The day my son was mugged at knifepoint

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It was a moment worthy of a Tarantino film. “You’re in the wrong place. At the wrong time,” whispered  the young man in a tracksuit, standing over four teenage boys, sitting on a park bench in their school uniform. One of the boys;  my 16 year old son Gabriel (above). “Put your heads down, and don’t look up,” said the young man. In his hand, a ten-inch, serrated and curved blade. “Oh, he would never have stabbed us, Mumsie,” Gabriel joshed, hours later. But his white face and nervous laughter belied how terrified he must have been, hanging out with his friends in Highbury Fields after a game of football only to be mugged at knifepoint.

They all looked down, obeying him mutely. “What school do you go to?” They murmured a name. Was it the right one? It must have been.  “Give me your money.” Each boy fumbled in his pocket, handing over pitiful amounts of cash. Gabriel was so freaked out he even gave up his house keys. “It’s your lucky day,” sneered his tormentor, tossing them back to him. “Now go,” he ordered, continuing the movie script. They scurried off. “And never come back,” he shouted after them.

Are you kidding? Half an hour later, after Gabriel had come home and confessed what had happened, I was seriously considering, if not actually moving, then at least ensuring he travels in a taxi at all times. That was after I had yelled at him for being in a park in the dark.  And hugged him, and cried, quite a lot. Because the fact is that around here, children do get stabbed, fatally, for little more than a couple of tenners.

It’s a rite of passage, apparently. Being mugged when you are 16. With a knife? More and more frequently. Do you respond by a) moving to a gated community and never allowing your children to stray beyond the door of an Uber, b) trying to halt the increasing polarisation between those who have money and those who have knives or c) neither, because you don’t like gated communities and you have no idea how to achieve a fairer society.

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