'He's been stabbed...I tried to help' - hour long battle to save Thetford murder victim ended in tragedy
PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:11 12 October 2019
The battle to save the life of 25-year-old David Lawal lasted up to an hour as horrified neighbours and emergency services tried desperately to revive him.
Mr Lawal was fatally stabbed in the neck in Thetford last Thursday in a suspected drug-related murder.
It is believed he stumbled from the nearby underpass to Brandon Road to find help after being attacked.
The first to find him collapsed in the street, at around 7pm, was a passing woman and teenage girl.
Before police arrived the woman had already begun CPR, and neighbours have said she "couldn't have done any more to save him".
The residents of one home overlooking the scene only realised something was wrong when one of their children started shouting "nee-naws".
"Looking outside the window I saw a woman dressed in white performing CPR," said a 19-year-old neighbour, who asked not to be named.
"She had just been passing by to get something to eat when she found him."
His mother, 39, said at first they thought an elderly person had collapsed in the road.
"We went out to offer a pillow or blanket or some help," she said. "The lady who found him had blood all up her arm.
"She was saying: 'he's been stabbed'. She was saying: 'I tried to help, I tried to help'. She was just so shocked.
"We went out there and were looking after a young girl who we thought was her daughter, watching as more and more police turned up.
"They were on him for about 40 minutes trying to work on him. That lady couldn't have done any more to save him."
The family said they relocated from Essex to Norfolk 18 months ago to live a safer life.
"The problem is, this is everywhere you go now," said the 39-year-old. "When we were younger you would use your fists to have a fight, and if you lost you'd just come away with a broken nose. Now it's knives.
"Even now I feel guilt that I couldn't do anything to help him. Everyone around here just wishes we could have done more.
"You could see on everyone's faces when they knew it wasn't going to work. The police, the paramedics. Everyone was gutted.
"That young lad went out that morning and didn't know he wasn't going to come home that night. That is still someone's son, and no-one deserves what that kid got.
"You are going to get bad areas and good areas wherever you go. It hasn't put a fear into me."
Another neighbour, 49, said when she saw the flashing lights and a car in the road she thought a dog had been run over.
But when paramedics and the air ambulance arrived she knew a body had been found.
"It all unravelled so quickly," she said. "We think he ran from the bridge this way, maybe to find some help, and just collapsed in front of those people.
"They were giving him CPR for an hour outside, and even when they took the body into the ambulance they were still giving CPR.
"It all happened so quickly, it was like something out of a film. The police presence was horrendous."
She added the incident had been "so frightening" because the culprit was "still out there".
"I am quite scared to leave the house," she said. "It is just so close to home. Whoever has been stabbed, he hasn't gone home. He has got a mother and a father and they must be grieving, no matter what background he came from.
"My world doesn't involve drugs. Now I think, these people are really serious, they are prepared to knife somebody."
Another neighbour, 62-year-old Kevin Michael, said: "I'm pretty shocked it was right outside our doorstep."
A post mortem examination concluded that Mr Lawal died from a single stab wound to the neck and upper chest area.
A week on, as the investigation into the murder continues, police say it may be connected to county lines drug gangs and have set up extra patrols around Canterbury Way and Durham Way, along with an information hub as they appeal for more people to come forward with information.
Detective chief inspector Phillip Gray, who is leading the murder investigation, said: "This a complex and fast-moving investigation and our enquiries to date suggest this murder has all the hallmarks of being connected to county lines, and those involved were known to each other.
"I want to appeal again to anybody who may have been in the area at the time - Brandon Road, Canon's Close, Canterbury Way and Durham Way, particularly motorists with dash cam footage to come forward and share that with us.
"Help us to build a picture of the circumstances leading up and after the murder. Please tell us about anything you might have seen or heard so we can understand what happened."
Two men, aged 26 and 29, were arrested in connection with the incident and have been released under investigation, while a 17-year-old male has been bailed until October 30.
A fourth man, aged 48, has been arrested in connection with the incident on suspicion of possessing a bladed article and Class A drugs, but has been released under investigation.
A fifth man, in his 60s, has also been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender, but released under investigation while enquiries continue.
Any witnesses or anyone with information that may help the investigation can share this with the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team online at https://mipp.police.uk/operation/363719N41-PO1.
They can also telephone Norfolk Police on 101 and quote reference Operation Petersfield and a member of the enquiry team will call them back. Alternatively, they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or online at www.crimestoppers.co.uk