Families including that of Elianne Andam have called on national and local government to “speed up” the ban on zombie knives, machetes and swords, which doctors say inflict greater trauma to victims.

The teachers and parents, who met with Croydon community leaders, and politicians, also demanded greater early intervention to stem the issue which has plagued the borough.

The event, held at Selhurst Park on June 3 brought together eight families of children who lost their lives to knife crime in the capital for an unprecedented discussion on the personal impact of knife crime.

Croydon’s history of knife crime and youth violence was also the subject of intense debate, with attendees agreeing that the issue was “pressing” but “multifactorial.”

There was unanimous agreement on the pressing need to speed up the banning of zombie knives, machetes and swords.

One parent, Theresa Amiable Lina, made a passionate plea to the room and asked: “What is the purpose of these knives other than to do damage?”

Her son Zaian, 15, was stabbed to death in Ashburton Park, Croydon, in December 2021.

Along with her husband Brian, she said: “If you felt it, you would empathise and show compassion.”

Knife Crime campaigner Faron Paul was also in attendance and spoke of the level of damage these knives cause young victims.

Paul, who personally collects knives from teenagers as part of his Faz Amnesty campaign, said: “The first mistake to make is by looking at a ‘problem’. It is a war.”

Zombie knives and machetes can cause greater damage than household knives, due to the use of curved and serrated edges.

Chief Executive of Croydon Health Services Matthew Kershaw said: “It is getting harder for surgeons, but we see the end of the process. It is now more serious than what I have seen in my 30 years in the job.”

However, Paul also warned attendees that ‘normal’ household knives were still responsible for a large number of stabbings, due to being easily attainable and less suspicious.

He therefore suggested that attaching serial numbers to each knife could be a useful solution to improve the ‘traceability’ of knives. 

He added: “The way it’s going on in the streets, with the amount of deaths, I don’t know how we are not more concerned.

"It is frustrating to see that some MPs are still even voting against banning swords. Why?”

Croydon South candidate Chris Philp was one of four prospective MPs in the room, the others being Sarah Jones and Natasha Irons, Labour’s candidates for Croydon West and East respectively, and Donna Murray-Turner of the Taking the Initiative Party.

Philp is also the current Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire.

Philp was asked why there were MPs in his own party still voting against the banning of these types of knives and what he was doing to tackle knife crime in the capital.

Despite remaining silent on the first point, the MP was keen to mention that Croydon’s police would benefit from the increased use of facial recognition and ‘enhanced hotspot’ policing.

Speaking to the local democracy reporting service (LDRS) after the event, Philp said that four of the 75 hotspots that will receive more funding as part of the policy are in Surrey Street and Thornton Heath and would allow police to send response units in greater numbers to these impact areas. 

Surrey Street was the unfortunate site of Croydon’s most recent knife crime murder when 22-year-old Rijkaard Salu Siafa was fatally stabbed there in April.

When pressed by the LDRS if he would support greater CCTV in the town centre, he said: “I would back the expansion CCTV in areas like Surrey Street and support the increased use of facial recognition to catch wanted criminals.”

Donna Murray-Turner, an active community campaigner and chair of the safer neighbourhood team for Croydon, was sceptical about how this policing will be employed and spoke of the systemic problems the borough faces with regard to knife crime. 

Speaking to the LDRS, she said: “We are witnessing the ghettoising of Croydon before our own eyes. Who is going to be inspired by walking through Croydon Town Centre?”

Murray-Turner, who is running against her own MP Jones for the Croydon West seat, spoke of the difficulties young people face in the borough.

She feels strongly that race and police bias have a large presence in policing in the borough and drive young people towards criminalisation.

She told the LDRS: “Sarah (Jones) had a case once, of a mixed race grandchild who was brought to the police station by his white grandad.

"They lived in the more leafy end of Shirley, and he was getting stopped three times a week.

“We took it to the borough commander, but in the end, the grandad went and bought an empty violin case just so his mixed-race grandchild would appear more middle class and it stopped. That’s just imagery.”

Murray-Turner also asked attendees to be sympathetic to the cause even if it didn’t directly affect them.

During a rousing speech made to the room, she reminded attendees that knife crime “affects your house prices as well.”

Early intervention was another focal point for the meeting, with a number of headteachers present to speak about the important role of schools.

Saqib Chaudri is the headteacher of Oasis Academy Shirley Park, which lost two young teenagers to knife crime in 2021.

The killings of Demarie Roye, 15, and Zaian by other teenagers outside school were six months apart from each other.

In response to these tragic events, Saqib has since placed a full-time community safety officer in his school to work with young people and link them with community groups.

He said: “There are so many good people in Croydon, it’s a shame it took a tragedy to meet them.”

Caireen Mitchell, who heads Croydon College spoke of the threat of violence that gangs have on young students.

She told the LDRS: “We have a drugs gang operating outside of our front door near East Croydon.

“How can this happen? That sitting there is our biggest problem and it is very difficult to operate in that environment.” 

These safety concerns were shared by Markieu Hayden, headteacher of Norbury High School for Girls.

She told the room how parents of six form children at her school don’t even let their children walk home alone out of fear of attack.

According to Hayden, there was a spike in knives being used by young girls for ‘protection’ after Elianne’s murder in 2023.

She said that while she’s not aware of any attacks by girls, she has since had to confiscate a number of knives from students at her school.

The importance of early intervention was summarised by an African proverb used by several speakers during the meeting, which is:  “If a child is not embraced by its village, they will burn it down to feel its warmth.”

Following the meeting, the LDRS spoke with Otis Lawson outside Selhurst Park.

Tottenham native Lawson, lost his older brother Godwin to knife crime 10 years ago.

He told the LDRS: “My brother was a football but I wasn’t as good as my brother.

"He was doing good, he played for Oxford United and was in the academy when he passed away.

“He was in digs in Oxford and he came back on weekends when he wasn’t training. He’s just got back to the area and the childhood friends he was walking with had various problems in the area, and he was breaking up a fight when he was stabbed.”

Lawson now runs his own Strength and Conditioning program called Elite Squad and runs informal mentoring sessions for other people who require bereavement support.

He told the LDRS how he has been to many meetings like this, but feels people also need to take individual responsibility.

He said: “People bring their own ideologies and political views to this issue. Other people focus on things they don’t know about, or get upset about certain issues.

“If took it upon myself to take my path in life. I have got nothing to do with the government, I’m my own individual and I can make my own choices.”

After the event, Lawson joined others for the annual Cut It Out football tournament run by the ‘Palace For Life Foundation.

The event saw Croydon teenagers play against Met Police officers in a fundraising match on the Premier League pitch.