JJ McPhillips’ mum: Let state pay for funerals of knife crime victims
‘Families under severe pressure go into debt while waiting up to two years for compensation’
20 April, 2018 — By Emily Finch
Michelle McPhillips, whose son ‘JJ’, left, died after being stabbed outside Islington town hall
A GRIEVING mother who lost her son to knife crime has called for the government to cover the cost of victims’ funerals to prevent families going into debt.
Jonathan “JJ” McPhillips was aged just 28 when he was stabbed to death outside Islington Town Hall in February last year.
Speaking to the Tribune from her home off Upper Street, Michelle McPhillips said she was still struggling to come to terms with her son’s death and had yet to receive any compensation from the government.
Relatives of murder victims can claim money from the Ministry of Justice, which can amount to thousands of pounds but can take years to process.
“The government should pay the undertaker directly for the funeral,” said Ms McPhillips.
“By the time you get the compensation – it can take two years – you’re already in debt. Because a lot of people, when their child is killed, they can’t work. They lose their homes.
“When you go to the undertaker, they don’t wait two years for their money. They need the money upfront. This is where victims’ families come under severe pressure. A lot of people fundraise for funerals and a lot of people need to take out loans, some illegal.”
Hundreds gathered for “JJ’s” funeral service at St Mary’s Church, in Upper Street, where his friends praised him for being a “true warrior” after he attempted to run home despite a fatal wound.
Ms McPhillips said the process of receiving compensation was a “long-drawn-out procedure”.
“The paperwork for the compensation is like an encyclopedia. I’ve had to engage a solicitor to do it for me. I’m lucky it was a no-win, no-fee arrangement. If we get the claim he’ll get his percentage,” she said.
“From the first time you send the application in there’s a six-month wait before you get anything back. That’s how much of a backlog there is.”
Jonathan ‘JJ’ McPhillips was stabbed to death outside Islington Town Hall in February last year
If the state paid for a funeral, families could return the costs once compensation was paid out.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a similar scheme to that proposed by Ms McPhillips which would pay child burial fees.
Families also need a liaison officer to explain what to do when a relative is murdered, said Ms McPhillips.
She said: “The liaison officer should not be a police officer but someone who comes to the hospital and explains the procedure. Then, when your child does die, there will be someone to give us the links and tell us where to go.
“When you’re under that pressure you can’t think straight. You’re numb. Your brain doesn’t want to function because you’re in so much sorrow and pain. Nothing means anything anymore.”
Ms McPhillips, landlady of the Green Man pub in Essex Road, has become an anti-knife campaigner following her son’s death.
She recalled the last moments of his life: “At half-past six on the 28th of February they told me JJ was brain-dead. From that, I asked how long do I get with him? What’s the next procedure? And they said: switching off the machines.
“I said: ‘No.’ I said he’d had enough of being prodded and touched. We arranged to switch off the machine at half-past nine that night. So I gave all the family a chance to say goodbye to him. I asked if I can get on the bed with him and they said ‘no’ because of the machinery.
“So I got them to sit him up, so that I could embrace him into my chest with my left arm. And I put my right hand on his heart. I said to them: ‘Switch it off.’ It took 20 minutes for his heart to stop beating.
“I just kept telling him: ‘Go in peace. Nobody took your heart. Your mum took your heart because it belongs to me’.”
Michael Dyra, 22, of Hoxton, appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court in February charged with murder. He is next expected to appear at the Old Bailey in May.