Two teenage boys have been killed in separate stabbings in south London amid concerns that last year’s surge in violence after the coronavirus lockdown could be replicated this summer.
A 15-year-old died in Woolwich, south-east London, and a 16-year-old in Lambeth, in the south of the capital, on Monday.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he was “heartbroken and appalled” by the deaths and pledged to support the police and communities to tackle violence and knife crime in the city.
Police have been gearing up for an increase in violence during the summer months after a surge last year when lockdown measures were eased.
In April, officers launched a national crackdown on knife crime, Operation Sceptre, which included deploying knife arches and sniffer dogs as well as encouraging the public to hand in weapons.
The Metropolitan police said the 15-year-old boy died after being stabbed in Woolwich New Road shortly after 5.20pm in an outbreak of violence near Woolwich Arsenal station.
Pictures on social media showed members of the public holding up sheets to provide privacy as emergency crews tried to save the boy’s life.
Another 15-year-old, who later took himself to hospital suffering from a knife wound, has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
In Lambeth, a 16-year-old boy was pronounced dead at the scene after being found injured in Oval Place at about 11.45pm on Monday.
Police officers were at two separate cordons near the scene on Tuesday. A tarpaulin covered a stairwell at Elworth House, a block of flats off Clapham Road.
Members of the public arrived looking distraught and placed flowers with personal messages, including cards that read “shine bright” and “love you forever … my bro”.
A resident of Elworth House described the incident to PA Media as “shocking” but “not uncommon”. He said: “You always have issues here … it’s really bad.”
Another resident, aged 25, said: “I watched that little boy grow up. He was a good boy … he had his own mindset, you know. Bless him.”
At least 20 teenagers have been killed in just over six months in London this year, leading to concerns that the annual tally will exceed the previous high of 27 in 2017.
Supt Petra Lazar said of the Woolwich incident: “It is shocking and extremely saddening that a teenage boy has lost his life as the result of knife crime. My thoughts at this time are with the family of the boy who has died.
“This incident will understandably cause worry and concern to local residents and I would like to reassure them my officers are supporting the murder detectives in every way we can. Increased patrols will be carried out in the area over the next few days.”
Khan said he was in “close contact” with the Met police commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, as her officers investigated the stabbings.
He said: “Every loss of life leaves a family and a community devastated. My thoughts remain with the victims’ family and friends at this extremely difficult time. I am determined to do everything in my power to support the police and our communities to put an end to these horrendous crimes and keep our young people safe. This violence has no place in our city. It must stop.”