Nottingham attacks: Barnaby Webber’s family says their ‘world fell apart’

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Emma and David Webber also spoke to BBC Breakfast

By Emily Anderson & George Torr
BBC News, Nottingham

The family of one of three people killed in attacks in Nottingham have recalled the moment their “world fell apart” upon hearing of his death.

Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, were killed on their way home from a night out in Nottingham by Valdo Calocane, who also went on to kill 65-year-old Ian Coates on 13 June.

Calocane was given a hospital order on Thursday after admitting manslaughter.

Mr Webber’s mother Emma said her son was “the most genuine human being”.

Emma Webber said her son was nearly back at his halls of residence when he was killed

At the time of his death, Mr Webber was a talented cricketer and coming to the end of his first year at the University of Nottingham.

A history student from Taunton, Somerset, Mr Webber loved Nottingham and was extremely popular, his family said.

“He was probably the most genuine human being I have ever met… he was so funny, and he was loving his life, he was living it,” Mrs Webber added.

His family said he could not wait to get back to the city whenever he went home.

But he would never return home.

The scene in Ilkeston Road, where Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar died

Recalling the events of 13 June, Mrs Webber said she was working away in Cornwall, when the news she was watching on TV suddenly turned to a breaking incident in Nottingham.

The item on BBC News piqued her interest. About 300 miles away from her, her eldest child was in the city.

She said her husband David decided to call him, but he did not answer.

Thinking he may be sleeping off a night out, there was no initial concern.

But when they heard something had happened in Ilkeston Road and checked Mr Webber’s location on a mobile app, they found a match.

Mrs Webber said: “It sounds ridiculous in my head, but I heard a man and a woman had been killed, and thought it can’t be Barney because it still feels like he’s a child to me.

“It was a blood-run-cold moment… my instant reaction was ‘why isn’t he answering’, but then we saw where it [the phone] went and it went to a police station.

“That is when I knew it was bad.”

(Left to right): David, Barnaby, Emma and Charlie Webber

Mr and Mrs Webber decided to head straight to Nottingham. But they were only in the car for less than three miles before the phone rang.

It was the police station that Mr Webber had happened to call earlier in the day. The family remembers the officer asking them to pull over.

Mr Webber said: “My world just fell apart… I don’t remember too much after that.

“We were a normal family, just like many up and down the country. Our world changed just like that.”

Heartbroken fathers address Nottingham vigil

Mr and Mrs Webber said they drove to Torquay, where Barnaby’s 16-year-old brother Charlie was on a school trip.

Mrs Webber said: “I had this sinking feeling that we were going to change his life forever in the next 20 seconds… it was heartbreaking.

“He [Charlie] kept saying ‘it can’t be true’ and ‘I can’t live without him’. It was as awful as anyone can imagine.”

The family were invited to Nottingham by the university and were told a vigil was being planned on campus.

They thought the vigil, held just days after the killings, would be a small occasion and gave it no real thought.

But as they walked in, thousands of students were gathered in silence.

The families of Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar met for the first time at a vigil at the university

The next day, the three families made their way to Old Market Square, where a second vigil was held for the people of Nottingham to share in their grief.

Mrs Webber said: “It was utterly overwhelming… we were shown the best of humanity against the worst of humanity.

“You could feel the energy, it is hard to explain… you could almost touch it – the outpouring of respect, horror and sadness.

“I don’t think anything can prepare you to be thrust into the limelight in the way that we were and to see so many people affected.”

Thousands of people turned out for a vigil in the city centre
Mrs Webber spoke at the vigil in Old Market Square

The family were also determined to visit the place where Barnaby had lost his life.

“I needed to go to where it happened… I refused to leave before I had been there,” she said.

“We walked [down Ilkeston Road] and what struck me was just how close it was to where he lived.

“We were taken to the spot where this monster did what he did – they were less than five minutes away from being safe.”

Family and friends paid tribute to Mr Webber at the place where he died

Police closed the road and people who lived closed by came out of their houses to pay their respects.

The family placed a photo of Barnaby on the ground where he died. They stood in a circle and paid tribute to him.

“I’m so glad I did it, I needed him to know I was there,” Mrs Webber said.

“I don’t know how I’m still standing… if someone had said this would happen to me, I would’ve said I couldn’t cope with that.”

Asked what kept him going after losing his son, Mr Webber said: “My son Charlie… I’ve had some dark thoughts but if it wasn’t for him, I don’t really know where myself and Emma would be.

“I don’t fear dying any more… if I got a phone call tomorrow saying I have six months left, I’d make peace with it.

“That’s because maybe I’d be with Barney, and that’s where I’d want to be.”

Nottingham attacks: Victims’ families react to triple killer’s sentence

The family’s anguish has now turned to anger.

The families of all three victims have criticised the police, the NHS and the Crown Prosecution Service over the outcome of the case, which saw Calocane sentenced for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, after it was found he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the killings.

Calls have subsequently been made for a public inquiry, with the attorney general considering whether Calocane’s sentence should be reviewed.

A special review has also been ordered into the NHS trust that treated Calocane, and separately, an NHS England Independent Mental Health Homicide Review into the killer’s contact with mental health services will take place.

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