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Grieving mum told: ‘Take down shrine to murdered son’

I’m the only one keeping his memory alive, protests mother devastated by Town Hall order

06 October, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Michelle McPhillips at the Milner Square shrine. ‘It feels as if the council are just trying to push it under the carpet like my son didn’t exist,’ she says

A GRIEVING MOTHER has hit out at the Town Hall for ordering her to take down a shrine to her murdered son while his killer remains at large.

Father-of-two Jonathan “JJ” McPhillips was fatally stabbed outside the Town Hall in Upper Street when six to eight hooded youths with knives attacked a group of men he was with.

Since his death in February, the 28-year-old’s friends and family have maintained a makeshift memorial with flowers and photos outside his former home in Milner Square.

But Islington Council has told JJ’s mother, Michelle McPhillips, that she now has 30 days to take down the memorial, which covers the front gates of the house and the gates of a small park opposite her home.

“How can they tell me to stop? I’m the only one keeping his memory alive to assist in catching his killers,” said Ms McPhillips.

“I’m absolutely devastated. It feels as if the council are just trying to push it under the carpet like my son didn’t exist. Because of the number of knife crimes in the area there will be a lot of shrines – it’s obviously not what the council wants.”

Ms McPhillips said she had previously struggled to raise awareness of her son’s stabbing because the Town Hall refused to allow her to put posters up around the borough.

She said: “Half of Islington don’t know my son died on the steps of the Town Hall.”

Jonathan “JJ” McPhillips

Last month, police issued a fresh appeal for witnesses to the stabbing to come forward.

In shocking CCTV footage released in June, a smartly-dressed bystander in a suit can be seen colliding with JJ after he was stabbed.

The man, whose identity has been protected by police, has not come forward but detectives say he is a “significant witness” who may hold the key to catching the brutal killers.

A former school friend of JJ’s, Lee Jay Hatley, was stabbed to death in June at a small gathering at the Dover Court estate in Canonbury.

Mr Hatley’s funeral cortège in July stopped briefly at Milner Square, where photos of him have been placed alongside JJ’s. During the funeral for the 28-year-old at St Mary’s Church in Upper Street, the vicar leading the service called for an end to knife crime.

Bradley Mark Wood, 24, of no fixed abode but from Islington, has been charged with attempted murder and his trial at the Old Bailey is scheduled to start next month.

Ms McPhillips said she would ask Mr Hatley’s mother to take down his photos from the gate since someone has been charged in connection with the stabbing.

Nashon Esbrand, 27, was stabbed to death a stone’s throw from where Mr Hatley died in August. Two teenagers have been charged over the father-of-one’s death.

A council spokesman said: “The murder of Jonathan McPhillips was a tragedy, and our heartfelt condolences are with his family and friends.

“We strongly support the police appeal for witnesses to come forward, and have offered to help his family with a poster campaign to help publicise the appeal. We are also speaking with Jonathan’s family about a permanent memorial, such as a bench in Milner Square. Our overall approach to shrines is that they are temporary memorials, and we will continue to talk with Jonathan’s family about this.”

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