The mother of a murdered 23-year-old man from Northampton gave a heart-breaking speech about the devastating effects of knife crime.
Reece Ottaway was stabbed to death by a murderous gang in a botched robbery for drugs and money at Cordwainer House, St James in February 2019.
His mother, Charlotte Marshall, has been an advocate against knife crime ever since.
On Saturday (May 7), Charlotte was speaking in the Market Square about the harrowing consequences knife crime can bring to families.
She has kindly shared her speech with Chronicle & Echo.
Charlotte said: "On February 4, 2019 I entered a hospital mortuary to identify Reece’s body. I touched his face, only this time it wasn’t warm, it wasn’t flawless, it was cold, lifeless and he did not look at peace. I could not bring myself to kiss him goodbye.
"No mother, no parent, should ever have to face such a gut-wrenchingly, heart-breaking ordeal.
"My family will never be the same, we may look the same, we may at times even appear to be the same but we're not, we are broken, our lives have been changed forever, one of us is gone, taken by the cruellest act imaginable.
"Every joyous occasion will be marred by the absence of Reece. We have our memories but they will never take the place, the Reece - shaped place, that is missing in all our hearts.
"This limbo we are in is the loneliest place to be, overwhelmed by the enormity of his death, knowing he is gone but still somehow disbelieving the reality of it all.
"To say my heart has been shattered into a millions pieces doesn't even begin to convey the pain I feel.
"My mind is unable to switch off, my heart unable to comprehend the pain it feels, the memories of Reece crowd my mind all juggling for prominence: the first time I felt him kick inside me, the first time he was placed in my arms, the first time I heard him cry, the promise I made to always protect him, his first words, his first steps and so it goes on.
"I struggle so much, some days it’s hard to get out of bed, to wash, to dress and to try and make myself presentable. I have not been able to go back to work and as a result, I lost my business and my home.
"I am trying to maintain some sort of normality but this isn’t normal, a mother shouldn’t have to bury her child.
"Everything goes round and round in my head. Did Reece suffer? Did he know what was happening to him? Was he trying to fight for his life? Was he scared? Why couldn't I save him? How do I accept I will never see my son, hold him, smell him or hear his voice ever again?
"When Reece was murdered...I had to make decisions no parent should have to make, hear things no parent should have to hear.
"I know other people saw Reece the man, but to me he was and always will be my baby boy and I will mourn his death for the rest of my life."