Inspirational mums lead war on knives

Essex County Standard: Ann Oakes-Odger speaks to the conference Ann Oakes-Odger speaks to the conference

CAMPAIGNING mums whose sons were stabbed to death told a knife crime summit what must happen to tackle the problem.

Caroline Shearer and Ann Oakes-Odger shared heartbreaking stories about how their sons Jay Whiston and Westley Odger were killed in Colchester, seven years apart.

Jay, 17, was knifed outside a house party in Marlowe Way, in September last year.

Westley was killed at a cashpoint in Greensted in 2005.

They were speaking yesterday at a knife summit organised by the Safer Colchester Partnership at Colchester Town Hall.

Mrs Shearer described the horroric moment she found out Jay had been killed.

She said: “When I saw the black boots of the police at the door, I knew what had happened.

I just started screaming.”

Mrs Shearer set up antiweapons charity, Only Cowards Carry, in the wake of Jay’s death.

Mrs Shearer wants knife bins around Essex, so weapons can be disposed of. In similar bins in Suffolk, 8,300 weapons were deposited last year.

Ann Oakes-Odger set up charity to teach youngsters about the dangers of knives after her son Westley’s death in 2005.

She said: “If just one life is saved it makes all the difference and everything I do worthwhile.

“After hearing what happened to Westley I lost the ability to see colour. My hair and toenails fell out – all due to trauma.

“We, as a community, will not tolerate the carrying of knives.”

Both women are going into schools, warning thousands of childrens about the dangers of carrying weapons.

Figures revealed 85 per cent of people who carry knives say it is for protection, with 7 per cent saying they plan to use it.

The summit was organised after a number of stabbings in Colchester and Clacton. More than 100 people attended and there were stands from Essex Police, Only Cowards Carry,, Colchester Community Voluntary Service, Crimestoppers and Colchester Council.

Essex Fire and Rescue Service, Open Road, Essex Probation, Colchester and Tendring Women’s Refuge were also represented.

Nick Alston, Essex’s police commissioner, said: “How do we make sure youngsters grow up knowing carrying knives is dumb?” Every time someone is hurt or killed due to knife crime it is a real tragedy.”

Tim Young, councillor responsible for community safety at Colchester Council, said: “This is a very important issue. It is great to be working with partners, which is becoming more important with smaller budgets.”

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