Neighbourhood responds to fatal stabbing in Fallowfield as residents express fears and concerns

Residents of Fallowfield are still in shock after a student was fatally stabbed on Wilmslow Road in the early hours of Wednesday, 26 October.

Luke O’Connor, 19, was returning from a party when the attack happened and Greater Manchester Police have since launched a murder investigation.

Though emergency crews arrived to give him CPR, the Manchester Metropolitan University student later died in hospital.

In the wake of this, Mancunian Matters went to Fallowfield to ask people more generally: do they feel safe living in the area?

Gracie Gabriele, a 20-year-old student, does not.

She said: “I don’t feel safe in Fallowfield. There have been quite a lot of things going on: spiking, lots of creepy men, and now this, an unprovoked attack, which is quite scary because it could have been anyone.

“I think everyone is being more careful and sticking in groups after the attack.

“At night, I don’t walk around with headphones and don’t put my hood up. I look around all the time, especially when off the main road.”

Tributes laid for Luke O’Connor on Wilmslow Road. The letter reads: ‘You of all people deserve this least. You are the kindest, most sweetest person in the entire world and I wish you eternal love and peace. I will never forget your smile and the way you made me feel. Love you endlessly.’

Not everyone had the same impression of the area until now. Of the people we spoke to, many expressed genuine shock that this sort of thing could happen in their community – some didn’t even know it had happened until they were interviewed.

Izzie Askew, also a 20-year-old student, said that she has traditionally felt comfortable in Fallowfield.

“There are always students round here, so I always feel safe,” she said. “I come from quite a small town and to be honest I feel safer walking round here.

“But it is different at night. Some of our friends have been followed in the past. We don’t go anywhere on our own at night and we drove to Sainsbury’s last night because of the attack.”

We spoke with a broad range of residents, spanning from students who were new to the area to workers who had been living in the suburb for a long time.

What was most striking is how mixed the views were concerning the safety of the area. Steve Callaghan, a 40-year-old primary school teacher, said that it seems safer than in the past.

“I’ve been here 15 years,” he said. “When I first moved here, there were more bars, and there was a lot more trouble because of them. But since they closed down, it feels safer.”

Julius Akwo, a 37-year-old health worker living in the area, also said that he found the area amenable. “I’ve always felt quite safe and I’ve always felt comfortable walking at any time of the day.

“However, on the bus today, I spoke with a few people who were beginning to express fears.”

Julius Akwo.

By contrast, Simon Rudd, 83, said he wouldn’t dare to go out in the evening. “It’s very safe during the day but it’s not at all safe after 5pm when it goes dark.

“I don’t go out after that time and it affects my life tremendously – I’d like to be able to go out after 5pm.”

Simon, who gets about with the help of a walking aid, added: “I feel more vulnerable using a wheeler. One has to be very careful in the evening.”

Rahmatullah Jannati is an 18-year-old college student living in Fallowfield. He was a kind and thoughtful young man, leading Mancunian Matters to the site where tributes had been laid for Luke O’Connor.

Rahmatullah thought that Fallowfield was comparatively safe compared to other areas of the city.

“Knife crimes can happen anywhere. I think Fallowfield is safer than other areas such as Moss Side and Gorton. I’m really surprised that this happened.

“I find it safe for students and it’s a nice area. It’s a bit crowded but it is a lively area. Anytime you come, you see people happy and loving.”

However, Rahmatullah told us that he would be taking more precautions as a result of the murder.

Like other young men we spoke to, he said he would now think twice about walking alone late at night, or take a bus instead of walking home from the city centre.

Rahmatullah Jannati.

A suburb that many once felt safe in has now, for some, assumed a more sinister tone.

Young people like Rahmatullah, who might have previously perceived the suburb in a more carefree light, have realised that suffering can strike any community.

Laura Bailey, a 20-year-old student, neatly summed up this change in frame of mind. “This is definitely going to make us more aware of what can happen. Especially now, leaving a club or something, I don’t think I’d go on my own.”

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