Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Thursday, 11 June 2009 11:50 UK

A murder that gripped the nation

By Ed Davey
BBC News, London

The death of Ben Kinsella, whose killers have been found guilty, provoked a media frenzy far beyond his London birthplace. National newspapers led on the story for days and thousands marched against knife crime.

Ben Kinsella
Ben died from 11 stab wounds after leaving a bar in June 2008

So who was Ben Kinsella? Was the heightened interest simply down to his Eastenders actress sister? Or was there something else about the 16-year-old that captivated a nation?

Since 2007 Londoners have become used to unfamiliar faces smiling at them from grainy photographs in the morning papers.

Not the latest flash-in-the-pan reality television celebrities - but teenage victims of a disturbing trend of knife violence on the streets.

But one face became emblazoned on the public conscience more than most: That of Ben Kinsella.

After his death thousands marched in Islington, north London, while The Sun and The Mirror led on the story three days in a row.

'Special aura'

Cynics would say Ben's killing provoked such a reaction simply because of his famous sister Brooke and family friend Linda Robson, the Birds of a Feather actress.

But his family say there was something else about the "angelic" Arsenal fan - who they say had a "special aura".

"When Ben was in your company you knew it," said his great uncle Danny Kinsella, 55.

Brooke Kinsella
Brooke Kinsella fled the court in tears as the stabbing was described

"There was a special aura about him. His greeting was so full of life - and you felt that when he you looked at him or shook his hand."

Mr Kinsella thinks the massive interest in his death was also down to his sheer innocence.

He said: "Ben had never been involved in any gangs and he simply did not deserve what happened to him - that touched many people."

"This was never about Brooke, it was about Ben.

"That's why we are going to push on with the campaign, because if this knife trend continues soon every teenager in London will grow up in fear of their lives."

His sentiments are echoed by 17-year-old Brooke Dunford, one of Ben's best friends who organised the march against knife crime.

"Quite a few of the teenagers who have been stabbed in London were troublemakers but Ben was so innocent," she said.

"It really captured the public imagination."

"We will never get over it - his death will always be there. But hopefully when the people who did this face justice it will be easier."

But some media experts say the case was so widely reported because the celebrity connection tantalised newspaper editors.

Linda Robson
I don't think the Kinsellas will ever get over it
Linda Robson

Paul Charman, head of journalism at the London College of Communication, said: "There are so many stabbing deaths that most tabloid newspaper editors regard them as a bit 'fish and chippy'.

"But anything with a celebrity connection pushes it onto the front page.

"You only have to put Eastenders on the front of a tabloid and the circulation will go up by 10% - it really is as dramatic as that."

Throughout 2007 and 2008 a total of 54 teenagers were stabbed to death in London, most of them belonging to ethnic minorities.

Three of the most high profile victims - Jimmy Mizen, Rob Knox and Ben Kinsella - were all white.

Public revulsion

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair once said the media reported disproportionately on white victims and called crime coverage "institutionally racist".

Mr Charman added: "Killings which are black on black don't tend to get much publicity - black boys killing a white person would get more coverage."

That Ben became the poster boy for public revulsion over knife culture is no consolation for his family.

In a victim statement read out in court, his mother Deborah Kinsella said: "The people who murdered him knew nothing about our Ben, not a hair on his head, a bone in his body.

"They had never met him before, they just cruelly took his life away with knives for no reason."

Linda Robson, who used to take Ben to film premieres with her son when he was younger, added: "His death changed everybody - I don't think the Kinsellas will ever get over it."

The latest Ministry of Justice figures claim the number of knife offences fell 7% in the first three months of 2009.

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