Lisa Kilkenny has spoken about the aftermath of her 16-year-old son Joseph Whitchurch’s murder as Nottinghamshire Police takes part in a coordinated week of action to prevent and tackle knife crime as part of the national Operation Sceptre.
She has opened up about the fatal stabbing of her ‘loving and caring’ son – to help others understand why carrying a knife is not acceptable and how it can destroy lives.
Joseph was fatally stabbed in the early hours of Boxing Day morning 2020 by 21-year-old Jake Rollinson - a violent criminal and small-time drug dealer who claimed to be Joseph’s friend.
He was rushed to hospital but died of his injuries three days later.
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Joseph had enjoyed Christmas Day with his family before he asked if he could go to his friend’s house nearby for a few drinks.
Lisa said: “We all sat down together to enjoy our Christmas Day dinner. Joseph said he was full and gave me a kiss to say thank you and ‘I love you’.
“When he asked later if he could go to his friend’s I said ‘of course, but don’t be late’. He asked if I would order him a taxi to get him home and I said ‘of course’."
She added: “There was a knock at the door which I assumed was Joseph saying he had fallen asleep at his friend’s.
"To my horror I discovered a concerned and shaken up police officer trying to explain that he needed to get me to hospital quickly as Joseph had been stabbed. I was in complete and utter shock.
“On the way I felt how serious it was, as the officer received a call and the car sped so fast.
"I felt numb, sick and full of confusion. I just wanted to see Joseph so much. I then got ushered into a room frantically calling his dad. I was shattered and I had so many questions.
“I was told in no uncertain terms how bad this was. I just remember feeling so much pain my heart, I felt it was about to break in half. The tears were just uncontrollable.
“After a few painful hours we were able to see, touch and kiss Joseph although we were aware he was so poorly.
"My beautiful boy was lying there after so much surgery. No parent ever imagines going through this and the pain and anguish as you await news and the enormity of his injuries.
“I was praying and telling Joseph not to leave me. I prayed God would take me instead. It’s so hard to put into words but the pain in me was taking my breath."
Lisa's worst fears were then realised when medics told her Joseph was not going to pull through.
“When we were told that he was brain dead, we had to say goodbye. I remember screaming ‘how am I going to live without you, my beautiful boy?’ Everyone was crying. The pain was so immense and touched everyone.
“Having to tell friends and family this news left them in utter shock and full of grief. I struggled looking at my mum and dad as the pain in their eyes was too much to see. They were broken.
“His brothers were in complete shock, the grief is still consuming their young lives. They were so close and looked up to their amazing big brother. He had been there since they were born and shared an amazing bond.
“As a family we are trying to live but it’s extremely hard. We are surrounded by amazing family and friends as without them we wouldn’t be able to get through this.
“No-one should have to endure such pain. Nothing will ever be as dark as the day you are told that your son is dead.
“To have a child die is so devastating but to also deal with the fact that somebody brutally stabbed your precious child is another level. How could one human do that to another? It’s too much to ever get my head around.”
Describing her ‘loving and caring’ son, Lisa said: “Joseph had a smile that would light up a room. He loved being around people and people loved being around him. He had a happy nature, and his warm and caring personality was loved by everyone.
“He was always looking out for his younger brothers and was a kind and loyal friend.
“Joseph was naturally good at sport and excelled in swimming, rugby and cricket.
"He had been a member of the local cricket and rugby teams and enjoyed success in county swimming leagues too. He achieved the top scouting award before he joined the county swimming club.
“He did well in school and wanted to be an engineer. He had recently undertaken some work experience at Rolls Royce that had spurred him on to embark on this career. He came home with tales of the new people he had met and the experience he had enjoyed.
“He also helped out his dad in his work, to start to learn some labouring skills. He was looking forward to finishing college and entering the world of work and was also really keen to start to learn to drive.
“Like many 16-year-old lads, Joseph enjoyed his music and his great loves were food and eating it! He also had a great circle of friends who are still in touch to share their memories with us.”
Jake Rollinson was handed a life sentence in March this year after being found guilty by a jury of Joseph’s murder. He was in the kitchen of his grandmother’s house in Hickings Lane, Stapleford, when he stabbed Joseph.
Rollinson, formerly of Hickings Lane, will spend at least the next 19 years behind bars.
Lisa added: “We have all had to come to terms with losing our beloved Joseph.
"Words seem inadequate to describe the hole he has left in our lives and yet we will live to honour him in everything we do, inspired by his attitude to life and his smile. Cherished memories of him are never far from our thoughts.
"The family, Joseph’s amazing friends and the communities of Stapleford and Bramcote have stood united together to ensure his memory becomes a legacy for our community in standing together against knife crime.
“We are proud of the fact we have shown this in many ways, seeing crowds of people coming together and supporting each other in such tragic circumstances in love, friendship and community, standing in stark contrast to violence. The memorial bench in the local park is a reminder of that.
“We have an inscription on there that mentions the fact his smile would light up the darkest day, and it does and always will in our hearts.
“Joseph was just in the wrong place at the wrong time that night. We’re a normal family and it just goes to prove how knife crime can affect anyone.
"By sharing my experience I want people to understand the heartbreak that just one knife crime incident can truly cause and how lives like ours are changed forever.
“There is never an excuse or reason to carry a knife or use one to cause harm to another person. Carrying a knife doesn’t protect you - it actually puts you at greater risk of harm - which is why I’d urge people to please hand in their knives and put them in the amnesty bins provided in police stations around Nottinghamshire this week.”
This week Nottinghamshire Police is shining a spotlight on the relentless united effort to drive down knife crime in support of the national Operation Sceptre.
The week of action, which launched yesterday (Monday 16 May), will provide just a sample of the continuous year-round work being done to prevent knife crime in Nottinghamshire and to protect communities from the harm it causes.
Nottinghamshire’s joint approach to tackling the issue involves police, partners and local communities all working closely together to tackle the issue.
Positive action to raise awareness of the devastating consequences of knife crime, to help prevent incidents from happening in the first place, will include educational events at local schools and colleges and proactive public engagement including the use of metal-detecting walk-through knife arches.
A spotlight will also be shone on proactive work going on to keep people safe and remove dangerous weapons from circulation including community weapons sweeps, patrols in knife crime hot-spot areas and proactive operations.
In support of the week of action, members of the public will also be able to play their part to help stop knives falling into the wrong hands by putting unwanted knives in amnesty bins sited in police stations and shared locations in the city and county.
People can deposit their knives without fear of prosecution during the week. Weapons handed in will be destroyed.
The bins are located at the following police stations (front counter)/shared service locations in the city: Broxtowe; Bulwell; Oxclose Lane; Radford Road and St Ann's.
There will also be bins at Byron House and inside The Pilgrim Church in The Meadows.
The county police station/shared service bin locations are: Beeston; Kirkby; Mansfield; Newark; Ollerton; Retford and Worksop.
Members of the public are asked to check the opening times of their local amnesty points before they visit.
The force’s dedicated knife crime and Operation Reacher teams will also be deployed during the week of action as they continue their work to deter offenders and keep people safe.
Superintendent Kathryn Craner, Nottinghamshire Police’s knife crime lead, said: “I’d like to thank Lisa for sharing her harrowing real life account which lays bare the truly devastating life-long consequences of knife crime.
“If it deters just one person from picking up and using a knife to cause harm then it will have been worth it.
“We all have a role to play in stopping young people carrying knives and getting weapons off our streets. It’s not just about Nottinghamshire Police’s response to the knife crime, it requires a collaborative effort.
“We all need to make it clear that carrying a knife should never be seen as acceptable and that knife crime will not be tolerated.
“We urge parents and carers to talk to their children about the dangers of carrying knives and the terrible impact that knife crime can have on them, their family and friends and their community.
“Nottinghamshire Police and its partners continue to work tirelessly all year round to prevent knife crime and protect people from the harm it causes to all those involved, as well as the wider community.
“Every knife crime is one too many and we will continue our efforts with our partners and communities to drive down knife crime even further in our communities.”