WHEN I woke up in my home town of Bodmin on April 30, 2023, I remember the start of the day being pretty benign. I probably woke up to an alarm in anticipation of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and other than that I almost certainly didn’t have any plans.

I checked my phone, as I always do once I’ve stopped cursing said alarm clock. There were more messages than usual. Word was, there had been a death near to the Eclipse Nightclub. The local rumour mill was full of different theories; some said one had died, others said two or three had died, and somewhat predictably, there were multiple suggestions of perpetrators and causes. Whatever this incident was, it was more than just the local gossips being overactive in their imagination – it was serious, and it had happened in Bodmin.

Certainly, in my experience, and perhaps others, prior to this incident it was more often than not you were more likely to hear about knife crime on the national news, in large cities than you were down here.

The reason I mentioned the start of my day is because when I woke up on said morning, the Riddiough-Allen family of Liskeard and their friends woke up to a very different scenario. Their son, brother, friend and relative, Michael Riddiough-Allen was dead at the age of 32 after an incident outside the Eclipse Nightclub.

Mike Allen in action for Bodmin RFC
(Bodmin RFC)

It isn’t easy to imagine the unimaginable, but I would have thought it looks something like what Mike’s friends and family have gone through in the year since. I first contacted the family in the weeks after the death – not to get the ‘scoop’ as you’d expect a journalist to, but to let them know that if there was anything I could do to help, I’d only be too happy to do so. I could see that they were suddenly in a very public eye at a time where they were mourning, and I wanted to help them navigate that with advice, knowledge and skills such as press release writing.

It's been almost a year since the death of Mike, and the jury in the near six-week long murder trial found Jake Hill, 25, guilty of murder, in addition to Chelsea Powell, 22, who was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter, but guilty to perverting the course of justice while Tia Taylor, also 22, had changed her plea during the case to guilty for manslaughter and perverting the course of justice. The trio will be sentenced on April 12.

With the trial now completed, it seemed like a good time to reflect on the year that’s been, but not from the perspective of featuring the perpetrators, but rather the extraordinary work of the Bodmin community in coming together. Most importantly, I want to tell you of the inspiring people and characters that have driven it.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragic incident, the MIKES Trust was formed by the family of Mr Riddiough-Allen in order to raise awareness of and combat the increasing scourge of knife crime.

Fundraising events to get the charity off the ground were organised, including a charity fun day organised by the family and Mike’s former team mates at Bodmin Rugby Football Club (RFC), who have been instrumental in helping the family both as an organisation and personally; after all, he was their beloved team mate, known to them as ‘Chabal’ owing to a physical resemblance to Sebastien Chabal, a former French rugby union player.

This charity fun day was held on the same weekend as an event organised by the Bodmin Rotary Club, titled ‘Bikers meet for Mike’ where motorbike enthusiasts descended on the town’s Priory Park car park to raise money for the MIKES Trust. Together, the events raised over £3,000.

It wasn’t just about fundraising though, for there was a desire by the family to ‘bring the sunshine’ back to the town, having noted that the grief was shared by a community who they felt were fearful in light of the incident.

Alicia Puckey, sister of Michael Riddiough-Allen discussing plans with the Mayor of Bodmin, Cllr Philip Cooper
Alicia Puckey, sister of Michael Riddiough-Allen discussing plans with the Mayor of Bodmin, Cllr Philip Cooper (Aaron Greenaway)

Indeed, Kevin Allen, Mike’s father, said at the time: “The generosity of strangers has been so heart-warming for us all at MIKES Trust. Now comes the hard part, how to spend a limited budget on huge issues.

“To this end, we are already talking to youth groups, other fundraisers and council representatives etc with a simple question: How do we spend this precious money wisely, how do we make a real difference to the safety and prospects of youngsters in Bodmin?”

A third event, a MIKES motor mania fun day, held at Perranporth Airport also contributed significantly to the funds, and is set to become an annual event, with this year’s set to be ‘even bigger and better’, according to the Riddiough-Allen family. There are also plans for a charity event involving Bodmin’s sports teams, set to be confirmed in the near future.

The public campaigning might have become quieter in the last few months, particularly after the charges and subsequent court cases leading to the verdicts of Mr Hill, Miss Taylor and Miss Powell, but the work of the family in preparing for the future of MIKES Trust beyond this point still continued. This took the form of seeking to understanding the driving factors behind knife crime and what could be done to try and make an impact on the youth of today to try and prevent another family going through what Mike’s family had.

Representatives of youth groups come together with the family of Michael Riddiough-Allen to work together to create a 'blade-free Bodmin'
Representatives of youth groups come together with the family of Michael Riddiough-Allen to work together to create a 'blade-free Bodmin' (Aaron Greenaway)

After all, knife crime doesn’t just affect the victim directly. It affects those who they leave behind, but also the families of those who perpetrated the offence; in this case, as highlighted by the family of Mike Allen, they view this as a loss for the families of Mr Hill, Miss Powell and Miss Taylor, particularly the children all three have, who will now face multiple years of no direct contact with their father and mothers. They also highlighted that for the parents of the convicted trio, they’ve lost their children too to sentences set to be determined, while for Mr Riddiough-Allen, he died as a hero.

Now the verdict is done, the work of MIKES Trust continues in earnest. The question asked by Mr Allen last year in relation to what the family and charity can do is being answered. On Sunday, March 17, the trust hosted a get-together for representatives of community youth groups and organisations, an event also attended by Bodmin’s local police and Cllr Philip Cooper, the mayor of Bodmin.

This coming together symbolises the response of the Bodmin community in the near-year since the fateful night where Michael Riddiough-Allen lost his life trying to break up a fight near to a nightclub.

The answer to the question of ‘how to create a blade-free Bodmin and beyond’ is being answered. Plans are being drawn up to organise events and opportunities to connect with Bodmin’s youth in the hope that as they grow from children into teenagers and adults, they may never feel compelled or influenced to pick up a knife and replicate the tragedy experienced by the extraordinary, kind and forgiving family of Michael Riddiough-Allen.

After all, when it comes to knives, it’s best to leave it in the drawer.