Nottingham prepares for another vigil after families of victims unite in grief

Victims Barnaby Webber (left), Grace O'Malley-Kumar (middle), and Ian Coates. Credit: PA

Nottingham is preparing for another vigil after the heartbroken families of the two students killed in the knife and van attack in the city were joined by thousands of people in their grief at the university’s main campus.

Relatives of medical student Grace O’Malley-Kumar and history student Barnaby Webber could be seen embracing at the vigil on Wednesday.

Barnaby’s father David told those gathered that “his heart will be with you guys forever” while Grace’s father Sanjoy told the students to look after each other.

Nottingham City Council announced that a vigil will be held in the Old Market Square on Thursday from 5.30pm, with a minute’s silence at 6pm from the steps of the Council House.

Grace O'Malley Kumar and Barnaby Webber's fathers speak during a vigil at the University of Nottingham. Credit: PA

Speaking on Wednesday with David Webber’s hand on his shoulder, Mr Kumar said: “Everyone here I really, really want to thank you for your support, for taking the time to be here.

“All of you guys, everywhere that I see, a sea of people, such a lovely sign of the university and the bond you have.

“Grace was also like Barney, she loved coming up to Nottingham. In fact, we couldn’t get her down.

“I said to her last week, ‘come down’, she said ‘well, after she’s had a few more sessions’. I used to call them her crisis meetings.

“The love that we have out here, I just wish we had it everywhere. So, look after each other is the big thing.

“Look after your friends and look after people around you. It is so important.”

The family of Barnaby Webber (left to right) his father David, his brother Charlie, and his mother Emma, attend a vigil on Wednesday. Credit: PA

He also said: “Grace and her friend they fell together, and you just need to be friends with everyone. You need to love everyone and I wish we had more of it.

“But most of all, all of you guys, everyone who’s here who Grace may not have even touched, I really thank you for being here and taking the time.

“I really do. It means so much to Sinead, my wife, and me. She loved being here and she loved all of you. She really did and you should all feel very blessed.

“She was so full of her stories and things that she said about all of you, and you’ve all touched her life. And hence ours.

“You’ll never be forgotten by us, certainly. We have children who were taken away prematurely from us, that should never happen to any parent.”

Team mates of victim Grace O'Malley Kumar lay flowers in her memory during a vigil at the University of Nottingham. Credit: PA

Tributes to the 19-year-olds, both talented athletes, have poured in since they were stabbed to death as they walked home from a night out in Nottingham just after 4am on Tuesday, as well as the third victim of the violence, primary school caretaker Ian Coates, who was also remembered at the event on Wednesday.

In a moving speech, student union community officer Daisy Forster told the families “we will always be here when you need us”, saying that there are 38,000 students to support them.

Grant Walton, from the university chaplaincy, described the deaths as “one of those moments which we hoped we’d never encounter” while the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Shearer West, said the lives of the victims had been “curtailed” by a “seemingly random” act of violence.

The vigil followed a series of tributes paid to the three victims of Tuesday’s attacks who were all fatally stabbed, while another three people were hurt, one critically, when they were run over by a van.

Mr Coates’ sons left tributes at the scene of his death on Wednesday, telling reporters he was “a die-hard Forest fan” and a keen fisherman who took young people from deprived backgrounds fishing to try to divert them from crime.

Lee Coates said the death of his father, who was four months from retirement, had “rocked everyone’s world”, adding: “If we had to think about it, he’d be lying in a bed with us holding his hand, him dying naturally in 20 to 30 years’ time.”

“Not dying on a street because some guy decided it’s not his day today,” Lee’s brother James added.

Football shirts left beside floral tributes for Ian Coates by his sons Lee and James Credit: Matthew Cooper/PA

He went on: “He was everyone’s friend, always willing to help.

“Nobody deserves this but he definitely didn’t. None of them did, it’s a tragedy.”

A 31-year-old man was tasered and arrested on suspicion of murder after the trio were stabbed to death.

UoN’s vice-chancellor Professor Shearer West said Ms O’Malley-Kumar, 19, had been “thriving in her first year of study” – adding she had been “inspired to a career in medicine by work placements in a GP surgery and her volunteering for the nationwide vaccination programme during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Ms O’Malley-Kumar’s family previously described her in a statement as an “adored daughter” and a “truly wonderful and beautiful young lady”.

They said: “Grace was not just a sister to James but his best friend. He is completely heartbroken. As parents, words cannot explain our complete and utter devastation. She will be so dearly missed.”

Grace O'Malley-Kumar pictured with her family. Credit: Family handout

The family added that they were “so incredibly proud” of Ms O’Malley-Kumar who was “so happy” fulfilling her ambition of studying to become a doctor.

Prof West said Mr Webber, also aged 19, had a “particular personal interest in geopolitics of both the USA and China” – and that his tutors recalled “his energy as a student and as fun, friendly and full of life” in his seminars.

The family of Mr Webber, who played hockey, rugby and cricket for his school and local clubs, and was a member of the combined cadet forces, previously said “complete devastation is not enough to describe our pain” – labelling his death as a “senseless murder”.

In a statement to the PA news agency, Mr Webber’s family said: “Barnaby Philip John Webber was a beautiful, brilliant, bright young man, with everything in life to look forward to.”

After the pair were found unresponsive in Ilkeston Road, Mr Coates was found fatally knifed in Magdala Road before the suspect is believed to have stolen his van and driven at pedestrians in Milton Street.

Barnaby Webber, second left, with his father David Webber, mother Emma Webber and brother Charlie Credit: Family handout/PA

Cllr David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “Our city remains in shock after the tragic death of three people.

“We know the impact of these awful events will be felt not only by the victims’ families and friends but by the wider Nottingham community and so it is important that we take time to join together to share our grief and to remember the people we have lost.

“The vigil will be a chance for people to come together to mourn and to show the world how Nottingham takes a stand against violence.”

According to reports, the suspect was a west African migrant who had settled in the UK legally and was known to police.

It is understood the man has a mental health history.

CCTV from a residential care home 100 yards from where Mr Coates was found, appearing to show a man dressed in black attempting to gain access to a bay window, is being examined by detectives.

The footage shows someone inside the building managing to bat the man away before closing the window.

Nottinghamshire Police said the force was not contacted about the attempted break-in and had no calls about the suspect before the first stabbing.

Investigators are continuing to work with counter-terrorism police and maintain an open mind about the motive for the attack.

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