Nottingham attacks victim was a ‘hero’ who died 'fighting to save her friend’, family says as killer’s plea is accepted

23 January 2024, 11:32 | Updated: 23 January 2024, 12:21

Calocane admitted to killing the two students and school caretaker.
Calocane admitted to killing the two students and school caretaker. Picture: Handout

By Jenny Medlicott

The devastated brother of one of the Nottingham attack victims has said his sister was a ‘hero’ in her final moments as she ‘tried to save her friend’.

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Prosecutors have accepted Valdo Calocane's pleas of not guilty to murder and guilty to manslaughter, a judge at Nottingham Crown Court has been told.

His plea was accepted on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to mental illness, meaning he will not face a murder trial.

Calocane, 32, previously admitted to killing university students Barnaby Webber and Grace O'Malley-Kumar, both 19, and school caretaker Ian Coates, 65.

He also admitted attempting to murder three pedestrians who were hit by a van in the early hours of June 13 last year.

The two students had been returning from a night out to celebrate the end of their exams when they were stabbed to death on Ilkeston Road just after 4am on June 13.

Mr Coates was later found fatally stabbed on Mandala Road.

Grace’s family had been hoping Calocane would face a murder trial.

Her brother James, 17, said that Grace was a “hero” in her final moments as she “tried to save her friend”.

He told Sky News: “Grace's last moments were in pain and that's something that really hurts me to think about and she was a hero, that was her character.

Grace's brother said she was a 'hero'.
Grace's brother said she was a 'hero'. Picture: Social media

“She tried her best to save her friend. That was how Grace lost her life in the most vulnerable manner. She would never leave a friend, never, and that was very evident from her last moments. She passed fighting.”

"She was just the best sister I could have asked for, she was always there for me as a shoulder to cry on and to quietly listen. She had my best interests at heart all the time.

"Her smile was so contagious, I really miss her. Knowing that I'll never see that again it's something that really hurts me, she was such a joyous person to be around.

"Her laughter, her excitement, she had such an unmatched zest for life. She was honestly so perfect.

"I think the loss that we've suffered of losing Grace has been a loss to the country.

"She had ambitions of serving as a medic in the armed forces and again serving the country and she was a person who had a priority of contributing to the community during COVID.

"She put herself at risk to benefit others and help the community get in a better position and to take that away from us it's completely unfathomable.

"I will never forgive him. He's taken away my older sister and one day when my parents are gone I'm now going to be left on my own. I won't have my sister. My future children won't have an aunt, they won't have cousins."

Calocane had a history of mental illness. He had previously tried to hand himself into the MI5 headquarters in London as he believed the British security services were controlling him.

Calocane now faces sentencing.
Calocane now faces sentencing. Picture: Nottinghamshire Police

The 32-year-old, who appeared in the dock dressed in a dark suit and a light blue shirt, now faces a sentencing hearing expected to last for about two days.

Prosecutor Karim Khalil KC told Nottingham Crown Court the families of the victims had been consulted before the prosecution decided to accept the pleas entered by Valdo Calocane.

Karim Khalil KC told the court that three psychiatrists had assessed Calocane, concluding that despite suffering paranoid schizophrenia he would have understood the nature of his conduct in attacking three of his victims with a dagger described in court as "a double-edged fighting knife".

Grace's family are setting up a foundation in her memory with the help of her childhood friend to contribute to causes that she supported, such as sport and education.

Dr Kumar, Grace’s father, said it has been a “brutal journey” since her death, as he called on the government to toughen up laws around knife crime.