A grieving mum has told of the heartbreaking decision to turn off her teenage son’s life support machine after he was stabbed through the heart.
Lisa Kilkenny’s 16-year-old son Joseph Whitchurch was killed by a small time drug dealer who attacked him at a property in Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, on Boxing Day 2020.
He was rushed to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, but died of his injuries three days later.
Jake Rollinson, 21, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 19 years after being found guilty of murder in March.
Lisa has now spoken for the first time about the devastating impact of losing her son as she fights for an end to knifecrime in his memory.
She told how Joseph had enjoyed Christmas Day with his family before he asked if he could go to his friend’s house nearby for a few drinks.
Lisa then got a visit from police several hours later which “broke her heart in half” and left with a pain which “took away her breath”.
‘I just remember feeling so much pain in my heart’
She said: “Nothing will ever be as dark as the day you are told that your son is dead.”
She added: “We all sat down together to enjoy our Christmas Day dinner. Joseph said he was full and gave me a kiss to say thank you and ‘I love you’.
“When he asked later if he could go to his friend’s I said ‘of course, but don’t be late’. He asked if I would order him a taxi to get him home and I said ‘of course’.
“There was a knock at the door which I assumed was Joseph saying he had fallen asleep at his friend’s.
“To my horror I discovered a concerned and shaken up police officer trying to explain that he needed to get me to hospital quickly as Joseph had been stabbed.
“I was in complete and utter shock.
“On the way I felt how serious it was, as the officer received a call and the car sped so fast.
“I felt numb, sick and full of confusion. I just wanted to see Joseph so much.
“I then got ushered into a room frantically calling his dad. I was shattered and I had so many questions.
“I was told in no uncertain terms how bad this was. I just remember feeling so much pain in my heart, I felt it was about to break in half. The tears were just uncontrollable.”
I remember screaming ‘how am I going to live without you’
After a few hours they were able to see Joseph, although they knew how serious his condition was.
Lisa said: “My beautiful boy was lying there after so much surgery.
“No parent ever imagines going through this and the pain and anguish as you await news and the enormity of his injuries.
“I was praying and telling Joseph not to leave me. I prayed God would take me instead.
“It’s so hard to put into words but the pain in me was taking my breath.”
Lisa said her worst fears were then realised when medics told her Joseph was brain dead and was not going to pull through, leaving her family “broken”.
She added: “When we were told that he was brain dead, we had to say goodbye.
“I remember screaming ‘how am I going to live without you, my beautiful boy?’ Everyone was crying. The pain was so immense and touched everyone.
“Having to tell friends and family this news left them in utter shock and full of grief.
“I struggled looking at my mum and dad as the pain in their eyes was too much to see. They were broken.
“His brothers were in complete shock, the grief is still consuming their young lives. They were so close and looked up to their amazing big brother.
“He had been there since they were born and shared an amazing bond.
“As a family we are trying to live but it’s extremely hard. We are surrounded by amazing family and friends as without them we wouldn’t be able to get through this.
“No-one should have to endure such pain. Nothing will ever be as dark as the day you are told that your son is dead.
“To have a child die is so devastating but to also deal with the fact that somebody brutally stabbed your precious child is another level.
“How could one human do that to another? It’s too much to ever get my head around.”
‘He loved being around people’
Paying tribute to her “loving and caring” son, Lisa added: “Joseph had a smile that would light up a room.
“He loved being around people and people loved being around him. He had a happy nature, and his warm and caring personality was loved by everyone.
“He was always looking out for his younger brothers and was a kind and loyal friend.
“Joseph was naturally good at sport and excelled in swimming, rugby and cricket.
“He had been a member of the local cricket and rugby teams and enjoyed success in county swimming leagues too.
“He achieved the top scouting award before he joined the county swimming club.
“He did well in school and wanted to be an engineer. He had recently undertaken some work experience at Rolls Royce that had spurred him on to embark on this career.
“He came home with tales of the new people he had met and the experience he had enjoyed.
“He also helped out his dad in his work, to start to learn some labouring skills. He was looking forward to finishing college and entering the world of work and was also really keen to start to learn to drive.
“Like many 16-year-old lads, Joseph enjoyed his music and his great loves were food and eating it.
“He also had a great circle of friends who are still in touch to share their memories with us.”
Rollinson, who Joseph considered a friend, carried out the attack at his grandmother’s house following an argument over a £40 debt.
He was also sentenced for supplying cocaine, supplying cannabis and perverting the course of justice, which he had previously admitted.
Rollinson’s girlfriend, Lorna Richardson, 26, was also jailed for two years after admitting perverting the course of justice
‘Knife crime can affect anyone’
Making an emotional plea for people not to carry knives, Lisa added: “We have all had to come to terms with losing our beloved Joseph.
“Words seem inadequate to describe the hole he has left in our lives and yet we will live to honour him in everything we do, inspired by his attitude to life and his smile.
“Cherished memories of him are never far from our thoughts.
“The family, Joseph’s amazing friends and the communities of Stapleford and Bramcote have stood united together to ensure his memory becomes a legacy for our community in standing together against knife crime.
“We are proud of the fact we have shown this in many ways, seeing crowds of people coming together and supporting each other in such tragic circumstances in love, friendship and community, standing in stark contrast to violence.
“The memorial bench in the local park is a reminder of that.
“We have an inscription on there that mentions the fact his smile would light up the darkest day, and it does and always will in our hearts.
“Joseph was just in the wrong place at the wrong time that night. We’re a normal family and it just goes to prove how knife crime can affect anyone.
“By sharing my experience I want people to understand the heartbreak that just one knife crime incident can truly cause and how lives like ours are changed forever.
“There is never an excuse or reason to carry a knife or use one to cause harm to another person.
Nottinghamshire Police has set up amnesty bins sited across the force area where people can deposit their knives without fear of prosecution.
Lisa added: “Carrying a knife doesn’t protect you - it actually puts you at greater risk of harm - which is why I’d urge people to please hand in their knives and put them in the amnesty bins provided in police stations around Nottinghamshire this week.”
‘Carrying a knife should never be seen as acceptable’
Superintendent Kathryn Craner said: “I’d like to thank Lisa for sharing her harrowing real life account which lays bare the truly devastating life-long consequences of knife crime.
“If it deters just one person from picking up and using a knife to cause harm then it will have been worth it.
“We all have a role to play in stopping young people carrying knives and getting weapons off our streets.
“It’s not just about Nottinghamshire Police’s response to the knife crime, it requires a collaborative effort.
“We all need to make it clear that carrying a knife should never be seen as acceptable and that knife crime will not be tolerated.
“We urge parents and carers to talk to their children about the dangers of carrying knives and the terrible impact that knife crime can have on them, their family and friends and their community.
“Nottinghamshire Police and its partners continue to work tirelessly all year round to prevent knife crime and protect people from the harm it causes to all those involved, as well as the wider community.
“Every knife crime is one too many and we will continue our efforts with our partners and communities to drive down knife crime even further in our communities.”