On Saturday 15th of December 2007, I was at my home, close to Dewsbury Railway Station. As a journalist and a member of the public I'm always listening to police and ambulance sirens going off and wondering what tragedy has fallen upon us for all these sirens to be ringing across town. On this particular afternoon I recall hearing the sounds of emergency services vehicles from my home, just yards away from Dewsbury Railway station.
It wasn't until Sunday evening that I realised just what those sirens were about. As I tuned into Sky News for my daily fix of current affairs, I learnt of the death of Batley born teenager Ahmed Hassan.
Ahmed was on his way to the Trafford Centre in Manchester to shop for some new clothes for Eid. Before Ahmed got the chance to safely board the train at about 2pm, he was stabbed on the platform at Dewsbury Railway Station and just a short time later, Ahmed Hassan, of Craig Close Batley, was dead from a single stab wound to his back.
December 2007 was one of those rare times when Eid and Christmas came very close together. In the days leading up to Eid and Christmas the death of 17 year old Ahmed was the subject on everyone's mind. As a journalist listening to the public's opinion told me that everyone, of every origin was shocked, outraged and horrified to hear about this incident.
Everywhere I went for days afterwards people were talking about this stabbing. Everyone, young and old, Asian and those who aren't Asian, in supermarkets and bus stops, in offices and in the streets seemed to be saying the same thing. "Our young people are sick they believe carrying a knife is cool."
On Monday 17th December 2007 I was working with BBC Look North. Myself and a team of television crews went to Mount Pleasant in Batley to interview friends of Ahmed Hassan. In my entire 19 years as a current affairs reporter I have never witnessed television news reporters fill up with tears and bite their lips to prevent the tears rolling from their eyes in the way they did when close friends of Ahmed paid a tribute to him.
The friends of Ahmed Hassan that I spoke to, told me of a young man who was a perfect friend. Ahmed was helpful, loving, kind and caring to his friends. One of these young men told me; "Ahmed played great snooker and pool, he was the best friend anyone could wish for." This friend said to me "When I last saw Ahmed alive he said to me to stay lucky."
Later in the day I spoke to a friend of Ahmed's family Mr Hassan Karolia. Mr Karolia said "I know that dozens of people have complained to the police about gangs of youths carrying knives at the bus and railway station. There have been other incidents where people have witnessed knifes being pulled out by young people at Dewsbury Rail and Bus Station. If this threat had been taken seriously perhaps Ahmed might still be alive today. "
At just 17 years of age, Ahmed Hassan had the rest of his life in front of him. His family told me he was interested in going to University to study Law. Ahmed had memorised about half the Quraan, the holy book for Muslims, to his memory, and was hoping to return to complete his religious studies. His parents were experiencing all the joys of seeing their baby grow up. They were hoping he'd be married in the future and make them proud grand parents.
As I sat at a private meeting with Ahmed's family I saw grief in their eyes that is hard to describe. To say Ahmed's family are devastated is an understatement. Their most precious son is gone. Their only hope now is that as a result of their bereavement lessons will be learnt. It seemed to me that as a tribute to their son's life Ahmed Hassan's relatives want some firm action taken to discourage young people from believing that carrying a knife and worse still using that knife to inflict injury or death is in any way acceptable.
Nothing will ever bring Ahmed Hassan back. But firm and focused attention and activism from teachers, parents, community figures and community groups, from people of all ages at every level can make sure that young people learn carrying a knife is not so cool. The latest decision from the Home Office to outlaw possessing a knife for any reason, announced on Monday 14th January 2008 is some reassurance that the government are taking this problem seriously. Perhaps this action against knives and stabbings can prevent a repeat of this tragedy and serve as a fitting and lasting tribute to life and memory of young Ahmed Hassan. His life ended by a seemingly motiveless crime that bought an optimistic life to a premature and sad end.