'Angry that such a heinous act should take place here'
The death of Ava White, plus the rest of our weekly briefing
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s briefing. We look at the tragic death of 12-year-old Ava White and the broader context of knife crime and homicide in the city region.
We also have a recommended long read about the photographer who documented Liverpool’s nans, a pretty home of the week in Prescot and a great selection of things to do this week from our culture writer Vicky Anderson.
Apologies to readers who tried to join us as paying members this weekend and got an error message. We cack-handedly changed the settings on our payments system, which is now fixed — thanks to those who pointed out the problem. Please go ahead and join us as a member now by clicking the button below — it’s just £1.25 a week if you pay for a year (£65). You’ll be helping us edge a bit closer to becoming financially sustainable and being able to hire a fulltime staff member next year.
Remember, the majority of our original reporting is done in members-only editions of The Post, so if you don’t want to miss out, get on board now. Last week we sent members two fantastic stories, one asking whether the Remembrance Sunday attack in Liverpool was actually an act of terrorism; the other interviewing young people who represent the region’s future hopes in theatre and dance.
Battle on the beach
In case you missed it, our weekend read was a fantastic deep dive by Harry Shukman into the war of words over the future of Hoylake beach on the Wirral. You can read that piece here.
We’ve had a really big response to the piece, with lots of emails and tweets in the past 24 hours — thanks for those. One reader wrote in: “Thank you for a comprehensive report on this topic,” and another said “I read and chuckled my way through the article on Hoylake beach. Parts were Marina Hyde-esque!”
We will probably be doing some follow-up reporting on this topic for Post members soon, so do send any tips you have to firstname.lastname@example.org.
🌨 This week’s weather
📈 Covid-19 update
The case rate for Liverpool City Region is 376.6, up 0.6% from last week. The case rate for England is 439.6, up 3.6%. Infection rates are highest in St Helens and Halton, about 400, and lowest in Liverpool and Knowsley, around the 300-mark.
The big story: Tributes pour in for Ava White
The top line: The death of 12-year-old Ava White, who was stabbed in Liverpool city centre on Thursday just after the Christmas lights were switched on, has shocked the city. She was taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where she died a short time later.
Arrests: Four boys from Toxteth — one aged 13, two aged 14, and one 15 — were arrested on suspicion of murder. Last night Merseyside Police confirmed a 14-year-old boy has been charged with her murder and possession of a bladed item, and three other boys have been conditionally bailed as the investigation continues. The boy who has been charged will appear at Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday morning.
Reaction: Bouquets have appeared around the Church Street area where the 12-year-old was fatally stabbed. Ava’s headteacher Peter Duffy said she was a unique, hugely popular and loved member of the school and said school staff were working to provide support for students.
A fundraiser on GoFundMe, organised by a family friend, aiming to raise £1,000 to help towards the family’s funeral costs has nearly £3,000 in donations.
Metro mayor Steve Rotheram tweeted: “I am angry today for Ava and her family, for the parents across the region worrying about their children’s safety, and angry that such a heinous act should take place here.”
The context: The case raises new concerns about knife crime among the young and homicides in the city region. Last week, three stabbings occurred in two days in the city centre, the Wirral and St Helens, and in one incident a 16-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of wounding with intent.
On Friday, a 30-year-old woman was pulled from the River Mersey and was pronounced dead at hospital. An investigation into the circumstances of her death is ongoing.
BBC News reported this weekend that a 47-year-old woman was found dead in Stoneycroft and three men have been arrested on suspicion of murder.
A recent data request by Mersey News Live to Merseyside Police found knife crime offences by under 18s on Merseyside were at 157 cases a year in 2020 — down from around 250 cases a year in 2019. A further 214 under 18s were found in possession of a weapon in 2020. On a national level, there were just over 4400 knife or offensive weapon offences committed by under 18s as of March 2020, a fall of 5% in the last 10 years.
Homicide cases have been more or less flat across the city region over the last decade. Looking at the data five years ago, there were 14 homicide cases on Merseyside in the year ending June 2016, compared with 15 homicide cases the year ending June 2021. Nationally, there were 681 homicide cases as of June 2016, and 621 as of June 2021.
Alan Walsh, a prominent anti-knife crime campaigner and the owner of Anfield Boxing, said he’s been inundated with phone calls from young people concerned about knife crime. Here’s what he told the Mirror on Friday morning:
I am just numb. I feel terrible for her family, but also it's the underlying trauma going on behind it as well. The ripple effect of this will be felt for a life time. I took my first text message at 12.09am this morning asking for help. Please any young person who has witnessed this horrific incident and needs support please get in touch. We will get you counsellors and psychologist help.
Local news in brief
A government appointed commissioner found there is still “remnants of the old culture” of bullying at Liverpool City Council. Mark Cunningham encouraged people to report these behaviours and has vowed to root it out. He said: “It is the sign of a healthy organisation when they have the confidence to report what they see as misconduct or bullying... and confidence something will be done about it.” Read more.
Equipment from a large cannabis farm on the Wirral will be donated to Bridge Community Farm in Ellesmere Port, a working farm that offers permanent jobs to those without long-term employment and sells fruit and vegetables to the local community. The cannabis farm was discovered on 10 November and equipment includes water pumps and wall fans. Read more.
A sixteen-year-old Haydock boy banned from St Helens has been given an electronic tag for six months for reentering the area. He was given a criminal behaviour order in August for three assaults and theft and a history of “longstanding anti-social and violent behaviour within the town centre and neighbouring areas of St Helens”. Read more.
A man has died in a fire at a care home on Aintree University Hospital Campus, the fire service confirmed. Another resident and three members of staff were treated for smoke inhalation. An investigation is taking place to determine the cause of the blaze. Read more.
The Liberal Democrats won the Oxton by-election with a big majority, Local Democracy Reporter George Morgan reports. The ward will be served by three Lib Dem councillors, with Dr Orod Osanlou as the newest. Read more.
Home of the week
A charming 3-bedroom cottage in Prescot dating back to 1790 is on the market for £394,998. It has original fireplaces, wooden beams and a huge garden.
Our favourite reads
A fun feature in the Guardian meeting the original teen rebels who walked out of class to protest against Thatcher’s Youth Training Scheme, a plan to take employment benefits away from 16 and 17-year-olds and push those who could not get work into further education. The walkout then ballooned into a huge protest: “‘We were blown away by how many turned out,’ says Emy Onuora, who was 19 and serving as a steward for the Labour Party Young Socialists. ‘This was before social media, so we relied on leaflets and word of mouth. We knew there’d be a lot of kids — but 10,000? It felt unreal.’”
Rob Bremner, who is best known for his 1980s portraits of nans and New Brighton families, gives a moving interview in 10 Magazine. He talks about the feeling of realising his photographs were important to people when he posted them on Facebook in 2017 and messages started to flood in. “‘My dad had died and nothing much was happening,’ remembers Bremner, who ended up adding photographs to a series of similar Facebook groups over the Christmas period that year. ‘I woke up on Christmas morning with about 1,000 people wishing me happy Christmas. I spent all day replying, ‘Thank you very much’, ‘Thank you very much.’ It was the first time I realised that anyone would be that interested in them.’”
In a critical review of Get Back — the new Beatles documentary everyone is talking about— the Guardian’s rock critic Alexis Petridis writes: “There is a point, about five hours in, when the prospect of hearing another ramshackle version of Don’t Let Me Down becomes an active threat to the viewer’s sanity. That is doubtless what recording an album is like, but for an onlooker it is — to use the language of 1969 — a real drag. Much opprobrium has been cast at Yoko Ono for her constant presence at Beatles’ recording sessions, but, after this, you marvel at her fortitude for sitting through them.”
And finally, there’s a sweet interview with the viral TikTok star Michael Aldag in the latest edition of Bido Lito! which looks at where his career is going and how he feels about his life off-screen. “He’s heavily nostalgic about New Brighton, having spent many solitary evenings here over lockdown, staring out across the water lost in thought. When it comes to his hometown of West Kirby, though, he’s less misty-eyed. ‘I never did much there. Sometimes me and my mates would go the park where pensioners played bowls, and hide in the bushes throwing grapes,’ he reflects. ‘Once we got chased by this old man, which was one of the biggest rushes of my whole life.’”
🎨 The Bluecoat have a great exhibition by collage artist Deborah Roberts. A Look Inside creates fragmented images of young Black children to communicate the difficulties of building your identity as you grow up. “With collage, I can create a more expansive and inclusive view of the Black cultural experience,” Roberts explains. More info here.
❄️ A beautiful winter concert at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall this Thursday evening. Stillness and Light features Dvořák’s Symphony No.7, a melody composed after hearing a train enter a station, and William Grant’s beautiful and deeply romantic Serenade. Joshua Weilerstein conducts. Book tickets here.
🎭 The Christmas Pantomime is back at the Everyman Theatre — it’s a mischievous spin on the classic Robin Hood tale, with a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. Book tickets here.
🎙 For this evening’s downtime, we recommend listening to this podcast episode hosted by wrestler and heavy metal singer Chris Jericho. He sits down with Clark Gilmour from the Cavern Club and Neil Brannon, manager of the Magic Mystery Tour, to talk Beatles trivia and the club’s long history.
😆 There’s a comedy night on this Thursday at Murphy’s Gin Bar and Distillery in Vauxhall, with a great curated selection of gins and draught beer at the bar. Book here.
Photo of the week
Post from the Past
The day former City Radio presenter Tony Snelly knocked over a carton of milk onto valuable studio equipment and let out a string of swear words on live radio. Here’s what the Echo reported in 1996:
His outburst reduced Snelly’s wife, Angela, to tears. All went quiet while the show’s team was transferred to an alternative studio, leaving Echo columnist Tony, 31, to ponder his fate live on the airwaves. As he struggled to regain composure, he told listeners: “I didn’t realise the microphones were on. I realise there are a lot of children listening. I am deeply sorry.”
Snelly, now a senior presenter on BBC Merseyside Live, posted on Twitter last week: “Ah yes 25 years ago thanks for the reminder. The milk incident.”
We are working on a story about the sexual abuse perpetrated by Father Thomas MacCarte at Bishop Eton Monastery in Childwall. If you know the congregation or have any insight to offer, please get in touch with email@example.com or just hit reply to this email. Or if you have information about similar cases elsewhere in the city region, we’d also like to hear from you.
Book of the week
Inn Liverpool by Bob Thurlow and David Wrightson looks at Liverpool’s magnificent pub heritage around 40 years ago, when some great pubs were being lost. It features lovely black and white nostalgic photos as well as some lovely bits of prose. Here’s what the publisher wrote about the book:
Inn Liverpool is more than just a record; it is a poem to the craftsmanship that created the cut-glass mirrors and windows, buttoned-leather seats, mahogany and teak counters, exquisitely plastered ceilings and all the other fittings that made the Liverpool public house so special.
Inn Liverpool is available to buy here.
Letters from readers
Really interesting… good to read a positive piece on young people (‘I could never have a back up plan, me’), Alison
This wasn’t the article I expected when I read this (‘The bitter fight over a Wirral beach’). Local journalism is great sometimes, Jay
Not a scouser by birth but by love. Lived in the city since 1976 and wouldn’t ever want to live anywhere else. Looking forward to reading all of the local news, June