Not many lads who grow up in Burnage, Manchester, get to sit A-Levels at a top public school, or spend weekends hanging out with the Cheshire set.
But Yousef Makki was no ordinary young man.
The 17-year-old son of a Lebanese immigrant was a gifted student, and a hugely charismatic and popular figure among his peers, dozens of whom travelled to the spot where he fell to leave floral tributes yesterday.
It was academic brilliance which had apparently won Yousef a scholarship, aged 11, to Manchester Grammar, one of the UK’s most rigorous private schools.
There he became, in the words of one friend, a ‘double A-starred’ pupil who seemed to have the world at his feet.
Tragically, it was Yousef’s popularity which saw him invited to spend Saturday with a classmate in Hale Barns, a wealthy Cheshire village where, early that evening, he was stabbed to death on a tree-lined street.
He was killed on a tree-lined street in a wealthy area of Manchester on his way back home from a friend's house at about 6pm. He told his mother he would be home in time for tea
Paul Hughes, the former bodyguard of David Beckham, was first to the scene after Yousef was stabbed
Mr Hughes said: 'We laid Yousef on the road and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. We tried to do what we could for him, but it wasn’t enough. (The knife) must have gone straight though his heart or lungs'
Yousef was loved by many friends and it was Yousef’s popularity which saw him invited to spend Saturday with a classmate in Hale Barns, a wealthy Cheshire village where, early that evening, he was stabbed to death on a tree-lined street
A picture posted by Yousef to his Facebook page. The 17-year-old had hoped to be a surgeon when he grew up
Roughly ten miles from the terraced former council house where Yousef lived with his mother Deborah and 15-year-old brother, Hale Barns is in effect a world away.
Even average properties here change hands for £800,000, while mansions on the outskirts of the village can go for £5 million. The local supermarket is a branch of Booths, the so-called ‘Waitrose of the North’.
Drive through the village and you’ll see gated driveways filled with spotless super-cars.
Several properties are owned by famous footballers – including Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, and Paul Pogba from Yousef’s beloved Manchester United – while the likes of classical singer Russell Watson and former cricketer Andrew Flintoff live nearby.
Yousef was taken to hospital after the attack, but died soon afterwards. Police said there was no evidence the attack was linked to organised crime or gangs
The area where Yousef was stabbed was very wealthy, mansions on the outskirts of the village will sell for up to £5million
Figures show the number of children in England aged 16 and under being stabbed rose by 93% in the five years to 2018
That Britain’s knife crime epidemic, once a scourge of the inner cities, should have reached this suburban enclave will only increase fears of a growing crisis in law and order.
The fact the first person on the scene, before even the emergency services, was Paul Hughes – David Beckham’s former bodyguard who now runs a private security firm employed by homeowners who no longer trust the police to keep them safe from burglaries – tells its own troubling story.
Yousef, a clever and articulate young man who dreamed of one day becoming a heart surgeon, is believed to have travelled to Hale Barns on Friday at the invitation of a friend from Manchester Grammar who lives there.
Yousef, a clever and articulate young man who dreamed of one day becoming a heart surgeon, is believed to have travelled to Hale Barns on Friday at the invitation of a friend from Manchester Grammar who lives there
Tributes from friends and family had poured in. The message on the left reads: 'Makki, love you bro! Henri, Joe, Jacob xxx'
Police have arrested two teenage boys, both of whom live locally. They remained in custody last night
At about 6pm the following day, he was preparing to return home when he became involved in a heated altercation while walking along Gorse Bank Road, a quiet street of mostly large detached homes.
What exactly sparked the row remains unclear, but police have denied any explicit links to organised crime or gangs.
Yousef was stabbed some time before 6.30pm, when the first 999 call was made, and died that evening in a nearby hospital.
Police have arrested two teenage boys, both of whom live locally. They remained in custody last night.
Both suspects, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, hail from prosperous middle-class families, with parents who are highly successful businessmen
Mr Hughes yesterday recalled how he came upon three teenagers panicking. He said: ‘One turned around and his shirt was claret – he was covered in blood'
Both suspects, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, hail from prosperous middle-class families, with parents who are highly successful businessmen.
Mr Hughes yesterday recalled how he came upon three teenagers panicking. ‘One turned around and his shirt was claret – he was covered in blood,’ he said.
‘He had one stab wound to the chest. He was half lying in the road. At first, he was responding to what my security officer was saying. All of the lads were very distressed, panicky... The other two were on their phones and trying to ring his parents.
‘We laid Yousef on the road and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. We tried to do what we could for him, but it wasn’t enough. (The knife) must have gone straight though his heart or lungs.’
Yousef (pictured) was stabbed on Saturday in a quiet, tree-lined residential street in Hale Barns, a village known for its well-heeled residents
Pupils gather and lay tributes to Yousef outside Manchester Grammar School this morning, leaving flowers and pictures of the 17-year-old
Mr Hughes, who provided personal security for Beckham and his wife Victoria for 12 years, has also worked for singers Jess Glynne and Robbie Williams, actor Jude Law and boy-band Westlife.
He told how he later met Yousef’s devastated parents, who travelled to the murder scene.
‘They thanked us – because we were with their son at the end,’ he said.
‘The whole thing is so very shocking. Knife crime really needs to stop.’
A woman who lives opposite the crime scene said Yousef’s father was ‘in tears – just devastated’.
She added: ‘I got him a chair and a hot water bottle.’
Last night, detectives released a statement from Yousef’s parents, who described him as ‘a loving and caring son and brother who meant the world to his family’.
They added: ‘He was a sporty young man, a dedicated student and so bright. He had everything to look forward to. We are absolutely devastated and cannot believe that our son has gone. This senseless loss has affected the whole community.
‘Yousef had only phoned home hours earlier to say that he would be home for his tea, but the next knock at the door were officers with the tragic news. It is every parent’s worst nightmare.
‘Only recently we had talked about his promising life ahead of him and how he was looking forward to life. He was a promising student and loved by everyone.’
Yousef's parents said: 'Yousef had only phoned home hours earlier to say that he would be home for his tea, but the next knock at the door were officers with the tragic news. It is every parent’s worst nightmare'
Yousef's headmaster, Dr Martin Boulton, meanwhile, said: ‘It is impossible to make sense of such a senseless act, which has taken away a proud family’s son, a dear friend and a young man of such promise. There has been an outpouring of grief at school at this tragic loss'
His headmaster, Dr Martin Boulton, meanwhile, said: ‘It is impossible to make sense of such a senseless act, which has taken away a proud family’s son, a dear friend and a young man of such promise. There has been an outpouring of grief at school at this tragic loss.’
Yousef Makki was born in November 2001, the year his father Ghaleb, an immigrant from Beirut, married his English mother Deborah in Manchester.
At the time, Ghaleb was working as a chef in the deprived Cheetham Hill area of the city, a stone’s throw from Strangeways prison.
Deborah, a divorcee who had two daughters from a previous relationship, worked in sales.
The couple moved first to Fallowfield, a cheap but vibrant area popular with students, before settling in 2006 in Burnage, a gritty neighbourhood which is perhaps best known as the childhood home of Liam and Noel Gallagher.
By then, the couple had a second son, Mazen, who is now 15 and attends a local state high school. Ghaleb had changed careers and was also working in sales.
The family home was a modest mid-terraced housing association-owned property around the corner from a branch of Aldi.
Initially, they shared it with Mrs Makki’s elder daughter, Jade Akoum, 28, who is understood to be married to a relative of Ghaleb Makki.
A neighbour said both couples had lived at the Makki family home with their respective children, before the Akoums and their three children moved to a flat in Wythenshawe, South Manchester.
Money was tight, but the family could afford occasional summer holidays to northern seaside resorts, and were photographed at Blackpool Pleasure beach a few years ago.
In addition to her day job, Deborah volunteers for homeless charities, among other things handing out pizza to homeless people in her neighbourhood at Christmas time, along with boxes filled with clothes and snacks.
Described by friends as a salt-of-the-earth member of the working class, Deborah is said to take great pride in refusing to claim benefits.
She was overjoyed when Yousef won a place at Manchester Grammar, whose alumni include former England cricket captain Michael Atherton, actor Sir Ben Kingsley, BBC presenter Martin Sixsmith and a host of famous politicians and scientists.
Always smartly dressed and impeccably polite, Yousef’s only obvious brush with teenage rebellion came via a passing interest in rap and grime music. In 2013, he posted an image on his Facebook page of himself pointing a handgun at the camera. The cartoonish image shows his face superimposed on a hooded figure from a professional stock picture.
Many of the flowers left where he fell referred to the ‘The Lebanese Don’ a moniker seemingly inspired by his academic brilliance.
Now that brilliance has been snuffed out. That this tragedy unfolded several miles from the streets where he grew up, in one of Britain’s most prosperous commuter villages, suggests that nowhere, and no-one, is safe from this rising tide senseless violence.