A family is mourning an ‘amazing’ father of four who was stabbed to death after he interrupted his twin daughters’ birthday barbecue to give a homeless man leftovers.
James Gibbons, 34, a plumber known locally as Gibbo, was stabbed on an estate that locals call ‘Alcatraz’ in Laindon, Essex, at around 9.30pm on Sunday.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene in Iris Mews that afternoon, after youths riding scooters had spent the day drinking and screaming abuse at residents.
Mr Gibbons was trying to chase the teenage gang away from a homeless man they were harassing when he was attacked, a family friend told The Sun.
The friend said: ‘He had seen a man who was living on the streets earlier in the day, and he decided to take him some food, which shows what kind of guy he was.
Friends say that father-of-four James Gibbons, 34, was stabbed after trying to chase a violent teenage gang away from a homeless man he had offered barbecue leftovers to
Mr Gibbons, who was engaged to his partner of 11 years, was found with stab wounds and died at the scene despite efforts by paramedics.
The family had been celebrating his two-year-old twins’ birthday barbecue when ‘Gibbo’ intervened after a young gang were allegedly attacking a homeless man.
The close family friend continued: ‘This group of teenagers were attacking the man on the street and when James saw him he bravely stepped in.
‘He was then stabbed by the kids who had been attacking the other man. The family are devastated, James was incredible and their kids have lost their dad.’
Mr Gibbons’ family have described him as a loving father who would always look out for anyone less fortunate than himself.
His mother, Wendy, has returned to the UK from her Spanish home to support the family – six years after her 26-year-old son, Ashley, passed away after an epileptic fit.
In a statement, the family said: ‘James was an amazing father of four young children, engaged to his partner of 11 years, and was a loving and supportive son and brother.
‘James was a hard-working family-orientated man, who ran his own bathroom fitting company and was looking forward to a positive future for him and his family.’
They added: ‘This tragedy occurred after he had spent the day celebrating his two-year-old twin girls’ birthday at home and we are absolutely broken beyond belief at this pointless loss which has had a devastating effect on us all.
‘James was the kind of person who would always be prepared to help anyone less fortunate than himself, which is what he was doing on Sunday night.
‘As a family we are urging anyone to come forward with any information that may help the police as they investigate James’ death in the hope we can get justice.’
James Gibbons (pictured with his family), known locally as Gibbo, was stabbed on an estate that locals call ‘Alcatraz’ in Laindon, Essex, at around 9.30pm on Sunday
Police have since arrested three boys and two girls aged between 13 and 16 in connection with the killing.
Locals have been shocked by the stabbing and say a gang of youths had been roaming the estate and drinking in the lead up to the tragedy.
One man who did not want to be named said: ‘A man came out and told youths to be quiet and someone came out to back him up and he was the one who got killed.
‘I heard he was having a barbecue for his daughter’s birthday, it is awful.’
Mr Gibbons had proudly posted loving family photos on his Facebook page which feature his partner and four young children.
Flowers paying tribute to ‘Gibbo’ have been left outside a property where locals say the stabbing happened.
The emotional tributes state: ‘Gibbo, you really was one in a million. I can’t believe you are gone I will cherish the memories… you have been taken from us far too soon, but may you rest in eternal peace.
‘Love ya Gibbo.’
Another friend, Kerri Goss, sent her condolences via social media, writing: ‘I have never known a family to have a bond that even comes close to theirs.
‘That’s how I know you’ll get through this, forever looking out for each other, extending to friends that became family, never leaving one person not knowing how much they are loved and appreciated.
‘They lived life to the fullest each and every day. I feel blessed to have known their huge personalities, loved by the biggest hearts and felt the uniqueness they brought into the world.
‘My thoughts are with all of your family, everyone will forever hold you in their hearts and cherish the memories you graced us with, rest in eternal paradise.’
Kayleigh Bartholomew added: ‘In shock, a caring man till the end, that man a true gent. Sleep tight James Gibbons.
‘You’re with your baby bro again now as much as it kills me to write that.
‘Love you always thinking of your family forever in our hearts. Rest in perfect paradise boys.’
Police have since arrested three boys and two girls aged between 13 and 16 in connection with the killing
Mr Gibbons was found in Iris Mews with stab wounds and died at the scene despite efforts by paramedics
Pictured: Police at the scene in Iris Mews in Laindon, Essex
Another local Michaela Hales, 38, was left shocked by the killing. The mum of five said: ‘I can’t believe how young the kids are, we are thinking of moving out and renting privately now.
‘You don’t want this on your doorstep, I can’t live here now. The kids are 13 and 14 years old it is just shocking.’
Another neighbour said: ‘I’m just really sorry for the family.
‘He was very nice and the family are amazing. He was having a BBQ for his daughter’s birthday, it is just so sad.’
The killing unfolded on the estate which is known as Alcatraz, a famous American prison – due to its fortress-like appearance.
Speaking to BBC Essex, detective chief inspector Stephen Jennings said: ‘It’s early stages to piece together exactly what’s happened and why.
‘We believe the victim was coming to the aid of another man who was in the area and was attacked by one or more of the youths which appears to have cost him his life.
‘We’re really keen to hear from anyone that was in that area, may have seen something happen, or even just heard in the local area what could have taken place and who could have been involved.’
In a later statement he added: ‘It is a tragic loss of life and we are continuing to appeal for the public’s help.
‘We are really keen to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time and may have seen or heard anything happen in Iris Mews shortly before 9.30pm on Sunday.
‘We are also keen to hear from anyone who has seen any discarded weapons in the area.
Police have since arrested three boys and two girls in connection with the killing. Pictured: Police at the scene
The victim was found in Iris Mews with stab wounds and died at the scene despite efforts by paramedics. Pictured: Police at the scene
‘If anyone knows anything about this murder and has not yet come forward to speak to us, please do.
‘A family has been broken apart, and we need to get to the bottom of what happened.’
A resident of the estate, who didn’t want to be named, told the Echo: ‘It’s not safe.
‘I am not going out anymore, it’s not safe for the children anymore. Normally you hear a lot through the windows, but we didn’t even hear screaming.
‘A stabbing or crime is just normal down here. It used to be a lovely area.’
Another resident said: ‘It’s disgusting. You can’t walk around now without looking around and over both shoulders.’
Four teenagers were arrested on the night, with another picked up on Monday.
Two of the teenagers have since been released on bail until May 25 and May 28, a further child was released on bail overnight and two others remain in custody.