Former Sheffield student discusses life after her brothers murder in new documentary

A former Sheffield Hallam University student has discussed life after her brothers murder in a new BBC documentary.

By Alana Roberts
Friday, 03 May, 2019, 11:28
Former Sheffield Hallam student Chanell Wallace (Picture: Kirin Sall)

Chanell Wallace was just 11-years-old when her brother Daniel Williams, then aged 20, was fatally stabbed in the heart just metres from his front door in Nottingham in March 2006.

His murderer Cornelius Messam, 24, had been lying in wait for Daniel – who was walking home from a takeaway with a friend at the time.

Daniel Williams was fatally stabbed in 2006

He was given a life sentence following a trial in March 2007, but his parole process is set to begin soon. 

After volunteering to write a victim impact statement on behalf of her family, Chanell is followed by BBC cameras as she tries to find out details about her brother's murder that were kept from her when she was just a schoolgirl. 

Chanell, now 24, had been studying a master’s in investigative journalism when she won the opportunity to film the documentary, Life After My Brother’s Murder, at Sheffield Doc Fest.

Chanell volunteered to write the victim impact statement on behalf of her family (Picture: Kirin Sall)

She said: “I’d always wanted to tell my story but felt like I needed a platform to do so. At that point is where I plucked up the courage to enter the competition.

“I always knew that Daniel’s legacy could do so much and I constantly saw knife crime,” she added. “Whether it was one story or 10. That was one story too many and I wanted to stop it. 

“I wanted to look deeper into that and the reasons why knife crime is happening and tell my story to show society the affects years after these crimes happen.

“The knife epidemic began to grow and this gave me the push to keep researching, keep investigating, keep fighting to stop the epidemic and help people.

“But the morning of the pitch something encouraged me and even the notes I wrote down I dismissed and pitched my idea at the BBC Northern Docs Pitch and everything I said came from the heart.”

‘There's things I remember and things I don't really remember,' Chanell explains as the documentary begins.

Speaking of that time 13 years ago, she said: “The moment I found out I was actually sleeping, and my mum came to wake me up and told me, from that moment I was in a deep nightmare that I wouldn’t wake up from.

“I was taken out of bed and went to my sister’s house where I didn’t sleep for the whole night, I was actually quite adamant about going to school and keeping that sense of normality.

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“Daniel died on the Thursday night and I went back to school on the Monday. When I arrived, no-one knew what had happened unless they were from my area, so walking in that day seemed normal.

“That was until my form tutor saw me and asked me why I wasn’t in on the Friday, to which I responded, ‘My brother was stabbed.’ Her face dropped, and she responded saying “is he OK?” Then I responded saying “No he’s dead.” With no emotion at all.

“Now looking back, I think I was in shock for quite a long time, even when I said that I don’t remember crying. I felt quite alone, not knowing whether to cry, laugh or scream, I just felt that I had to be mute.

“Now 13 years later I realise the extent of how it has affected me, going through that trauma as a child definitely affected my growth and challenged me whilst I grew into a woman.”

As part of her journey viewers watch Chanell make contact with Nick Holmes, the lead detective on the case at the time.

Mr Holmes explains details about the relationship between Daniel and his attacker including a previous altercation and an instance where he had been robbed by Messam at knife point. 

The former detective admits that Daniel had been involved in some ‘low level stuff’ – with Chanell saying she knows her brother ‘dealt some weed’ – but that Messam was a ‘different character’ entirely, having previously been seen with a firearm according to a witness.

Chanell explained that since her brother’s murder she has always lived with a feeling of needing to ‘fix' what is broken.  

She added: “Now that I have done the documentary it actually feels how it felt the night I found out that Daniel died, like it’s not really happening,

“I actually have to keep telling myself it is and that I ‘did it’. I have constantly had this mentality that I need to fix what is broken, and even after doing the documentary I thought I’d automatically feel like I fixed it.

“However, I now realise I wasn’t fixing what was broken I was overcoming what had happened and with that I felt that I was no longer weak, fragile and alone but I was strong and liberated.”

Having handed in the victim impact statement, Chanell and her family are now waiting to find out a date for the parole hearing.