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Former boss of Walsall club where man was stabbed accuses police of 'not enough support'

The former operator of a Walsall nightclub where a man was fatally stabbed has criticised police for ‘not offering enough support’.

Valesha's nightclub in Newport Street, Walsall, following the fatal stabbing

Akeem Francis-Kerr, 29, died shortly after being stabbed at Valesha’s nightclub, also known locally as Colliseum, on Newport Street in the town centre just after 5am on March 11.

Martin Bell, who runs Vision Leisure with business partner Valesha Andersen, said they had been running the premises at the time but were no longer on the lease.

It came as senior Walsall councillor Suky Samra, whose Capital Leisure owns the licence to the premises, was suspended by the Conservative group pending an investigation.

The nightclub had its licence suspended earlier this month, pending a full review hearing, following a request from police on the grounds that it was “associated with both serious crime and serious disorder”.

It was also alleged the venue has historic association with people believed to be gang members and that some “gang nominals” were present at the premises on the night of the incident.

Akeem Francis-Kerr

And police said the venue breached a condition of licence relating to routine searches.

But Mr Bell claimed police could have done more to help. “We don’t know what the faces look like of all these potential gang members,” he said.

“We had no help from the police saying ‘don’t let them in’. How can we stop gang members going in when we don’t know who they are?”

He said they had considered putting in a knife arch, but that security experts had told them it was not an absolute guarantee that it would stop all weapons from being brought into the nightclub.

Mr Bell said: “Weapons aren’t all made of metal and they can be well hidden.”

Meanwhile Streetly councillor Mr Samra’s suspension comes after he was accused of breaching the members code of conduct over his declaration of interest. The allegations relate to the licence for Savannah’s strip club, which is above Valesha’s.

Councillor Mike Bird, Conservative leader of Walsall Council, said: “I can confirm that Councillor Samra has been suspended from the Conservative group with immediate effect, pending the outcome of an investigation by the monitoring officer. This is concerning alleged discrepancies in his declaration of interests.”

Councillor Samra maintains that he had declared an interest in Capital Leisure when he was connected to the business, and that his name was on the application form as the contact for his family.

Councillor Samra, who was also suspended from the Conservative group last year, said his current suspension was linked to long running animosity between him and Councillor Bird.

“This is a low blow and I won’t be losing any sleep over it,” said Councillor Samra.

“My conscience is clear and I am happy to answer any questions from the monitoring officer at any time.

“Clearly I don’t see eye to eye with Councillor Bird and this is nothing more than a witch hunt against me.”

Walsall Council’s licensing sub-committee is due to meet to review the licence for Savannah’s on Tuesday.

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