Death in Woolwich: Got nothing to say? Say it anyway

I can hear sirens in the distance from where I’m typing, but I’m nowhere near Woolwich.

Instead, I’m sat in a hotel courtyard trying to catch up with the horrific news from John Wilson Street, where a man has died and two others are injured after a reported machete attack. I’m squinting at a live news feed trying to make sense of it all, next to me a French couple are talking to children on Skype. The more I hear, the less sense any of this makes.

As discussed on this website over recent months, though, Woolwich had been slowly on the up. After the nadir of the riots, there’s been every reason to feel optimistic for Woolwich’s future – while grand projects like the new Tesco have divided people, the fine job done by Greenwich Council in revamping General Gordon Square, and a trickle of new businesses like The Coffee Lounge and the forthcoming pub, The Woolwich, have indicated the battered old place is finally heading in the right direction. Tomorrow’s imminent approval of funding for the Crossrail station was to have set the seal on that.

Or, of course, you could just dig out the stereotypes, like once-popular social networking site Friends Reunited, whose Twitter feed parped this great insight.

Friends Reunited tweet

A staff member has been suspended by FR for that, it’s since emerged.

Oh, or you could be a famous media blogger…

Fleet Street Fox tweet

FSF, real name Susie Boniface, has since deleted that one, but she’s got form spouting off about a south-east London she knows nothing about – merrily tweeting during the 2011 London riots about Charlton Asda being on fire, when nothing of the sort happened.

So, when the professionals can’t even be bothered to think before they open their mouths, is it any surprise when the general public start to fill social media and newspaper comment pages with half-witted bile?

London stuck together after 7/7, hopefully the same will be true of the place where I was born after today.

PS. Greenwich Council was due to hold its mayor-making event at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich tonight. Hopefully it’s had the good sense to cancel.

Update, 8pm. With Prime Minister David Cameron returning home to the UK following today’s events, Greenwich Council’s mayor-making knees-up at the Royal Naval College went ahead as usual, attended by both Labour and Conservative councillors.


  1. I’ve just peered through the windows of the undercroft of the ORNC Chapel to see the shindig in full flow.

    A young man – believed to be a British soldier – was killed in cold blood, hacked to death with meat cleavers, on the streets of Woolwich today.

    Shame on each and every one of the people attending.

  2. We were driving back home from Stansted this afternoon, listening to BBC London. By this time it was 3 hours after the murder, but Eddie Nestor was on asking for people to dial in if they ‘lived in Woolwich, worked in Woolwich, visit the area or drive through – we’re just trying to get a feel for the area’ (from memory so I can’t promise you exact wording), later going on to say something along the lines of ‘as a Londoner – from Hackney myself – I’ve never really heard anything good about the area’

    So you might be listening in Woolwich at 5pm this afternoon, not really clear about whether you should still be worried, given that the Met are issuing statements asking people not to speculate and the Home Secretary is assembling COBRA, but BBC London feels it’s appropriate to talk about the character of the area as if that somehow had something to do with this. Later this afternoon on C4 News, after showing the shocking video from the scene, John Snow asserts that one of the murderers has ‘a South London accent’ but I don’t believe that he’s a leading dialect specialist that could definitely tell you the post code of a speaker. And this comes after the weirdness of the BBC’s political editor saying that the attackers ‘are of Muslim appearance’.

    This is probably one of those occasions where I should shut up, remember the dead and the bereaved, give thanks for the police and spare a thought for those that are going to be affected due to the ignorance and bigotry of others. But to be honest I feel strangely angry about this today – perhaps because this is our backyard the rolling news when there wasn’t much news to impart felt even more than usual like total conjecture.

  3. The vile attack happened in Woolwich mainly because it hosts an army barracks. If the barracks wasn’t there then I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened there. I was touched by the bravery shown by of the local women trying to help the victim while the culprits stood there holding bloody knives and a shotgun. Their bravery is a reflection of the Woolwich community that I know.

  4. Just listening to the radio and it looks like there is a riot in the making In the town centre courtesy of EDL…

  5. I’m so glad I’m not working in EDF ‘s customer services today!

  6. It only happened in Woolwich because there’s an army barracks there, I don’t know why some people have to sensationalise it and imply it’s an everyday occurrence. I suppose the mundane truth won’t get them any attention and they need some excitement in their lives – it’s a bit like the people who live in sleepy villages where nothing much happens reporting big cat sightings.

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