Two grieving mothers, who each lost their teenage sons to knife crime, have been left disappointed by Rishi Sunak, who appears to have ignored their desperate pleas for action to stop fatal stabbings.  

The Northern Echo published an open letter to the Prime Minister’s office, signed by Zoey McGill and Tanya Brown, asking for a meeting so they could explain the cruel, but preventable, circumstances in which their beloved boys died.

Calls for more funding to educate young people and to employ youth workers were initially made during the short-lived premiership of Liz Truss to mark the anniversary of Jack Woodley’s murder in October.

The Northern Echo: Our front page was sent to the Prime Minister's office Our front page was sent to the Prime Minister's office (Image: Northern Echo)

Read more: The Northern Echo calls on the Prime Minister for urgent action on knife crime

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party and former Director of Public Prosecutions, has already agreed to meet the mothers, and it is understood this will be arranged in the New Year.

When Mr Sunak, who represents Richmond in North Yorkshire, became Prime Minister, his office was contacted for comment, but this was passed to the Home Office and a statement from an unnamed spokesperson was issued. 

Downing Street was contacted once again in light of the death of 14-year-old Gordon Gault in Newcastle as the parents of Tomasz Oleszak, also 14, joined The Northern Echo’s campaign to tackle knife crime.

Read more: Open letter to Prime Minister for action on knife crime

The Northern Echo: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Image: PA)

Again, it was passed to the Home Office, which agreed to a private meeting between the mothers and a Crime and Policing Minister and issued another statement from an anonymous spokesperson.

It said: “We would like to express our deepest sympathies to these families.

“Each life lost to violence is one too many and we continue to do everything in our power to prevent these senseless killings.

“We are making sure legislation provides the police with the powers they need to do their jobs, and with £170m of funding into Violence Reduction Units we will continue to support the fight against serious violence.

“The Crime and Policing Minister would like to meet with Zoey and Tanya and they will receive an invitation shortly.”

The Home Office also said it is considering introducing Knife Crime Prevention Orders, which aim to steer at-risk young people away from violent crime or carrying a knife.

They are being trialed by the Metropolitan Police before any decision to roll out nationally.

However, the Government response has been met with anger and frustration by Tanya Brown, from Sunderland, who lost Connor, aged 18, in 2019, and Zoey McGill, from Newton Aycliffe, whose son, Jack, also 18, was killed last year.

The Northern Echo: Clockwise, from top right, Connor Brown, Chris Cave, Tomasz Oleszak and Jack Woodley all died from stabs wounds after knife attacks Clockwise, from top right, Connor Brown, Chris Cave, Tomasz Oleszak and Jack Woodley all died from stabs wounds after knife attacks (Image: Contributor)

The Northern Echo: Zoey McGill and Tanya Brown with the open letter sent to the Prime Minister Zoey McGill and Tanya Brown with the open letter sent to the Prime Minister (Image: Northern Echo)

Tanya said: “Firstly, I'd like to thank the minister who has agreed to meet with us, showing us there is some level of compassion within the Government.

“As for Rishi Sunak, I think it is despicable that not even a comment has been passed down through his spokesperson.

“There is a problem with knife crime, and it is happening everywhere and becoming a daily occurrence.

“So, what exactly does need to happen before it is addressed?

“How many more lives need to be lost to knife crime?

“How many more end up in prison for committing these acts of violence?

“How many more families does he want to come forward before he will actually listen to us?

“This has got me really angry and upset, our children are important.”

Leighton Barrass, who was 20 when he stabbed Connor, was found guilty of murder, and was jailed for a minimum of 20 years.

His accomplice, Ally Gordon, also 20 at the time, was convicted of manslaughter and for possessing a bladed weapon and was given a three-and-a-half-year prison term at Newcastle Crown Court.

The Northern Echo: Leighton Barrass and Ally Gordon have been jailedLeighton Barrass and Ally Gordon have been jailed (Image: Contributor)

Due to the time he had already served, Gordon was released from prison on licence just a year after the trial in November 2020, and now his licence period has ended.

Tanya said: “My son Connor is important to me and his life was taken away, he was taken away from us.”

“I will not be silenced, I will forever speak his name and fight back against knife crime and raise the awareness of the dangers of carrying a knife to as many people as I can reach.”

Read more: Heartbroken parents came to North East for a better life but lost son in knife attack

Ten teenagers aged 14-18 have been convicted of Jack Woodley’s murder following a three-month trial earlier this year, but nine are hoping to appeal their conviction.

Jack’s mother, Zoey McGill, said she was not happy with the response from the Prime Minister’s office either.

She said: “I am very disappointed. Children’s lives are being cut short. Our children are our future.

“Maybe it would have been top of their agenda if it were to happen to one of their own.”

Mr Sunak has been asked once again to acknowledge the pleas from parents and the Northern Echo's campaign for action.

He has not responded.

The latest victims of knife crime in the North East are pictured below.

They were 14 years old.

The Northern Echo: Tomasz Oleszak Tomasz Oleszak (Image: Contributor)

The Northern Echo: Gordon Gault Gordon Gault (Image: Contributor)

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