Michael Staines
Michael Staines

12.26 17 Feb 2021


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Crime journalist Stephen Breen has said he feels sorry for the men who stabbed his father to death in London nearly 20 years ago.

The Irish Sun Crime Editor spoke to The Pat Kenny Show this morning about the attack that took his father Tom’s life in August 2002.

He told Jonathon Healy that he hopes by sharing his story he can raise awareness of the increase in knife crime in Ireland and “perhaps prevent someone from leaving their house with a knife in their pocket.”

"Your father didn’t make it"

He said he was at his home in Belfast on the night of August 11th when he got a call to say his father had been involved in an incident in the English capital.

“Of course, I couldn’t believe it, I was shocked, I had no idea what was happening but the initial call said he was doing OK and he was being treated in hospital,” he said.

“So, I then drove the 20 miles to my mother’s house as we waited for further news because I wanted to be with her to give her support and make sure she was OK.

“It was only when we were in our mother’s house, we got a call again from my father’s friend who just said, ‘listen Stephen, I am so sorry, your father didn’t make it.’”

Mr Breen said he travelled to London with his mother that morning and was told that police were treating it as an unprovoked attack.

“There was an altercation and unfortunately, like many incidents, a knife was produced and these terrible consequences quickly followed,” he said.

No hate

There was no CCTV footage of the incident and to date, nobody has been charged with the killing.

“Police do suspect that two brothers were involved but because one brother is not going to go against another brother, they just didn’t have the evidence,” he said.

“I am reassured because the investigation is still ongoing. You just never know down the line. I have written other stories where people have had justice before …

“I just think they should be punished for taking a man’s life. I don’t hate them, I don’t think about them; I actually feel sorry for these people having to live with this on their conscience, knowing that they took a man’s life, so we will just have to wait and see.”

He said the two suspects are not viewed as hardened criminals and were not known for violence.

“I just don’t know why they went out that night with a knife,” he said.

“Was it for protection or because they were involved in some other incident? I just don’t know.”

Conscience

Mr Breen was involved in a number of appeals for information, along with his mother and grandmother so there is “no doubt they would have been aware of the campaign and what we have been through.”

“I can only imagine, I don’t care who you are or where you come from, surely you must have some conscience and when you wake up in the morning you think, I stabbed a man in his chest and he lost his life,” he said.

“I would like to think over the years that it has preyed on their minds and I can only hope they haven’t done this to any other family over the years.”

Knife crime

He said it is “very important” that a long-term strategy is put in place to tackle the rise in knife crime in Ireland.

“It needs a multi-agency approach,” he said. “There is no point in Gardaí just going into a school and telling these kids they are going to lock them up. The Gardaí need to work closely with the education sector, the social sector and also Gardaí on the beat, the community Gardaí.”

He said education is key to solving the problem.

“My colleague has a piece in the paper today where he has interviewed a father whose 18-year-old son was killed and he is willing to do a video,” he said.

“He is willing to talk about what he has been through so that the video could be sent to schools so he can share his story and what he has been through in the hope that young people don’t pick up a knife when they go out.

“It’s a long-term problem and it is not going to be fixed overnight but there needs to be a focus on it. Resources need to be put in place for communities, particularly deprived communities, so we can hopefully address this issue.”


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