Multiply stabbed survivor and father on mission to beat knife crime
PUBLISHED: 11:29 03 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:38 03 October 2018
Five months after his father launched a charity to stop gangs killing one another, Rico Finlayson was stabbed multiple times by seven weapon wielding men who didn't know, or care, who he was.
The 21-year-old miraculously survived his ordeal and is now on a mission to help struggling knife crime survivors come to terms with their physical and mental scars.
Meanwhile his father Justin Finlayson has just secured funding to expand his United Borders charity, which is coming to Wembley at the end of the month.
The music outreach project launched in August 2017 with a double decker bus, converted into a music studio, picking up gang members from Church Road in Harlesden in the morning and Stonebridge gang affiliates in the afternoon.
The project was so successful the warring factions stayed on the bus, messed with the decks, and made music together.
He said: “Brent Council said it would never work. The Met police advised me against the project saying there would be bloodshed but it went better than I expected. By the end of week both sides said they were willing to work together. They didn’t need me there – they could work on the bus without me.”
Then on January 2 this year, the unthinkable happened.
It was dark and Rico was out with a friend to drop his cousin home in Harrow when they came across a group. “We couldn’t see a lot,” he recalls, “but realised as we got closer that they were all wearing black tracksuits, black balaclavas and carrying weapons. We ran away, my friend and cousin managed to hide behind a car so then they were chasing just me.”
He soon found himself surrounded and pleaded with his attackers to leave him, saying he wasn’t from the area. Then one took off his balaclava and told the group: “I don’t know this person.”
“After he said that I thought they would go away, but they didn’t. It had no effect on their leader. As soon as the leader started stabbing me, all his friends did. They got my arm, my leg, my chest, my arse, I started shouting for help and they ran away.”
He crawled on one uninjured arm to the nearest house, which “by coincidence” was opened by a friend of his.
The girl’s family called emergency services, stemmed the blood flow with clean towels and called Rico’s mother.
“Hearing my mother’s voice made me not want to give up, I wanted to stay alive for my mother mostly. I was stabbed 10 times in total.”
He spent a month in hospital, celebrating his 21st birthday nine days after the attack surrounded by family.
The pain of the stitches was followed by “non stop” night terrors, and then, forced to wear a colostomy bag due to slice injuries to his buttocks, his fragile confidence vanished.
“My family are the main reason I’ve been able to turn my life around. When I didn’t believe in myself my parents did. My parents gave me the courage, and the fight, to fight for my belief.”
Sitting at Rico’s hospital bedside was hard, said Justin, whose mind linked the people he was trying to help with the ones who hurt his son.
But he said: “What happened to Rico was a random violent act. They were looking for someone, anyone, and he happened to fit a profile.
“This isn’t all youths – these young people who were affected by their thoughts did this to my son. They just tried to kill a child for no reason.”
He added: “Young people feel they are in a war zone. If they are rapping about stabbing, or always looking over their shoulder, it means they are preoccupied with that.
“Through music we allow them to express what’s on their mind, creatively – violence, drugs, that is what they are experiencing and that is what we listen to them about.”
Rico’s brand, Riicovery, is taken from his name and is active on social media site Instagram.
“I’m going to show how I deal with this. This is the way I want to help others – go to people and share my experience in a positive way,” he said. “At times I’ve been really emotional; I’ve raged. It isn’t normal – it’s sickening what they did but I’ve never thought of revenge.
“People don’t like to talk about big trauma. They don’t think talking will make it better, just worse.
“I don’t want people to be in the dark. I want to help them get out of that place.”
No-one has been arrested.
Riicovery is on Instagram. United Borders is on Facebook, Twitter @UnitedBorders, and Instagram.