Monday, 17 August 2009

Khaleel Khan

At about 12.30am on Saturday 30 May, 16-year-old Khaleel Khan was cycling with his cousin and two friends on Ron Leighton Way in East Ham when he was hit by a police car. Police and witnesses agree that the car was not using its siren. There is some dispute about whether its blue light was flashing. Khaleel hit the windscreen of the car, flew into the air, and then hit the road. He was pronounced dead half an hour later. The cause of death was a severe fracture of the neck at the base of his skull.
In a familiar pattern of memorialisation, the crash scene was shortly decked with tributes. Flowers, messages, and photographs were left along the barriers of Ron Leighton Way. Such wayside shrines have become a traditional form of memorialisation. (See, for instance, the tributes included in Scott Wood's photographs of such shrines).
What was so striking about the tributes to Khaleel Khan were their scale. Aside from the floral and paper tributes, friends also tagged the pavements of Ron Leighton Way and the walls facing the accident site.

The tributes covered walls on the Holme Road side of Ron Leighton Way.

There are nicknames and school affiliations, using SMS emoticons and referring to Khaleel by his initials (KRK).

The messages also ran across walls on the other side of Ron Leighton Way, and into the side street by the market.

The memorials were even run across the upper storey back wall of shops on East Ham High Street North.
Folklorists have a duty to record these memorials, a melancholy tribute to creativity. The photos here were all taken on Friday 5 June. The tags are already being erased.

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