Murder scene of stabbed Sunderland teen Connor Brown used to deter children from life of knife crime

The scene of a stabbed teenager's murder is being used to deter children from entering a life of knife crime.

Connor Brown was 18 when he was fatally attacked in a Sunderland alleyway in 2019. Since then his parents have campaigned to highlight the devastating impacts knife crime can have on young people and their families.

Now the scene of his murder has been recreated using a 360 degree camera inside a pod and is being used to educate youngsters about the dangers of knives.

Connor's mother Tanya Brown told ITV Tyne Tees: "We can’t change what happened to Connor, as much as we would love to go back five years, we can’t, but what we can do is change the lives of so many more young people.

"Using Connor’s story, using the impact Connor had on the city as a whole, on us, his parents, his sister, the whole family, the whole community, we’re taking that and we’re making sure that these young people can take something from that and learn from it."

Connor Brown with his family. Credit: Family Photo

When Connor's dad, Simon Brown, first entered the pod, known as the igloo, he was overwhelmed by the emotions it evoked.

"To stand outside of our front door in an image that wasn’t our front door, it was quite surreal," said Simon, who set up the Connor Brown Trust with his wife.

"The back alley was a different experience altogether, but as Tanya said, it was a safe environment.

"We knew we weren’t there, but we felt like we were there, so if we needed to, we could just dip back out the door."

The new innovative virtual project is run by Northumbria Police, North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU) and Education Partnership North East with the backing of Connor's parents.

Tanya and Simon Brown are backing the project as they continue their campaign to fight knife crime. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

As part of the learning, children dress as crime scene investigators and are shown evidence from the murder.

They speak to detectives from the case, watch CCTV from the night of Connor's death, and even hear from a surgeon who deals with stab victims.

"This is visual learning," added Tanya. "This is active learning in a different way."

Detective Inspector Andrea Hewitt explained: "The young people were able to talk through the crime scene and draw their own conclusions and seize their own evidence upon the advice of the actual expert who was there at the time."

She believes the project is having an impact and should be rolled out across the country to other forces to use in educating young people about knife crime.

"Their views now, from day one to day five and the impact, knowing the consequences and the danger of knife crime, and how very adversely against it they all are, I’m very confident they won’t be influenced in the future," she continued. "They know to make good choices."

Youngsters inside a virtual custody suite. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Connor was killed in an alleyway in Sunderland city centre on 24 February 2019.

He had been stabbed five times, with Leighton Barrass sentenced to life behind bars after being convicted of his murder at Newcastle Crown Court in December the same year.

Barrass’ co-accused, Ally Gordon, was found guilty of manslaughter and was handed a prison sentence of three years and six months.

The murder shocked young people in the city and that is why Education Partnership North East teamed up with Northumbria Police and NEROCU to roll out the virtual world.

Toni Rhodes, from the partnership, said: "It allows you to feel things and see things that you wouldn’t necessarily feel or see sat in another environment or doing something slightly different or being in a classroom experience."

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