devastated at the victim’s death. This is an emotion I share — and I know people across Croydon will be feeling the same.”

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, visited the scene on Wednesday, describing the murder as “impossible to comprehend.” He praised the “exceptional Croydon community who have come together in support of a family now dealing with the most unimaginable grief”.

He spoke, too, of the progress that had been made in Croydon. “A powerful partnership between charitable groups, faith and community leaders, the local authority, the wider public, and our officers has delivered so much work across the borough. They have collectively saved many lives from knife crime. Many are shocked and hurting. They care deeply, and it’s this passion which has made Croydon a safer place and will continue to in the future.”

The MP for Croydon Central, Sarah Jones, said: “I’m heartbroken that a child in my town has been killed on her way to school, and I cannot imagine the grief that her family will be going through at this time.”

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in its Youth Survey 2021-22 gathered the views of nearly 12,000 young Londoners aged 11 to 16, and found that 76 per cent felt safe in the place where they lived, though just 43 per cent felt that the Met was an organisation they could trust. Fourteen per cent knew someone who had carried a knife.

In 2019, the General Synod carried a motion, moved by Dr Mallett, asking for dioceses to provide training for church leaders in supporting those affected by the violence, including gun and knife crime (News, 12 July 2019).

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