It was a quiet night at the mini market in the Kentish Town neighborhood of Northwest London last Tuesday when suddenly the clerk heard a loud clang against the metal shutters on the side of the building. He went outside to investigate and saw a ghastly sight; a teenager slumped against the shutters, moaning in agony, hands tight against his stomach, blood dripping from his wet, shiny fingers.
By chance, a doctor was strolling by just then, a little after 8 p.m.. She dropped to her knees and quickly assessed the gravity of the boy's wounds. The English version of 911 was called. Other people appeared, some of them screamed. Residents of the 6-story apartment complex across the street heard the commotion and looked out their windows
The kid writhed as the doctor called out for towels to hold against the grave injury. Within seconds, the corner of Bartholomew Road and Islip Street was raining towels. "I threw down four," a neighbor lady said.
The police arrived. They frantically urged on an ambulance as they took over from the doctor, pumping his chest. "They were pumping, pumping, pumping", said a man who works nearby. But, it was too late. The kid was gone.
A lady arrived. The dead kid was partially covered now with those fallen towels, but what she could see of his jacket looked frighteningly familiar. She told the police to let her through. It could be my son. But, they didn't let her close.
She called her son's phone. Three, four seconds later, from the dead kid's jacket, a cell phone rang.
About 90 minutes later, as the heartbroken mother of 17-year old Abdikarim Hassan was failing to be consoled by loved ones, there was another stabbing death. This time Sadiq Adan Mohamed was killed, on Malden Road near Queen's Crescent Market.
The two killings brought to 11 the number of homicides in London in just a 13-day period, most of them stabbings. There were about 105 homicides reported in London for all of 2017.
The latest two victims, were David Potter, 50, who was fatally stabbed in his flat in Tooting, south London, and Abraham Badru, 26, shot dead as he exited a car in Dalston, east London. The two killings made for a two-inch brief on page eight in The Times.
When I arrived in London on Friday, March 23, the thought I would be out on the streets reporting on a murder didn't remotely enter my mind. Since I had never been to London - other than 17-hour layover - I had planned the usual tourist stuff; Museums, a lot of walking, riding "the Tube", Harrod's, and hanging out at the restaurant Nancy Silverton had commandeered for a week near our hotel in a neighborhood called Shoreditch.
But, as I read the locals papers and viewed their websites, I was surprised, even alarmed by the frequent reports of stabbing deaths. The first one that grabbed me was of Benjamin Pieknyi, a 21-year old from Romania who came to the aid of a friend being attacked and was stabbed to death. A 22-year-old from the Ukraine was arrested for that. I wanted to get to his family, to the guy he came to aid, but they lived in Milton Keynes, a 90 minute drive from London.
Then, the next day, when I heard about these two murders above, I almost felt an obligation, so I hit the streets.
The next day, an 18-year-old male, Isaiah Popoola, was charged with both killings. He will be tried at London's Old Bailey court.
As for the victims, the few people I talked to all spoke very kindly of them. Neither were gang members, they worshiped their families, were lightning quick to help others, were constantly smiling and loved to play football. They were both from the capital city of Somalia, brought to London at a young age to be safe from the dangers of Mogadishu.