Published: 16 April 2010
by CHARLOTTE CHAMBERS
CLOSE groups of teenage friends have been left overcome by grief again in Islington after a young Arsenal supporter was stabbed to death close to his home.
Sam Fitzgerald, 20, died from a knife wound sustained outside the Thornhill Arms pub in Wynford Road, off Caledonian Road, on Wednesday night.
He was well aware of a series of recent violent deaths in the borough with friends telling yesterday that he knew murder victims Martin Dinnegan, 14, and Ben Kinsella, 16.
Sam was believed to have been a former boyfriend of Jessie Wright, the 16-year-old whose death in King’s Cross is a police case now the subject of murder proceedings at the Old Bailey. He led the tribute march to Jessie on his bicycle last month.
In all too familiar scenes for grieving relatives and friends, teenagers gathered together at a growing shrine yesterday (Thursday). Many of the youngsters were in floods of tears and unable to put their emotions into words.
Sam had been watching his team play Tottenham on the television inside the pub and was attacked when he briefly stepped outside. Detectives are keeping an open mind about the motive for the stabbing but are not linking it to football rivalries.
Sam, of Priory Heights in Wynford Road, was rushed to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel but died soon after.
Detective Chief Inspector John Sandlin said: “Mr Fitzgerald had been drinking inside the Thornhill Arms pub shortly before he was attacked. He had stepped outside the venue, when he became involved in an altercation with at least one man, resulting in him being fatally wounded.”
A 20-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
At the scene of the stabbing, a stream of friends, relatives and well-wishers stopped to leave tributes. Large groups of teenage boys, dressed in tracksuits, arrived on foot and on bikes, carrying big bunches of flowers to lay at the base of a lamp-post which has become a makeshift shrine to their friend. Police tape, preventing them from putting a tribute closer to the scene of the crime, was still up as forensic teams combed the streets for clues.
They did not just leave flowers, some friends left tributes of milkshakes, packets of crisps and bottles of beer.
One friend, Cally Barnett, tied a red T-shirt, the colour was in memory of his love of Arsenal, bearing the slogan “Islington N1”.
Within hours of his death hundreds of friends had joined a new Facebook group called “Rest In Peace Sam Fitzgerald N1 A True Soldier”.
Mr Fitzgerald went to Copenhagen Primary School and later St Aloysius College in Highgate and had grown up in Wynford Road.
As part of a tight-knit community, friends yesterday reflected on the fact that Mr Fitzgerald knew of three teenagers who have been killed in Islington in the past two years.
Ms Barnett, a friend for 10 years, said: “He was lovable, always joking. He was ‘mad Sam,’ he was a joker. He was a nice lad.”
She said she had been at his home a week ago and had asked him to be godfather to her baby daughter.
When she heard about his death she came running from her home nearby and then went to University College Hospital in Euston in the mistaken belief he had been taken there.
Primary school friend Nichola O’Brien said: “We’re quite a close community. Everyone knows each other and we look out for each other. This is such a shock. He was a good guy, friendly. He didn’t like bullies, didn’t like anyone picking on his friends. He loved his pedal bikes and his family.”
Among the messages left to him, many commented on his “mad grin” and his “nutty” ways.
One read: “[You] had the biggest heart even tho u was a madman,” while another said: “Your loved by many respected by all. Im going to miss you u nutta thanks for allways haveing my back, on road, in jail, where ever, your da bravest guy I know.”
Friends have organised an event at the Chapel Bar in Penton Street on Thursday to raise money towards his funeral.
DCI Sandlin said: “I appeal to anyone who has information, or was in the area at the time of the attack who may have seen or heard anything suspicious to contact us. This includes anyone inside the Thornhill Arms pub who has not yet spoken to police, or anyone in the area of nearby Caledonian Road, including the Canal 125 Bar which is close to the scene of the attack.”
A post mortem is due to take place today (Friday).
Anyone with information can call the incident room on 020 8345 3865 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.