IT is a quiet suburb those tired of a crowded life in central London once aspired to move to.
But Harold Hill, in Romford, East London, has become an epicentre of knife crime known locally as “the Murder Mile”.
At its heart is Amy’s Park, where 17-year-old Jodie Chesney was fatally stabbed in 2019 and Daniel Laskos, 16, was this month brutally knifed to death.
Today we can reveal that in a one-mile radius of the park there have been a staggering 12 murders or attempted murders over the past four years — underlining how knife crime is blighting Britain’s streets.
Nationwide, stabbings are up 84 per cent since 2014.
Thirteen youngsters have died in London so far this year — just short of the total for ALL of 2020.
Jodie’s father Peter, 40, told The Sun on Sunday: “The number of stabbings and murders that have taken place in this section of Harold’s Hill are really shocking, especially when you look around and see how many young families live here.
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“It shows how the knife crime problem has spiralled out of control. I can see why people are calling it the Murder Mile.
“Life seems to be getting cheap in this country. My daughter was senselessly killed here. Kids are so quick to pull out a knife nowadays and that is a massive problem.
“If they have an argument or a falling-out over a girl, they reach for a blade. That would have been unacceptable when I was growing up.
“Every parent living in this area must be wondering whether it will be their child next.
"If things continue the way they are we are going to end up like a Mexican ghetto or a Brazilian favela, where gangs and killers can do whatever they want.
“Something has to change.”
As well as three killings, there have been nine attempted murders in the area as gangs wage war just yards from where youngsters play.
Many here blame London Mayor Sadiq Khan, to whom voters this month handed a second term, for slashing £38million from the Metropolitan Police budget in 2017.
His critics say those cuts have led to fewer officers on the beat in the area.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 47,119 knife crime offences recorded across England and Wales between September 2019 and September 2020, including 45 murders.
That is slightly down on the 48,469 offences and 64 murders for the previous 12-months, suggesting the figure would have been much higher had we not been plunged into lockdown in March 2020.
In London, knife crime cases have risen by more than 50 per cent since Khan was elected in 2016.
Peter Chesney this week bravely returned to Amy’s Park with The Sun on Sunday to show us around the neighbourhood.
After Jodie’s murder, hundreds marched through Romford town centre in tribute.
Jodie was listening to music with friends on March 1, 2019, when two drug dealers stabbed her in the back — in broad daylight.
Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, then 19, from Romford, and Arron Isaacs, 17 at the time, of Barking, East London, mistook Jodie — who was never involved with gangs — for their intended victim.
Ong-a-Kwie got 26 years in jail and Isaacs 18 at the Old Bailey.
Residents turned Amy’s Park into a shrine painted purple — Jodie’s favourite colour.
Standing at the spot where his daughter died, Peter said: “There is poverty and deprivation in Harold Hill and that goes hand in hand with drugs, which makes this a lucrative market for gangs. They fight to protect their turf.”
Just 200 yards from the park is Church Road.
Here, trainee plumber Daniel Laskos was ambushed by thugs wearing balaclavas and wielding machetes as he stepped from a shop on May 7.
Daniel died from his stab wounds.
Peter said: “Hearing about the latest murder brought all the bad memories flooding back. We need to pull together to turn this around. Everyone has a part to play.”
Fifty yards on, three more teenagers suffered stab wounds in the ambush.
Ten minutes later, a lad of 15 was seriously injured on nearby Retford Road.
Such is the cycle of tit-for-tat violence plaguing Harold Hill, with a dozen attacks taking place in a one-mile radius in recent years.
They include the murder of father-of-two Liam Harman, 28, stabbed in the stairwell of his block of flats on Straight Road in July 2017.
Drug dealer Cedric Kyiago, then 21 and only just out of jail, was convicted and sentenced to at least 29 years in prison.
Peter next shows us a parade of shops on Camborne Avenue and a community hub that was the scene of a stabbing in March 2018.
A man was knifed in his chest and back as shoppers fled in panic.
That September, a 19-year-old was left fighting for life after being set upon by a gang at a bus stop on Dagnam Park Drive.
He was stabbed in his chest, arm and leg while a friend, 18, was injured.
Eight murders have been committed in the London borough of Havering in the past five years — three of them in Harold Hill.
Knife crime in the borough has rocketed by 85 per cent in three years.
There were 188 incidents between March 2016 and February 2017, then 348 between March 2018 and February 2019, the Met says.
Tory London Assembly member Keith Prince says: “I suspect there are turf wars going on in Harold Hill. We know there is a trend for gangs from inner London coming out on the Tube and rail.
“Clearly police resources aren’t as great in Havering as they are in central London. I will again be taking this up with the Mayor because I want to know what he is doing to safeguard my residents.
“Under this mayoralty we’ve seen an unprecedented rise in knife crime.
"When he announced he was ending stop-and-search I told him it would be a disaster, that crime would go back up. We have paid the price for that because stop-and-search takes knives off the street.”
Peter runs the Jodie Chesney Foundation combating knife crime.
He lives in Dagenham, six miles from Harold Hill, but wants to leave the capital when his baby daughter arrives later this year.
Peter said: “I don’t want my daughter hanging out in Harold Hill when she grows up. I’ve had enough of London because it’s always at the back of your mind.
"I had a run-in with some kids six months ago. I was walking Jodie’s dog and wanted to take a photo of the new flats that have been built.
“There were about ten youths on bikes. One approached me saying, ‘I don’t want my photo taken, let me look at your phone’. He was 18 at a push, the rest younger. I showed him the phone and walked off but the others still weren’t happy.
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“I heard them telling him to take my phone. It was a tense moment and I was a bit scared.
"I thought, ‘How dare you demand to look at my phone?’ If they had pulled a knife, I would’ve gone berserk.
“Considering what happened to Jodie, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it.”
1. DAD KILLED BY DRUG GANG
ON Straight Road dad-of-two Liam Harman, 28, is repeatedly stabbed in a stairwell near his flat by drug dealers on July 11, 2017.
2. MAN KNIFED IN DAYLIGHT
ON Janaury 18, 2018, a man is stabbed near shops on the corner of Farringdon Avenue.
3. MAN KNIFED IN CHEST
SHOPPERS flee in horror as a man is stabbed in the chest and back at 9.40pm on March 11, 2018. The victim is rushed to hospital and one man is arrested over the attack.
4. TEEN STABBED BY MOPED GANG
A MAN of 19 is left fighting for his life after being attacked by a gang who were riding mopeds as he waits for a bus on September 5, 2018.
5. JODIE, 17, MURDERED
IN Amy’s Park Jodie Chesney is fatally stabbed by drug dealers while sitting on a bench on March 1, 2019.
6. MAN, 25, STABBED
JUST days after Jodie’s death, on March 8, 2019, a man is knifed on Tees Drive and then taken to hospital.
7. KNIFE MOB ATTACK TEEN
THUGS go for a 19-year-old outside the Harold Hill campus of Havering College on March 19, 2019.
8. TEEN’S NECK SLASHED
PARAMEDICS treat a 19-year-old with a huge gash in his neck at a Petersfield Avenue bus stop on April 20, 2019.
9. MAN STABBED IN FIGHT
A MAN stabbed in the Harold Hill area is later found, bloodied, 18 miles away in Erith, South East London, before collapsing on December 2, 2019.
10. BOY, 16 STABBED
POLICE rush to a reported stabbing on Heaton Avenue on October 3, 2020. An injured teen ends up in hospital.
11. DANIEL, 16, KILLED
ON May 7 this year Daniel Laskos is fatally knifed on Church Road. Three people are charged with his killing.
12. MACHETE GANG STAB BOY, 15
ON Retford Road a 15-year-old is stabbed and later arrested over the murder of Daniel Laskos.