BBC News

A mother's fight against knife crime

By June Kelly & Naresh Puri
Home affairs, BBC News

image captionJoshua's mum, Alison Cope, goes into schools to talk about how her son died

Rising knife crime is one of the biggest challenges facing the police, especially in the UK's major cities, but chiefs say they cannot solve the problem alone - and one mother is fighting hard to make sure more young people are protected from its dangers.

Alison Cope knows first hand how damaging knife crime can be.

In September 2013, her son Joshua Ribera was stabbed to death at a party to commemorate the life of a friend who had died in a stabbing the previous year.

The 18-year-old was a well known Birmingham rapper.

To his fans around the country and to people around the world who knew him he was Depzman, an up and coming grime artist who had just produced his first album and was building his career, appearing on BBC Radio 1Xtra.

But to his mum he was much more. "I say Joshua, not Depzman, not a grime MC, because Joshua is my little boy, my only son," she says.

Row spiralled into fight

"That little boy was a newborn baby in my arms, a toddler, and a totally obnoxious teenager who grew into the most beautiful young man.

"So I need you to understand that Depzman was nothing to me. Joshua was everything to me."

He became involved in a row over a girl which spiralled into a fight and his rival, Armani Mitchell, left the club but then returned with a knife.

He said he wanted to cut Josh on the arm, but as he pulled the knife, Joshua raised his arm to protect himself and Mitchell plunged the knife into his heart.

media captionPC Rob Pedley: "You're carrying the county's number one murder weapon"

As a passionate anti-knife campaigner, Alison has now dedicated her life to convincing teenagers there is another path in life.

Speaking to pupils at City of Birmingham school, which looks after children permanently excluded from mainstream education for a whole range of reasons - including having knives - she tells them the harsh reality of what happened to her son.

"He fought back, seven heart attacks, multiple blood transfusions, they were cutting his body open from top to bottom and all the way across desperately trying to save his life," she says to the class.

"But on the morning of 21 September at 05:58, my son gave up on life and he died. That changed everything for my family.

"But it also changed the life of another 18-year-old boy, Armani Mitchell. He worked and was at college part-time.

"He is now in a category-A prison, serving a life sentence. Two 18-year-old boys went on a night out and neither of them came home."

image captionRapper Nathan Chin has been jailed for knife crime but now aims to persuade others not to carry them

Rapping was Joshua Ribera's route to success. Now Alison encourages teenagers and younger children to take part in sessions at a recording studio in Birmingham, to help harness their creativity and develop a sense of self-worth in the hope it will keep them away from gangs and knives.

At the studio, another of those also trying to help the next generation is 27-year-old Nathan Chin, whose rap name is Lil Fella.

As well as being a rapper, he is trying to set up a charity called Unity Each 1, Teach 1, to support people struggling to get into education and employment.

Nathan spent most of his teenage years in and out of young offender institutions.

He has been in prison for knife crime, but has tried to turn his life around believing people like him are well placed to try to stop teenagers carrying knives.

"People who have gone to prison, real people who have been in situations, are the best people to help reform people," he says.

Alison's final message to the teenagers is simple: "With the help of your teachers and your family, you have every chance of being an amazing successful individual. You have got a choice.

"Make the best of your life."

Related Topics

  • Birmingham
  • Crime

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