This is the first picture of a talented teenage footballer stabbed to death when a masked gang ambushed him after a party.
His family today paid tribute to a “beautiful boy who had his whole life ahead of him”.
Joshua Bwalya, 16, who played for Barking FC’s youth team, was chased by a gang of boys who had earlier gatecrashed a party at a local community centre on Tuesday night.
His family said the Ripple Centre had ended the party early because a fight broke out when about 20 youths arrived.
Joshua and two friends were “ambushed” as they made their way home by a group of balaclava-wearing youths on bicycles.
They were chased into a 24-hour-supermarket in Ripple Road at about 1am, then again into the street, where Joshua was knifed at the junction with Movers Lane.
Passers-by battled to save him but he died at the scene. His two friends, one who banged on doors of nearby homes to ask for help, were also stabbed but survived.
His family today said Joshua, who had just finished his GCSEs, was a “beautiful, kind, talented” teenager who dreamed of playing central midfield for Chelsea.
The former Dagenham Park school pupil was about to start college, where he was to study business. The family said he was the victim of a “crazy postcode war” and had been targeted by a gang from a rival Barking estate to the one where he lived with his parents.
One of his sisters said: “He was just on the wrong place in the wrong time, a victim of a postcode war. It was because of where he was from, not who he was, they were just after anyone. It’s shocking how innocent people are dragged into this.
“He was a beautiful boy with his life ahead of him and now our family has been ripped apart.
You hear about this on the news, but you never know what it is to feel this pain until it happens to you. It has to stop.”
Joshua’s parents are both originally from Zambia. His father is an accountant and his mother is studying to be a mental health nurse. He has an older brother and four older sisters and had a girlfriend he had been seeing for several months.
His sister, who asked not to be named, said: “He was just a lovely boy… fun, caring, and he wanted to look after his family.”
Rob O’Brien, chairman of Barking FC, said Joshua, also known as JB, was a talented player who had been with the club since the age of 13, and starred in the U-16 side.
He said: “He was one for the best talents in the side, and had every chance of making it as a pro. He had dropped out for a bit, but only last week told us how much he wanted to focus more on his football.”
The club plans to hold a memorial game and raise money to aid his family. Anyone with information should call 101 or Crimestoppers.
Support Joshua’s family at https://www.gofundme.com/JBsWorld.
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