Mother defies council’s demand to remove shrine to murdered son

Islington Council has ordered that the shrine outside the Town Hall be removed. Photo by the author.

An Islington mother has criticised council officials after they ordered her to remove a memorial shrine dedicated to her son, who was stabbed to death outside Islington Town Hall in February.

Father-of-two, Jonathan “JJ” McPhillips, 28, was killed by a gang of knife-wielding attackers in Upper Street on 25 February this year. No one has been charged with the murder.

Michelle McPhillips insists that the council is sweeping her son’s death and London’s knife epidemic under the carpet.

Speaking to Islington Now this week, McPhillips said: “Islington Council don’t want the memorial because it puts off people living in the borough. It suggests that this kind of thing happens often here. The reality is that it does happen, all too often”.

In a press statement, the council expressed its heartfelt sympathy with the McPhillips family, and outlined that its handling of the memorial in Milner Square was in keeping with its policy on tributes to those who die in traffic accidents—that they are temporary. McPhillips sees the memorial as essential to finding her son’s killers.

She added: “I clean it every day, and even now people come up to me to ask what happened. If some of the people of Islington still don’t know that my son was killed, it means the message isn’t getting out there”.

JJ McPhillips. Photo used with permission of the family.

In February, the Metropolitan Police published figures revealing that on average 21 people per week were killed or seriously injured in stabbings in London last year. Two other young fathers, Nashon Esbrand and Lee Jay Hatley, have also been stabbed to death in Islington over the past six months.

“So many are dying,” McPhillips says, “that JJ keeps falling down the ladder of news and I have to push him back up.

“The day my son’s killer gets caught I promise with my whole heart that I will take the shrine down. But it’s not just a shrine to my son. It’s the story of my son’s life.”