Oliver Stephens: Fundraiser for boy, 13, stabbed to death after ‘social media row’

A fundraiser has been set up to support the family of a 13-year-old boy stabbed to death as friends call for tougher knife laws.

Oliver Stephens was attacked on Sunday afternoon at Bugs Bottom fields, Emmer Green, in Reading. He died at the scene which was just yards from his home.

Officers were called just before 4pm following reports of a stabbing at the park, which is popular with dog walkers, joggers and families.

Four boys and a girl, aged between 13 and 14 and from Berkshire, are being held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, Thames Valley Police said.

Police are said to be examining phones and Snapchat messages belonging to Year 8 pupil Oliver and the suspects to try and establish a motive following claims the teen was stabbed following a social media dispute.

A GoFundMe page set up to cover funeral expenses for Oliver, known to family and friends as Olly, has so far raised almost £2,000.

The page states: “As we all know, recently we were hit with the most heartbreaking, saddened news where we lost the life of such a caring, funny, and beautiful guy.

“Loved by many, I just thought this would be the right thing to do.

“To show our love for him, I think we can all come together as a community and raise money towards a beautiful sending off for Olly.

“We need to stop this happening, give what you can and if not please sign the petition so we can get justice for him.

“As I am a friend of one of the family members and in contact with her daily the money will be sent directly to the family.

“This fundraiser is all towards a good send of for Olly, so give what you can please.”

About 17,000 people had signed the petition as of midday on Tuesday.

It states: “Ban possession of lethal weapons without a licence (and for all under 21). Justice for Olly.

“He was brutally murdered by peers. He was robbed of a chance to be better.

“The people who took this away from him do not deserve this chance. He is gone, and the people who killed him are alive, and well.

“He was 13 years old. His family, the people who cared about him will be mourning for the rest of their lives.

“He was a child. Please help to protect our people. Please help to punish those who don’t.”

Police are examining phones and Snapchat messages belonging to Oliver and the young suspects to try and establish a motive, The Sun reported.

It is said he may have been killed after a dispute that began on social media, the Telegraph reported.

The scene of the stabbing is only 230m (750ft) from the home where Oliver lived with his sister and parents.

Parents laying flowers at nearby Highdown School on Monday called the killing “utterly senseless” and said their children who attended school with Olly were “devastated”.

One card read: “Fly high Olly, love you loads, night night. We’re all gonna miss you.

“Our angel Olly, gone way too soon, you didn’t deserve this, in my heart forever.”

Another read: “Dearest Olly, Taken way too soon, you were such a lovely lad. Loved by many. Thinking and sending love to your family at this sad time.”

Rachel Cave, head teacher at Highdown School, said in a statement: “The Highdown community is reeling from the tragic news that a 13-year-old boy was stabbed in Emmer Green.

“This student was part of our community and many students and staff knew him well. For a life to be ended at such a young age is a total tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

On Monday, police stood guard at a large cordon surrounding Bugs Bottom fields, with forensics officers seen conducting searches and clustering around a small blue tent erected in the middle of an open field.

The scene is less than a mile from the school.

Matt Rodda, Labour MP for Reading East, told the PA news agency he was “deeply shocked” at the killing.

He said: “I offer my deepest condolences to this poor lad’s family and friends.

“I was deeply shocked by it, apparently this poor lad was barely 13 years old.

“It’s quite astounding really. It must have been truly dreadful to be here at the time.

“This is a very quiet area, a suburban area on the edge of town and typically on a Sunday afternoon, when the incident happened, you would have a lot of families, people walking their dogs in this country park, a well known beauty spot which is very quiet and pleasant.”

Another dog walker told PA she went through the park at around 3.30pm on Sunday and saw a group of youths standing around near woods, describing the scene as “slightly unusual”.

She said the park area has been “heaving” with joggers, walkers, metal detectorists and families in recent weeks.

Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Kevin Brown, head of Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “This remains a very active investigation and a large scene-watch remains in place.

“We have arrested five young people in connection with this tragic incident, but I would urge anybody who has any information surrounding what happened yesterday to please make contact with Thames Valley Police.”

Police Federation chairman John Apter said of the incident on Twitter: “Horrific, so many lives will be shattered by this. Society does indeed need to take a look at itself.”