'It's been life-changing for him and us' - mother of Norwich teenager on how knife attack on son still affecting family
PUBLISHED: 06:30 01 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:18 14 December 2018
A teenager who had his ear almost sliced in two in an horrific attack in a Norwich park is still undergoing treatment almost two years on.
Mo Vadillo was just 15 when he was slashed with a knife in a sickening attack in Norwich’s Chapelfield Gardens.
That was almost two years ago and while Mo’s attackers, including “principal assailant” Tyler Tomkinson have been dealt with by the courts, life is not the same as it once was for the teenage victim.
Layla Evans, Mo’s mother, said life was still hugely difficult for the whole family, but particularly the young victim who was still having surgery to try and repair the damage caused in the attack.
She said: “It’s been life-changing for him and for us.
“He’s still undergoing medical treatment two years on. My son is about to have another operation. It’s not a great outcome for him because it’s very difficult to treat.
“He’s had one operation last year and he’s due to have another one and has to go through some very painful procedures every month.”
She added: “He doesn’t leave the house really apart from to go to college now and doesn’t socialise. He’s just at home when he’s not at college. We’re just working really hard in trying to get him back and get back the boy we once had.”
Tomkinson was giiven an extended 13-year sentence, including eight years in custody, after he pleaded guilty to his part in the attack on the then 15-year-old last year.
But while he is in custody new figures released by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have revealed the number of criminals prosecuted in the county for knife crime, after previously having been caught carrying a blade, has more than doubled over the past three years.
Police in the county convicted or cautioned 261 people in the 12 months to June, either for possession of a knife as a weapon or threatening someone with one.
Of those, 73 (28pc) had at least one previous offence for carrying a knife, 14 of whom had three or more past offences.
But that figure has increased since 2014-15, when 34 of those successfully prosecuted had reoffended.
Ms Evans described those figures as “shocking” and “very upsetting”.
She said: “That doesn’t surprise me because I kind of know about this but it’s very frightening.
“It’s very upsetting and it’s shocking as well. It’s concerning that’s what’s happening out on the streets of Norwich.
“It’s getting worse - the problem is getting worse and what is being done about it?
“Norwich was once a safe place but I just don’t feel safe anymore.
“It’s very concerning to see that and for us, having someone already serving time for this and knowing that people do come out and reoffend is particularly concerning for us as a family.”
Police bosses say the rise could be down to proactive policing and improved identification techniques of knife carriers by forces.
Statistics from the MoJ have shown that across England and Wales the number of reoffenders increased by 35pc over the last three years.
In Norfolk in 2017-18, 46 children were charged with knife offences, which was a 100pc rise on 2014-15.
Martyn Greenwood, 23, who suffered a series of stab wounds in an incident during a night out in Great Yarmouth in August this year, said: “I think it’s ridiculous. No-one should be carrying knives around the street.”
Norfolk’s deputy chief constable Paul Sanford said that in the past year the force had caught and prosecuted “a growing number of persons for knife related offences”.
He said: “Much of this activity comes as a result of proactive operations undertaken by our officers to combat issues such as county lines drug dealing. “We will continue to target those individuals believed to be carrying or threatening to use knives. Knife related offending is a serious issue and we will take every opportunity we can to prosecute offenders.
“Where prosecution does occur, other parts of the criminal justice system need to contribute to the required action that will prevent further offending.”
Mr Sanford said they were “particularly concerned” about the growing number of children carrying knives but would continue to work with schools to prevent such offending and appeal to parents to do their part to talk to their children about the risks of carrying knives.
He added: “However wider society also has a role to play in tackling knife crime and it is vital we work together to combat the glamorisation of a lifestyle where knives are carried.”
Project aims to warn youngsters about dangers of knife crime
Youngsters across the county have been educated about the dangers of knife crime as part of a project funded by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
As part of his commitment to preventing offending and reducing vulnerability, PCC Lorne Green has given his support to the Norfolk Constabulary-led project which sees teenagers given life-saving first aid training.
Delivered by registered charity StreetDoctors, the project provides those taking part with education and advice, with the aim of changing attitudes towards violence and helping them take responsibility for their own actions.
Some 110 young people from Norwich and Great Yarmouth tookpart in the first training sessions held in Norwich last year with more opportunities to follow in 2018 and 2019. It is the first time the project, supported by the Norfolk Youth Offending Team, has been delivered in East Anglia.
Police chief hails success of drugs crackdown
Norfolk’s top policeman has said the success of the force’s crackdown on drug dealing is one of the reasons for the increase in recorded knife offences.
Operation Gravity was launched by Norfolk Police in December 2016 to target criminals transporting drugs into Norfolk as part of a response to an increase in violent crime associated with drug dealing and use.
Chief constable Simon Bailey said: “Increasingly we’re seeing more offences being prosecuted for possession of knives and I think that it’s illustrative that we’re seeing more young men in particular feeling the necessity to carry bladed articles.
“Increasingly it’s focused on a small group of people that are involved in criminality associated with the supply and distribution of drugs.”
Mr Bailey said police would continue to focus efforts on tacking that threat through operations like Gravity.