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Families of students killed in Nottingham attacks vow to get justice

The families of university students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, who died during a spate of attacks in Nottingham, have vowed to ‘leave no stone unturned in ensuring justice is properly served’ after a man admitted killing them (Peter Byrne/PA)
The families of university students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, who died during a spate of attacks in Nottingham, have vowed to ‘leave no stone unturned in ensuring justice is properly served’ after a man admitted killing them (Peter Byrne/PA)

The families of two university students who died during a spate of attacks in Nottingham have vowed to “leave no stone unturned in ensuring justice is properly served” after a man admitted killing them.

Valdo Calocane, 32, pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday to the manslaughter of Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, by reason of diminished responsibility.

The University of Nottingham students were fatally stabbed in Ilkeston Road in the city at around 4am on June 13.

Nottingham city centre incident
The families of Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Barnaby Webber attend a vigil at the University of Nottingham (Jacob King/PA)

In a joint statement issued to the PA news agency, the families of the teenagers said: “The loss of our children has devastated our families; our grief has no boundaries.

“Over the past five-and-a-half months we have struggled to come to terms with the needless and horrific attack that led to them both losing their lives and their bright futures on June 13.

“We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring justice is properly served for Barnaby and Grace, and for all those affected by the devastating events of that evening.

“We have taken great comfort from the support we have received from the public and will push to make sure lessons are learnt from this case.”

Nottingham city centre incident
Barnaby Webber was fatally stabbed by Valdo Calocane (Family handout/PA)

During the hearing, Calocane, who answered to the name Adam Mendes, also admitted the manslaughter of school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, by reason of diminished responsibility.

But he pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Webber, Miss O’Malley-Kumar and Mr Coates.

He also pleaded guilty to the attempted murders of three pedestrians – Sharon Miller, Marcin Gawronski and Wayne Birkett – on the same day after hitting them with a van he had allegedly stolen from Mr Coates.

His barrister, Peter Joyce KC, said the defendant “does not dispute the physical facts of the prosecution’s case”, but added that he had been suffering from “extreme” mental illness at the time.

Nottingham city centre incident
Flowers are laid in memory of Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Barnaby Webber (Jacob King/PA)

Karim Khalil KC, prosecuting, said the Crown will need further time to decide whether Calocane’s pleas are acceptable or not.

Miss O’Malley-Kumar and Mr Webber, who were studying medicine and history respectively, were walking home when they were attacked.

Mr Coates was then found dead in Magdala Road around an hour later.

Calocane is then alleged to have used Mr Coates’ van to drive at the three pedestrians in Milton Street and South Sherwood Street.

Nottingham city centre incident
Medical student Grace O’Malley-Kumar was fatally attacked while walking home in Nottingham (Family handout/PA)

Thousands attended vigils for the victims both at the University of Nottingham and in the city centre in the wake of the attacks.

Calocane was previously a student at the university, although police said at the time that they did not believe this was connected to the incident.

Mr Webber, from Taunton in Somerset, was a keen cricketer and “an extraordinary ‘ordinary’ person”, his family said.

Ms O’Malley-Kumar, a hockey player from Woodford in east London, was described by her family as being “loved endlessly by all” and “resilient and wise beyond her years”.

Their families have since pledged to create foundations in their memory to ensure they “leave a legacy”, with fundraisers raising more than £80,000 combined.

Two of Mr Coates’ sons said his death had “rocked everyone’s world”, adding: “Nobody deserves this but he definitely didn’t.”

Nottingham city centre incident
Court artist sketch of Valdo Calocane, second right, during a court appearance in June (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating Nottinghamshire Police’s involvement in the incident, after the force referred itself to the watchdog the day after the attacks.

The IOPC previously said that an officer driving a single-crewed vehicle was responding to a related call when it came across the van allegedly being driven by Calocane.

Dashcam footage suggests the officer had sight of it for less than a minute before it hit pedestrians.

The officer immediately stopped to give first aid to those who had been hit, with the investigation considering whether the actions of the van driver were influenced by the presence of the police car.

Judge Mr Justice Turner adjourned the case until January 16 2024.