The heartbroken mother of a Burton man who died after being stabbed outside a nightclub has called for greater efforts to stop rising knife crime.
Yvonne Upton's life was turned upside down in 2010 when her son Connor was stabbed outside the former Merlin's nightclub in Station Street, Burton. He later died at Burton's Queen's Hospital, leaving a hole in the lives of all who had known him.
Since then, Yvonne, 54, has worked tirelessly with Staffordshire and Derbyshire Police to highlight the impact of knife crime and to prevent a similar tragedy from happening to others.
The mother of four told the Burton Mail: "Connor was a typical 21-year-old who grew up in a close family. He worked, owned his own house and started his own family. He was happy.
"When it first happened it did not seem real. It took a long time for it to sink in for me to realise he was not going to come back through the door.
"When I hear a report of a stabbing it just brings it back home. If I can help get through to one person that they should not take a knife out so another family doesn't have to go through what we have been through then it has been worthwhile."
Mrs Upton spoke out after it was revealed that the number of people in Leicestershire jailed or cautioned for knife possession has risen by more than one third in just one year.
She said: "If I am honest I have not seen much change. I do notice more knife crime going on generally so I do think it is still a big problem and it needs to be addressed.
"I think the police are doing outstanding work in raising awareness in youngsters but I think more knife amnesties should be held each year. They are not just there to get knives off the street but it also highlights knife crime."
Official Government figures provide further evidence of a rise in crimes involving blades in the city and county.
In the 12 months to June this year, a total of 348 people were cautioned or jailed for possession of a blade, according to the Ministry of Justice. In the same period in 2015/16 the total was 260.
The figures, which appear to be in line with the national trend, show that the last time such offences rose above 300 in a year was in 2011. Over the next five years the number remained relatively stable, ranging from 230 to 278.
Neighbouring Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire have not seen similar increases in the past year but Staffordshire has also seen an increase in recent years with crimes where knives are listed as a weapon, increasing annually in the county.
A 30.02 per cent increase occurred in crimes reported between April 2015 and March 2016 compared to the previous 12 months while a further 15.67 per cent increase was seen in the same period of 2016 to 2017.
Males aged between 15 and 29 present the highest level of risk, particularly within the 15 – 19 and 20 – 24 years age groups while females account for 16 per cent of offenders with the highest threat coming from the 25-29 years age group, although the risk is elevated between the ages of 20 and 34.
Seven years after father-of-two Connor's death, Yvonne says her life has changed completely.
She said: "It is not the norm to bury your child but it happens and life has to go on, no matter how hard. Grief does change as time goes on and even though the hurt is always there, you do learn to control it and put a smile on your face.
"Connor's death has changed my life completely. I lost my identity for such a long time. I was no longer Yvonne Upton, I was just the mum of the lad that got stabbed."
Connor's murderer George Lawrence was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 22 years following a trial at Stafford Crown Court.
Chief Superintendent Wayne Jones, head of local policing at Staffordshire Police, said: "Sadly there are still some people that believe carrying a knife or storing a knife as a weapon in their home is necessary for their protection and safety. In actual fact data shows that you are far more likely to be hurt if you have a knife – 70 per cent of people admitted to A&E with knife injuries are stabbed with their own knife.
"Play your part in reducing knife crime by reporting people who you know or suspect may be carrying a weapon illegally."
To report knife crime, call your local police on 101, or dial 999 if a crime is in progress or a life is in danger. If you can't talk to police, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or using their online reporting form (crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/give-information-online/ ) and give information about crime anonymously.