‘People say use fists not knives – but my son was killed by a single punch’

A heartbroken mum whose hero son was killed by one punch to the head has slammed social media messages urging people to 'use fists not knives'.

Wendy Unett's teenage son Liam Roche was punched in the temple while protecting a younger friend from “drunk thug” Samuel Kelly outside a McDonald's in Birmingham on January 22 last year.

She sang to Liam, 18, as she watched him take his last breaths two weeks later when doctors turned off his life support machine.

As a knife crime epidemic has continued to sweep through Britain since his death, the 38-year-old mum-of-three was horrified to see people urging others on social media to 'use fists – not knives.'

Speaking for the first time since her son's death, Wendy said: "There's so much talk about knife crime, which is right, but people forget that punching also kills.

"I've seen so many posts on social media where people say 'use your fist not a knife.'

"But fists kill too.

"People fight all the time and they don't realise the damage they could be doing.

"That one punch took Liam's life and totally changed all of ours forever."

An investigation by Mirror.co.uk has revealed that dozens of messages are proliferating on social media, urging people to 'use fists not knives.'

Facebook and Twitter have had a deluge of comments and threads, many written by mums and dads unaware of the dangerous message they are sharing.

One dad wrote on Facebook: “Fight with fists, not knives!!!”

A woman from London wrote: “What happened to fighting with fists like a proper human being, who gives you any right to decide if a human deserves to live or not?”

Another mum-of-two wrote: “Fight with fists, not knives! Cowards!”

And a father, commenting on a recent stabbing wrote: “This is why you don't use knives people, what happened to the old days where you use your fists you get up shake hands and it’s done with a real mans way?" 

Another man wrote: “Heartbreaking! only the weak need to stab somebody, learn to punch you fools.”

But Liam's mum Wendy knows just how devastating the consequences of one single punch can be.

Recalling the night of the attack Wendy said: "When he got home that night at about 12.30am I was sitting up waiting for him downstairs.

"He said that he was out at McDonald's and 'fully grown bloke, really big' who was drunk and being abusive with everyone went to grab his friend, who is 15.

"Liam told the man to leave his friend alone, he was never tolerant of bullying, and then the man just punched him.

"I told him he had to go to hospital, that he might have a brain injury.

"But he said he was fine.

"Then at about 5am he called me and said he felt sick.

"I said: "Liam, you need to go to hospital.' But he refused again and said he just wanted to go to bed.

"I asked him if he wanted me to get into bed with him and lie at the opposite end and he said, 'yeah.'

"Almost as soon as I got into the bed he started fitting.  I could feel his leg shaking then his whole body started moving.

"I shouted for his brother as I called the ambulance.

"It was horrible. His brother held him and I rolled him onto his side. There was foam coming from his mouth.”

Liam was rushed to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where Wendy kept a bedside vigil for the next 11 days but sadly Liam’s body began shutting down.

"Doctors said that they'd already kept him longer than they should have”, said Wendy.

"He wasn't able to retain liquid food, his organs were shutting down, he had pneumonia and he was brain-dead.

"So on Friday, February 2, Liam's machine was switched off.

"Before they switched it off, loads of his family and friends came into the cubicle. They played music for him and kissed him. Some of them stayed the night.

"I lay next to him in his bed that night. A family friend stayed on a campbed in the room. Four of Liam's friends stayed by the bed and held Liam's hand.

"Nurses moved Liam over on the bed so that I could stay with him. I didn't eat or drink that day.

"We played the Bette Middler song 'Wind Beneath My Wings' and as I sang it to him, his breathing started to go and he passed away minutes later.

"I haven't listened to that song since.”

Heartbroken Wendy still keeps the Tommy Hilfiger pouch Liam wore that night with his money still in it, – a precious reminder preserved forever in a glass cabinet at their home which also holds his ashes and framed photos.

And she’s haunted by dreams of her deceased son.

"I haven't been able to sleep properly since he died. I wake up through the night thinking about him. He's the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of at night.

"Sometimes he's still alive in my dreams but sometimes he's already dead but I can't find his body.”

Liam’s killer Samuel Kelly, 25, was sentenced to seven years in prison in November after being found guilty of manslaughter.

"Liam stuck up for his friend and that's why he got hit,” said Wendy.

"I have a lot of emotion because of that.

"His death says everything about how he was as a person because that's how Liam was. He always stuck up for friends, he didn't agree with bullying.

"Liam had an eggshell skull. We didn't know it at the time but his skull was much thinner than average so any form of impact could lead to death.

"Doctors told us that with a head fracture, there can be a delayed reaction, but as soon as he was punched that night there was very little anyone could do to save him.

“It was already too late. So even if he went to hospital sooner that night, the outcome would not have been different. Where he was punched was the thinnest part of the skull.”

Wendy has some comfort in remembering how happy Liam was on the last day of his life.

He had received a £1850 insurance payment that day and had just bought a motorbike and an expensive helmet.

Hours before his death, he touched his temple where he would soon receive the fatal blow, and told his mum that the helmet was 'to protect his head'.

Wendy said: "Liam had just had a payout that day after he was in a car crash the previous year.

"He bought a small motorbike and a £100 helmet. I asked him why he bought such an expensive helmet and he touched his head, just where he was hit, and said 'I have to protect my head mum.'

"He was really happy that day. He was out with friends but he kept coming home to see his new baby brother Hugo who was just two weeks old."

Liam's family wanted his funeral to be a celebration of his life so called it 'Liam's Life Party'.

A Harley Davidson pulled his pure white coffin to the church where family and friends sang R-Kelly's 'World's Greatest'. They then danced and sang in memory of Liam all night long.

"He had a really lovely send-off.

"The funeral was rammed, they had to open the doors of the church.

"Most people wore t-shirts with his face printed on them.

"We had a humanist give the service rather than a vicar because Liam wasn't religious and we wanted the funeral to be about Liam. 

"We sang the R-Kelly song 'World's Greatest' and where the lyrics say 'you're that star up in the sky' we sang, 'Liam's that star up in the sky.'

"Everyone boomed it out.

"We hired a hall and a DJ and his friends danced and sang for him all night long."

Liam was cremated with the children's book 'Guess How Much I Love You' with the famous words 'I love you to the moon and back' which Wendy read to him every day in hospital before his death – and in the funeral home before his final road trip.

The family placed a bench with a plaque for Liam on it in their garden in Birmingham where people can remember him. 

Wendy said: "His friends come and sit there to be with him. We wanted somewhere for them to go to be close to him because we wanted to keep his ashes at home.

“Everything has been difficult fullstop. It’s difficult looking at photos of him. It’s difficult hearing music. Even songs that I don’t normally associate with him have a line in them that makes me cry."

Wendy now hopes to bring this crucial information to schools where she can explain first-hand the potentially fatal consequences of punching.

"The dangers of punching should be taught in schools. I want to set up a programme to teach about what can happen with just one punch. There are programmes for knives and drugs but nothing for punches.

"People fight all the time and they don't realise the damage they could be doing.

"That one punch took Liam's life and totally changed all of ours forever. His friends feel like they've lost everything.”

Liam loved animals, especially dogs, and his family said that if anyone wants to donate money in his name, they can do so through one of his favourite charities, the Birmingham Dogs Home .

Source: Read Full Article