AZZAM Raguragui’s parents will forever be haunted by the image of their innocent son lying in his blood-soaked clothes after he was stabbed to death.
Dad Abdul revealed how the outfit the 18-year-old died in, still with the piercings from the killer blade, was returned to the family last week.
It again reminded them of the teenager’s terrifying final moments on May 10, 2019, after their boy had a knife plunged into him five times.
Azzam’s killer, a juvenile, was sentenced last year at the Central Criminal Court to seven-and-a-half years detention after being convicted of manslaughter.
Today, the Raguragui family is backing the Irish Sun’s new ‘Knives Cost Lives’ campaign to try to ensure nobody else is subjected to the grief and torment they have experienced.
Abdul told us: “I don’t want to see any family go through and suffer like my family did. We want to do anything to save lives.”
For the first time, Abdul has told how he and his family learned of the horror incident on the day Azzam was killed.
The boy, known for his chirpy smile, was set upon and attacked in Finsbury Park in Dundrum, south Dublin.
At the time, dad Abdul was reading in his room in the upstairs of their nearby Ballinteer home as his wife Hajiba was downstairs studying as part of her final year of a masters.
Abdul, short for Abderrahmane, recalled: “I just heard a knock, a rough knock on the door.
“Then when I came down stairs, my wife had opened the door for them. I just heard ‘Azzam stabbed’.
“Then I just jumped into the car, me and my wife, in seconds. I drove to Finsbury Park . . . I don’t know how I drove the car.”
In pure shock, Abdul’s nose began running with blood as he saw the ambulance and gardai at the park.
He says the ambulance had taken up to 30 minutes to arrive and he had a “feeling” that his son was dying.
The emotional father asked the paramedics a number of times if he could see his son, but they said they had to move as Azzam was in critical condition.
He continued: “I understand where he was coming from. He said just follow him please to the hospital. I still have a feeling he had already died there.”
As Abdul drove, Azzam’s siblings — older sister Marwa and younger brother Moad — called frantically to see what had happened to him.
When they got to St James’s Hospital, mum Hajiba said it was best if Azzam’s brother and sister were there and Abdul got back in the car to drive and collect them.
But he had only got to Dolphin’s Barn when his wife rang.
He said: “She said ‘there’s no point to go, Azzam has died.’
“Oh my god. I was at the traffic lights, I didn’t know what to do — I was frozen for awhile.
“Then, I just turned right and came back again.”
He found his wife in a small room in the hospital, before they cried and comforted each other.
They then went into their son as he lay in the bed. He had been pronounced dead but they could still feel the warmth from his body.
Abdul explained: “He was like a slaughter man — full of blood from head to toe.
“He was full of blood, I still remember that. It was a very difficult time for me and my wife and my family.
“I have no words to express my feeling at that time when he was lying down in front of me.
“He was still hot, he was still fresh because it was probably just less than one hour after.
“That image haunts me and my wife every day.”
Last week, the Gardai returned the clothes Azzam was wearing the evening he died. Abdul had put it off for some time but his wife wanted them home.
It marked another difficult moment for them.
Azzam’s top was torn open as people tried to save his life, but the piercing marks from the knife remain visible.
Abdul said: “I knew they were coming with the clothes but I still had that feeling — something inside of me, my heart was beating. When I saw his clothes, they tore the clothes but you can see the marks where the knife went through. It was very difficult.
THE IRISH SUN SHOUTS S.T.O.P.
KNIFE crime is on the rise. A woman and a teenager have lost their lives following street attacks already this year and at least three others have been injured.
Evidence is emerging that the Covid-19 lockdown and the social vacuum it causes has fuelled an already growing trend.
Community leaders, sports clubs, schools and families need all our support.
Blade crime — just like the drugs problem — cannot be tackled as a criminal issue alone because it is a matter of public health.
The vast majority of young people carrying knives do not want to — they feel they have no choice.
They leave home with only the thought of protecting themselves, oblivious to how quickly circumstances can spiral out of control.
These people on the periphery of the violence need opportunities to escape it through education and community support.
The Irish Sun has launched a campaign to halt the rise. We are shouting STOP.
SALES BAN: Control lethal weapon purchases.
TRAGEDY: Listen to the stories of victims and learn from their experiences with knives.
OPPORTUNITY: Give young people options to ditch the blade through street-level violence reduction initiatives, schools, the Gardai or community.
PUNISHMENT: Ten-year jail terms for serious knife offences.
We, as a society, must consider measures like knife amnesties.
We aim to help raise awareness, push for adequate punishments and help to create a path out of the violence for those who want it.
The campaign won’t be won or lost tomorrow, but we’re in it for the long haul.
“It’s hard for me to express my feelings. We will keep the clothes here at home.”
He added: “We will never feel complete as a family again. Nothing will bring our beloved son back.”
Abdul has also hailed gardai in Dundrum for their work, particularly Garda Annemarie Higgins, Garda Paul Corcoran and Detective Garda Ger White.
He said: “I want to thank them — they have done tremendous work and gave us very good support.” Now he and his family want to see real change to fight against knife crime here.
The healthcare worker has backed Fianna Fail TD Jim O’Callaghan’s bill for tougher sentences.
As it stands, people can get a maximum sentence of five years and/or a fine for carrying a knife intended to cause harm. O’Callaghan’s 2019 Bill seeks to up the maximum term to ten years.
He also believes the Scottish model Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond has highlighted is another element we should look at and incorporate in the plan.
But Abdul believes education is the key part and he is willing to go into schools to tell of the devastation knife crime has caused his family and would also take part in a video to show pupils.
He said: “I would love to do that. Teaching children from a young age is more important in my opinion.
“Reinforcing behaviour from a young age has proven to be hugely beneficial in later life.”
Abdul insists that the views of victims’ families should form a part of any changes, adding: “I think that the Government holds beneficial ideas but I may be able to bring in a new perspective as I have personally endured the effects of knife crime.”
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He reckons youngsters carry knives as protection as some have been assaulted in the past and they see the dangerous object as protection while others may have mental health problems.
Another reason he points to is the influence of social media and British culture, as young children are becoming more influenced and are regarding carrying knives as “cool”.
But he said: “These knives, that are considered ‘cool’, take lives and damage many of the victim’s family and friends.”
Abdul has walk plan
By John Hand
AZZAM Raguragui’s grieving father has vowed to walk around Ireland to raise awareness of knife crime.
In memory of his son, proud dad Abdul has begun his own campaign against the scourge.
As part of it, he will walk around the country in different stages once the pandemic restrictions lift.
Abdul says that his own friends, family and Azzam’s pals will take part. He will record the journey for videos on his Youtube channel.
The proud dad explained: “After the heinous knife crime on my son Azzam, we decided as a family to start an anti-knife campaign to highlight its danger to our society.
“Azzam loved to travel and he travelled to every corner of Ireland — from north to south and from west to east.
“That’s why, as part of my campaign against knife crime, I am going to walk around Ireland just to remind me of him.
“This campaign will also educate and boost public awareness of knife crime.”