Mum who ‘never thought son would come home in coffin’ wages war on knife deaths

Lynne Baird clasps the picture of her dead son to her chest on what would have been his 32nd birthday. Five years ago, Dan Baird was stabbed during a night out with friends.

The 26-year-old had been celebrating a new job when a fight broke out in the pub. He was stabbed in the chest and died on the way to the hospital. Dan’s birthday on Tuesday came on the same day that police confirmed the identity of Takayo Nembhard, a 21-year-old rapper from Bristol, who was stabbed to death at the Notting Hill carnival in London on Bank Holiday Monday. And last week boxer Tyson Fury made an emotional plea to end knife crime after his cousin was fatally wounded on a night out. Rico Burton had a blade plunged into his neck during a pub brawl in Goose Green, Altrincham, Greater Manchester.

These are just the shocking stabbing incidents which hit the headlines – there would have been many others in the last few days.

The lines on Lynne Baird’s face show the pain which results from that pandemic.

“I wish I could think about my happy memories of Dan and celebrate his life, but how can I when nothing changes? All these young people going out to enjoy themselves and never living to see another birthday again.

“I try to help myself by not watching the news, but it’s hard to avoid. The grief is always with me, but each time I see the story of another child’s death, I’m transported straight back to that day.”

It was the early hours of Saturday, July 8, 2017, when a police car pulled up outside her home in Yardley, Birmingham.

Lynne recalls: “Unable to sleep, I got up, and looked out of my bedroom window to see a stunning red sunrise.

“I saw a police car parked outside. I remember wondering what must have happened in the night for a policewoman to be on our street.

“Then the realisation hit me that she was walking towards my home.”

The officer told Lynne that she and her family needed to go to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital to see her son Dan.

But by the time they arrived it was too late. Dan had suffered catastrophic bleeding and died in the ambulance.

In February 2019, Dan’s killer Carlton Donaldson was jailed for life after being convicted of murder, wounding with intent, attempted wounding with intent, and violent disorder for the killing at The Forge Tavern in Digbeth, Birmingham.

Since Dan died, the grieving mum has turned campaigner. She has launched the Daniel Baird Foundation, raising funds for bleed control kits designed to stem potentially fatal blood loss after someone has been stabbed.

Over the past five years, the charity has helped raise money for more than 8,000 kits all over the country, and even abroad.

The life-saving kits include pressure dressings, gauze bandages and tourniquets. They can give victims those extra vital minutes before an ambulance arrives.

Thanks to the foundation, kits are now in pubs, McDonald’s, schools, shops, and public areas in Birmingham, London, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

They were successfully used on two men who were stabbed in a Birmingham nightclub last year, and on a schoolboy in Wolverhampton this February. The 16-year-old was knifed near St Peter’s Collegiate Academy. Staff used the kit, which was given to the school just five days before the stabbing.

The kits can be used to treat serious bleeding from a variety of injuries.

Earlier this year, Lynne, 65, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. She can think of no better tribute to her son than knowing the foundation she launched in his name has saved lives.

Lynne says: “At the start of the campaign, I said if the kits saved one life – spared one family the pain we go through – it would be worth it.

“To see how many people they have helped and continue to help gives me so much strength to carry on.”

Lynne has faced a lot of resistance from people unwilling to accept the reality of knife crime – and how much a necessity the kits are.

“Catastrophic bleeding can happen to anyone at anytime, ” says Lynne. The kits have been successfully used to treat accidents as well as attacks.”

It was a conversation with her third son Tom, 37, on the day Dan died, that sparked Lynne’s campaign. Tom, a doctor, was due to start working at Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital in the same week his brother’s body was taken there.

Lynne says: “I was in total shock. I just couldn’t understand how a healthy young man was just gone in the space of a few minutes. I asked Tom that question. He said if someone could have packed the wound and put pressure on it that would have given Dan vital minutes before the ambulance was called.

“That’s what the kits do. The more research I did I discovered that these kits could treat so many injuries resulting from accidents that basic first aid kits simply cannot treat.”

Before Lynne’s campaign, only ambulance crews had the equipment to deal with catastrophic bleeding.

Fire services and police forces, including West Midlands Police, City of London, London Fire Service now carry the kits.

September 14 will be the anniversary of Dan’s funeral – his body was returned home 10 weeks after his murder. Lynne had been unable to see her son at the time as she was told his body was “evidence” and had to undergo tests and autopsies.

This time of year is especially difficult for the family. “It’s always a horrible, horrible time – I hate it,” she says. “I wish I could sleep through it all, but then Christmas comes around, and Dan loved Christmas, and it feels so wrong to celebrate when he is not here.”

A mother of eight, Lynne says Dan was the happiest he had ever been on the day he died. He found out he had got a job at Jaguar Land Rover. “He and his girlfriend Gemma were childhood sweethearts – the job meant they could get married and get a mortgage,“ she says.

Since his death, Lynne has had four more grandkids, including Dan’s younger sister Holly’s son Daniel Junior, born in May 2019.

“Dan has similar mannerisms to his uncle, and the same smile,” says Lynne.

Little Daniel, now three, recently accompanied his gran to the installation of a publicly accessible bleed control cabinet at West Midlands Ladywood Fire Station. Last month, a bleed control cabinet was also installed in Sutton Coldfield town centre, where 16-year-old Ozell Pembleton was stabbed to death in May 2018.

Members of the public can call 999, speak to the operator who will give them a code so they can open the cabinet. The operator will talk them through using it.

West Midlands Ambulance Service chief executive Anthony Marsh said: “As we see in cardiac arrest cases, every second counts, so the more bleed kits we can get on our city centre streets, the better.”

Lynne says: “I never expected my son to come home in a coffin. The kits don’t solve knife crime, but they can help prevent another parent from having to plan their child’s funeral.”