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Victims of Nottingham attacks remembered as ‘vibrant and caring’ at service

Hundreds of friends joined relatives to pay tribute to Barnaby Webber, Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Ian Coates who were stabbed to death in 2023.

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Floral tributes being laid during a memorial event at the University of Nottingham to mark the first anniversary of three people stabbed to death by Valdo Calocane

A memorial service has taken place to remember the three victims of last year’s Nottingham attacks, after roses were laid down at the scene where two university students were killed.

The ceremony at the University of Nottingham to mark the first anniversary of the killings included a period of silence to remember Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, and school caretaker Ian Coates, who were stabbed to death by paranoid schizophrenic Valdo Calocane.

The service took place after it emerged that Barnaby’s family received a letter, which they have chosen not to read, from the family of Calocane.

Flowers were placed in Ilkeston Road, where Barnaby and Grace were attacked, by fellow students and relatives on Thursday morning, while her father, Dr Sanjoy Kumar, told the memorial service she had chosen “friendship over fear” and “fought valiantly” to protect her friend.

Speaking to the BBC News at One, Barnaby’s father, David Webber, said: “It’s hard but it’s important to be here for Barney and Grace and Ian.

“It’s a really difficult day for us.

“I would much rather have curled into a ball and stayed in my bedroom and not moved. But I think Barney would be up there shouting and going, ‘Dad, get out of bed, you need to be here’.”

Mr Webber said of the letter sent by relatives of Calocane: “We’ve never read it and that might sound awful, but to me it’s not something I want to read.

“He’s a monster. There is nothing they can say that’s going to make me feel any different. I have lost my son forever. They’ve still got theirs.”

Composite image of Ian Coates, Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, victims of the Nottingham attacks
Ian Coates, Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar (Family handout/PA)

Nottingham University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Shearer West, said: “A year ago, our university, and the city of Nottingham, were forever changed by the deaths of Barney, Grace and Ian.

“I do not think any of us will ever be able to process the unfairness and the senseless nature of this tragedy.

“Grace and Barney will always be part of the University of Nottingham family. I am moved by the inspiring and powerful work that continues in their names and so proud of the impact they had – and continue to have – in our community.”

Meanwhile, pupils at Nottingham’s Huntingdon Academy, where Nottingham Forest fan Mr Coates worked, were invited to wear red to remember him.

In a joint statement issued before the service, relatives of all three victims said they would take time on Thursday to remember “the souls of the three vibrant, caring, hard-working and much loved family members who are no longer here”.

Barnaby Webber's family (l to r) Charlie Webber and Emma Webber, and Lee Coates, the son of Ian Coates during a memorial event at the University of Nottingham
Barnaby Webber’s family (l to r) Charlie Webber and Emma Webber, and Lee Coates, the son of Ian Coates during a memorial event at the University of Nottingham (Joseph Raynor/Reach PLC/PA)

The statement also reiterated the families’ belief that Valdo Calocane should have been tried for murder, rather than being given an indefinite hospital order for manslaughter and three attempted murders.

Calocane, 32, fatally stabbed the teenage students as they walked home in the early hours of June 13 last year, before killing 65-year-old Mr Coates and stealing his van.

He then used the vehicle to knock down three pedestrians: Wayne Birkett, Marcin Gawronski and Sharon Miller; in Nottingham city centre, before being arrested.

Prosecutors accepted his not guilty pleas to murder at his sentencing at Nottingham Crown Court in January, after multiple psychiatrists concluded he had paranoid schizophrenia.

In their statement, relatives of those killed restated that they believed Calocane is a murderer, saying over-reliance on medical experts’ opinions and “archaic” diminished responsibility laws meant the killer was not punished for his “heinous” acts.

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