It’s one year since the tragic killing of 12-year-old Ava White in Liverpool city centre. A shocking murder, which left the people of Merseyside stunned and in mourning. The schoolgirl was fatally stabbed in the neck, in a ‘senseless’ attack, during the build up to Christmas.
Tributes to Ava can be seen in the city centre today, including a floral butterfly memorial, blue wooden letters spelling her name and messages from her family.
What happened to Ava White?
Ava had been in the city with friends on November 25, 2021, for the switching on of the Christmas lights. Following a row over a Snapchat video with another group, she was stabbed on School Lane, suffering ‘catastrophic injuries’ just before 8.40pm.
When police arrived at the scene, they found Ava, who was with friends, collapsed on the ground in Church Alley and receiving first aid from a member of the public. Paramedics attended and she was taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where she died a short time later.
A 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will serve a minimum of 13 years for her murder. He claimed he accidentally stabbed the schoolgirl in the neck in self-defence, but was found guilty after a two-week murder trial in May.
In her victim personal statement, Ava’s mother, Leanne White, said: “November last year the light of my life was dimmed forever. She was taken in such cruel and tragic circumstances. When I think back to that tragic day, I remember how excited she was for Christmas, how happy she was going into the town centre to watch the Christmas lights being switched on.
“Ava was given permission to stay out later than normal - 8.30pm - so she could go to town and then to visit the shops. Never could I imagined that I would never see my beautiful baby alive again.”
Further tragic loss in Liverpool
Despite Merseyside Police launching campaigns and stepping up their efforts to tackle knife and gun crime since Ava’s murder, the tragedy has not stopped.
In August this year, the city was rocked once more when nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbell was fatally shot in her own home.
In a recent statement, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “It brings it home to you as a parent and again over the summer the awful things that we read about with the young girl Olivia, which we’ll all remember. I want to make sure that my kids and everyone else can walk around safely.”
The tragic news of the schoolgirl’s death came after a spate of killings involving guns and knives on Merseyside.
Gun and knife crime statistics
August alone saw three fatal shootings in Liverpool. On August 16, 20-year-old Sam Rimmer was shot dead in a cul-de-sac in Dingle, as he walked with a group of friends.
On Sunday August 21, Ashley Dale, 28, was found shot in her garden in Old Swan.
Olivia Pratt-Korbell was killed on August 22 - the fifteenth anniversary of the fatal shooting of 11-year-old Rhys Jones.
While in November, Rio Jones, 19, was charged with attempted murder after shooting a 15-year-old schoolgirl at a bus stop in Toxteth the previous March.
In 2021-22, Merseyside Police recorded 211 firearm offences - a 51% increase on the previous year where there were 140 offences. However, offences remained lower than pre-pandemic levels where 227 were recorded. According to the Home Office data, violent crime has been consistently increasing in recent years.
In 2021, Merseyside Police recorded 1,305 ‘serious offences involving a knife’, a slight decrease compared with the 1,336 the year prior. However, it is still a staggering number when compared to a decade before, with 606 ‘serious offences involving a knife’, in 2011.
What is being done?
New plan according to Police and Crime Commissioner
Yesterday, Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Emily Spurrell, met with leaders and partners to commit to a new region-wide plan aimed at making Merseyside a safer place for all women and girls.
The new plan, titled‘Working in partnership to tackle Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) Delivery Plan’ is the result of extensive consultation with professional partners, including frontline community groups, voluntary organisations, and women and girls from all across all five boroughs of Merseyside who came forward to share their lived experiences.
Ms Spurrell said: “There is an epidemic of violence against women and girls in this country. Recent tragic and high-profile cases have brought this into sharp focus, highlighting just how far we still must go to eradicate such crimes.
“We know women and girls experience violence in our communities every day. It is culturally embedded – deep-rooted in a society that was designed for men, and which enables misogynistic attitudes and sexism to fester.
“As Police Commissioner, my priority is to create a safe region for everyone - that means for all women and girls.”
Merseyside Police have just completed a dedicated week of action towards reducing knife crime in Merseyside, with over 190 knives and dangerous weapons handed in.
‘Operation Sceptre’ provides all police forces with a platform to talk to young people, target specific areas, seize a range of knives and put those carrying such weapons behind bars. From November 14-18, through Operation Sceptre, Merseyside Police stop searched 317 people, conducted 57 weapon sweeps and arrested 93 people.
Superintendent Phil Mullally said: “Reducing knife crime in Merseyside is a priority all year round for our police force and others up and down the country.
“Last year our communities in Liverpool felt the devastating impact knife crime has on individuals, families and friends when 12-year-old Ava White tragically passed away after she was stabbed on School Lane by a 14-year-old boy in the city centre. Our thoughts remain with Ava’s family and friends and is one of the many reasons why we work all year round to take weapons off our streets and protect our communities.
“This week of action is only a snapshot of what our officers do on a regular basis. I hope these figures reassures those living in Merseyside as we continue to seek out those involved in knife crime, enticing young and vulnerable people to carry weapons or involved in gangs.”
Weapons Down Gloves Up
Weapons Down Gloves Up is an initiative that aims to steer young people away from gang culture and carrying weapons, through sport, education and employment.
Started by Liverpool-born former professional boxer, Tony Bellew, the programme is run by volunteers, allowing unemployed people aged 19-25 to access support, boxing camps and help with education and employment.
After the murder of Ava White and again in August this year, many famous names across Liverpool spoke about the importance of the initiative - including Weapons Down Gloves Up ambassador and UFC fighter, ‘Meatball’ Molly McCann.