'It's agony for us': Parents of Brixton Academy victim urge witnesses to come forward as they praise 'angel' daughter

15 December 2023, 06:30 | Updated: 15 December 2023, 06:31

The families of the two victims of the crush have appealed for witnesses to come forward, one year on
The families of the two victims of the crush have appealed for witnesses to come forward, one year on. Picture: Handout/Alamy

By Kit Heren

The families of two women killed in a crush at Brixton Academy have urged witnesses to come forward to help solve the case, a year on from the tragedy.

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Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson were killed in the crush at the south London venue on December 15 last year. A third person remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Fans without tickets had been trying to force their way into a concert by singer Asake. Mother-of-two Ms Ikumelo, 33, and security guard Ms Hutchinson, 23, were killed in the ensuing chaos.

Police released pictures of 12 people they want to talk to in connection with the incident as they continue to pursue a criminal investigation. One person has been arrested so far.

The families of Ms Hutchinson and Ms Ikumelo both urged people to tell police anything they know so they can get answers for their loved ones.

Read more: 'Forever our baby': family of 'selfless' security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, who died in Brixton crush, pay tribute

Read more: Infant sons of mum, 33, killed in concert crush starting to realise she isn’t coming home as manslaughter probe launched

Police released images of 12 people they want to speak to in connection with the tragedy
Police released images of 12 people they want to speak to in connection with the tragedy. Picture: Met Police

Ms Ikumelo's mother Yetunde Olodo told LBC News: "She was very, very good. And you know, she was a great mother...

"She was an angel to me. She was a loving, caring mother. She's always eager to help anyone she could. She's very, very respectful."

Ms Ikumelo's mother Yetunde Olodo, 60, of Stratford, added in a separate interview: "We just want justice. She has two young children, they are asking questions now 'Where is mummy? When is mummy coming back?'

"What can we tell them? They are only five and seven, they don't seem to understand what is happening.

"All we want is justice for Rebecca, for people to come forward and say what they know about the incident."

Rebecca Ikumelo
Rebecca Ikumelo. Picture: police handout

Her father Anthony Ikumelo, 63, of Canning Town, said there "are still lots of questions to be answered".

He urged anyone with information to come forward, adding: "We don't know what happened to her, we don't know how she died and we're still waiting for information as to how this happened.

Yetunde Olodo, mother of Rebecca Ikumelo
Yetunde Olodo, mother of Rebecca Ikumelo. Picture: Alamy

"The most important thing is we don't want this to happen to another family, so the earlier we have this information the better so that other people could be prevented from suffering the same loss in future."

Anthony Ikumelo, father of Rebecca Ikumelo
Anthony Ikumelo, father of Rebecca Ikumelo. Picture: Alamy

Ms Hutchinson's sisters Kelsey and Nina also called for witnesses to share anything they know.

Kelsey Hutchinson, 26, of Billericay, Essex, said: "The key message is to not forget what happened at Brixton Academy and not let it happen again. The important thing is to get people to come forward.

"What we want is for the investigations to continue and to get some justice for Gaby.

Security guard Gaby Hutchinson
Security guard Gaby Hutchinson. Picture: Handout

"I don't think in this situation there is such a thing as closure. We spent our whole lives with Gaby and we had a whole life to give, so I think if there is such a thing as closure it's just what would Gaby have wanted from this situation and that's to protect other people going forward."

Nina, 32, of Gravesend, added: "A time machine would be great. If we could go back to before then and tell her not to go to work, but that's not going to happen so it is just doing what we need to do as a family."

Kelsey said she feels "heartbroken" one year one, adding: "It's like having an emptiness in your chest, like the world is now upside down and wrong. Just living is hard, really hard."

She also called on Asake to issue his own appeal to fans with information to come forward.

Chris Hutchinson, 60, mother, and Nina Hutchinson, 32, sister, of Gaby Hutchinson, 23, who died following a crowd crush outside an Asake concert at the Brixton O2 Academy
Chris Hutchinson, 60, mother, and Nina Hutchinson, 32, sister, of Gaby Hutchinson, 23, who died following a crowd crush outside an Asake concert at the Brixton O2 Academy. Picture: Alamy

She added: "As of current, the singer has never made a formal acknowledgment of our family.

"Obviously, he's done several concerts mentioning Gaby and Rebecca but I think the main thing is the singer has such a big influence over his crowd and his followers, and I think the biggest way anyone could help the police is if the singer asked them to come forward with what they heard that night, what they recorded, anything will help and the singer's got the most power in this situation.

"Gaby was special. She was really funny. She was smart, intelligent, loyal, she was everyone's best friend and would do anything for anyone. She loved her family and we loved her back."

A police cordon seen outside the O2 Academy Brixton on the morning after the show
A police cordon seen outside the O2 Academy Brixton on the morning after the show. Picture: Alamy

The police wanted the venue to be stripped of its licence, but Lambeth Council let it reopen provided it sticks to strict conditions.

Mr Ikumelo said they weren't contacted about the decision. "Nobody made an effort to actually pick a phone or contact us.

"We've got no power to stop them... We we don't want them to close that place permanently.

"But the fact that they cannot contact the family to say that 'we have reached a decision we are going to reopen that place'... I think that was that was insulting. They put money above human life and that is wrong."

A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson who lost their lives, as well as with the person who is still in hospital, and all those suffering the trauma of witnessing such distressing scenes at one of our borough’s live music venues.

"One year on the O2 Brixton Academy remains closed and will not be permitted to re-open until it has met 77 extensive and robust conditions designed to promote public safety, including the safety of both visitors and employees. 

"We understand the concern of the family and were conscious how this decision would be received, endeavouring to contact them at the earliest possible moment. We stand ready to meet with the bereaved families to listen to their concerns and discuss the issues.

"In making its decision the Licensing Sub-Committee was clear that its role wasn’t to assign blame or punishment on individuals or other bodies for past failings. It was not to exonerate them either.

"Their decision had to focus on what, if any, appropriate measures are needed for the venue to safely re-opening in the future. They also emphasised that their decision was based solely on what was put before them at the hearing.”

The Met's senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Nigel Penney, said: "We're keen to address the tragic incident that happened 12 months ago with our investigation, and we want to let people know that we are still tirelessly working extremely hard, trying to ascertain the actual detail of how this tragic event happened.

"We are continuing our plea to those that did attend that night to come forward and tell us exactly what they saw.

"We can share we have made arrests, we have conducted interviews, into certain individuals, certain companies that we believe are connected with the tragedy.

"And we also have an appeal with regard to some individuals that we would like to speak to in connection with events that happened on the 15th (of December 2022) and this is why we are circulating CCTV images of those individuals to the community.

"We have made one arrest and we've conducted four interviews. The arrest was made in October."

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