Mum speaks out a year after son Jon-Jo’s murder on Preston street

Jon-Jo Highton with mum Tracey

Jon-Jo Highton with mum Tracey

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One year ago today, teenager Jon-Jo Highton was turning a corner in his life.

The 18-year-old had just started a job, and was a loving dad to young son Taylor.

But 12 months ago tomorrow, Jon-Jo was murdered in a vicious street attack.

His mum Tracey has relived the memories of the night her life was turned upside-down, and the first year without her youngest son.

“He was a mummy’s boy, he would have lived with me forever”, said the 42-year-old.

“It’s just not right.

“Taylor likes motorbikes and he said ‘when I get older I’m going to buy a motorbike and ride to heaven to see my daddy’.

“The other day he said ‘can my daddy take me to the park’, and he kisses his picture.

“When I hear those things it just breaks my heart over and over again.”

On August 23, Jon-Jo was murdered in the brutal attack in St Stephen’s Road as he walked home from the pub.

His dad, Joe, banged on Tracey’s door telling her they needed to get to hospital.

The pair paced the floors of the waiting room in Royal Preston Hospital, waiting for an ambulance to bring Jon-Jo.

But no ambulance arrived, as paramedics worked on him in the street.

The teenager was unable to be saved, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tracey said: “I didn’t know anything, I was just hoping he was in an ambulance and they were saving him.”

Jon-Jo had suffered horrific injuries in a machete attack the previous year, and he had vowed to turn his life around.

Tracey said: “A detective came and took me into a room – the same room where it happened last time.

“I said will you just tell me if he’s all right, and he said ‘I don’t know’.

Eventually, Tracey was given the devastating news.

“I just collapsed”, she said.

She and her eldest son, Byron, drove to the scene where Jon-Jo had been killed.

She said: “It was all cordoned off and he was in the ambulance.

“Byron just waved and said ‘night Jon-Jo’.”

Tracey said her son’s death had left family and friends “distraught”.

She and Joe sat through almost every day of the trial into Jon-Jo’s killing but she said she now felt empty.

She said: “To me it’s like yesterday. I feel like everyone seems to be getting on with their lives and coping, which I don’t begrudge because life goes on, but I just can’t understand why mine can’t.

“I feel stuck, I feel lost, I feel empty, I just feel like I’m existing, not living, and I just don’t know when it’s going to stop.” Tracey said the trial, although harrowing to sit through, gave her “something to get up for”. She said: “The whole time the trial was going on, as horrible as it was, it was something to get up for and I was hearing his name every day.

“To me, he was still alive in a weird way.

“In a weird way the trial kept me going.”

Tracey is now trying to come to terms with life without Jon-Jo.

One of the men serving a prison sentence for the teen’s murder is Owen Whitesmith, 19, who was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum of 27 years to serve.

Tracey said Whitesmith had been a friend of Jon-Jo when the pair were younger, and had even stayed in her home.

She said she had even found a picture of him when she was given Jon-Jo’s phone from the police.

She said: “I don’t really think about it – it makes me sick.”

Friends and family of Jon-Jo will gather on Sunday at Preston cemetery to release balloons in his memory, before having a meal and then lighting a candle in the street where he was killed.

Tracey said: “It’s not a celebration of his death, it’s a celebration of the most amazing 18 years that he gave us.

“When I get back to work, I’m going to do a knife-crime charity event, because it’s getting worse and I don’t think people are learning from it.

“I think there needs to be stronger punishments for people who carry knives in the beginning.

“And I want to do a fundraiser especially for victim support.”