JJ McPhillips’s mother asks suspect in killing: Do you have empathy?
Family left searching for answers as inquest uncovers ‘little evidence’ in Upper Street stabbing
09 August, 2019 — By Emily Finch
Michelle McPhillips, right, outside the Old Bailey where she was supported by Janette Collins from anti-knife crime group The Crib
THE mother of a man stabbed to death in the street came face-to-face with a suspect in the killing and asked them if he had any “empathy” for her losing a child.
Jonathan “JJ” McPhillips, 28, collapsed outside Islington Town Hall in Upper Street after he was stabbed in the chest with “severe force” during a night out with friends in February 2017.
Police have released CCTV footage from the night, which shows six to eight hooded youths – believed to be from Finsbury – attacking JJ and his friends.
The father-of-two from Barnsbury was not in a gang.
Nobody has been convicted for his killing after a case against Michael Dyra, 24, from Hoxton, collapsed in August last year because of concerns over the “reliability” of the evidence against him.
A coroner’s inquest at the Old Bailey on Friday saw Mr Dyra in the witness box but he answered every question from senior coroner Mary Hassell with the words: “I do not wish to answer”.
During the hearing, Michelle McPhillips, JJ’s mother, who runs the Green Man pub in Essex Road, was able to question Mr Dyra directly.
She told him: “First of all, thank you for coming here today – I appreciate you turning up and I understand the pressure you’re under and that it comes from higher up.
“I have one question: Do you have any empathy of my son’s death and how I have to cope with losing my child?”
But Mr Dyra continued to reply: “I do not wish to answer”.
Ms Hassell told Mr Dyra that he did not have to answer questions that would incriminate him, but he must answer truthfully.
She asked him: “Did you see JJ that evening?” Mr Dyra repeated: “I do not wish to answer.”
She then asked: “Did you have anything to do with the stabbing?” To which he said again: “I do not wish to answer.”
David Nolan, who was with JJ before the stabbing and was friends with his family, was also called to give evidence as a witness and was questioned by Ms McPhillips, who asked him: “Why have you not helped me and my family [and] why haven’t you given a statement to the police?”
He told her: “I don’t know anything”.
He told the court that he did not think JJ was the “target” of the attack and told Ms McPhillips: “I can’t sleep at night, I can’t imagine what you go through”.
Ms McPhillips responded: “I go through hell”.
Mr Nolan said he was also a “victim,” having been stabbed twice during the same attack that saw JJ killed.
He told Ms Hassell that it was a “traumatic time” and he “blacked out” when asked who he thought the attackers were.
The inquest also heard from John Fevrier, who was a security guard at the now-closed All Bar One in Upper Street where JJ tried to seek help after being stabbed and before collapsing.
He said that JJ’s last words were “I’ve been done”.
He described trying to stem the flow of blood from JJ’s chest with gauze while waiting for paramedics.
JJ was taken to Royal London Hospital, but died three days later.
Ms McPhillips told Mr Fevrier: “I want to thank you for giving me time with my son. I thank you from my heart and I am sorry you suffered.”
The inquest heard JJ was stabbed with “severe force” and a blade had pierced his heart, leaving him with just minutes to live.
Detective Sergeant Gurgh Singh, who is helping lead the investigation into JJ’s death, explained how the case around Mr Dyra collapsed just days before it was scheduled to be heard at the Old Bailey.
DS Singh explained that there had been little forensic evidence from the scene.
He said facial mapping experts had examined CCTV footage from both outside the Town Hall and Patrick Coman house in the Finsbury Estate from “shortly before the incident”.
The two experts – from private forensic firm Diligence and the Met – had initially said there was “strong support” that Mr Dyra could be identified from one of the clips.
But they downgraded this to “moderate” support just days before the trial that would have seen Mr Dyra in the dock for murder.
The Crown entered no evidence to the court and the judge entered a not guilty verdict for Mr Dyra.
DS Singh said the Met appealed the decision “strongly, twice”. He told the inquest: “Experts are allowed to change [their] evidence but what had changed that it went from ‘strong’ to ‘moderate’? This is something we took up with the expert.”
Ms Hassell concluded that JJ was “stabbed and unlawfully killed” and said to Ms McPhillips that she was “sorry that we couldn’t draw out more of the circumstances he came by his death”.
She said: “It’s a sad situation indeed that we have so little evidence, and I think you know the reason for that.”
‘I’ll never let it rest until someone is convicted of killing my son JJ’
Jonathan ‘JJ’ McPhillips
Michelle McPhillips has vowed to “never let it rest” until someone is convicted of her son’s killing in Upper Street in February 2017.
The grandmother from Barnsbury said she was still “full of questions” following the inquest into her son JJ’s death at the Old Bailey on Friday.
One witness called to give evidence failed to answer any questions, which Ms McPhillips said was “frustrating”.
“No one can even tell me why my son was stabbed. I won’t let it rest until I find out who killed my son and why,” she told the Tribune outside the court.
She said she would even hire private detectives “if she has to” but added: “I’ll never let it rest and the police have promised me also that they won’t give up on this case.”
There is still a £20,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to a conviction. Anyone with information can call the police on their non-emergency line on 101.
To give information anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.