One year on, family tell of ‘flower man’ killing agony

Tribute close to spot where popular florist was attacked

Friday, 27th May — By Charlotte Chambers

Tony Eastlake

‘Flower man of Islington’ Mr Eastlake with daughter Paige and niece Terri

THE heartbroken daughter of a florist known as “the flower man of Islington” has told how the pain of losing him has not lessened with time and that she “misses him more every day”.

Paige Eastlake will come together with family and friends on Sunday to pay tribute to her dad, Tony Eastlake, a year to the day since he was killed near his stall in Essex Road.

Mr Eastlake, who was 55, was born on Pickering Street, off Essex Road, and had worked on the stall by Essex Road Station since he was 14. From the age of 21 he lived with Ms Eastlake’s mother, Lisa Maggs, in Northampton Street, also off Essex Road, until they separated a year before his death.

The family plan to open his old stall from 12pm to 5pm and will donate all the proceeds from the day’s sales to the Ben Kinsella Trust, a charity that promotes an end to knife crime and was formed after the murder of the Islington schoolboy in 2008.

They will release balloons – blue in honour of Mr Eastlake’s love of Queen’s Park Rangers football club – at 5.30pm, roughly the time he was attacked at a spot near his stall.

Speaking exclusively to the Tribune, Ms Eastlake recalled how in the year since her father’s death she has been approached countless times and hugged by people from all over Islington as they shared in her grief.

Terri Maggs, Mr Eastlake’s niece, said: “A bus driver just bibbed us and said, ‘Not the flower man’. They waved to each other every day. Like he didn’t even know his name.”

Tony Eastlake during his younger days on the flower stall in Essex Road

A boy whose life was touched by Mr Eastlake still goes and sits by his stall waiting for the florist and has to be regularly reminded he won’t be coming back, Ms Eastlake said.

The people who work in Essex Road train station wrote on a tribute page how much they missed him, while a tribute from staff at Screen on The Green – who spelt out in lights “RIP Tony Eastlake” across the cinema frontage – made her “sob”.

So moved were people by his killing that around three GoFundMe pages were opened to help with funeral costs.

Ms Eastlake and her cousin said the outpouring from the community when he died showed how much he meant to people and how much he was a part of hundreds if not thousands of people’s daily routines.
She added: “I’m delighted and honoured to call him my dad.”

Both Ms Eastlake and Ms Maggs said it was nice to know that he was still thought about by people – and told how touched they are that people are aware it is the one-year anniversary of his death this weekend.

However, Ms Eastlake said on top of coming to terms with her father’s death, she also struggled with the impact it had left on her own life.

“It’s like being a death celebrity,” she said. “Because I’m now no longer Paige – I’m Paige whose dad was killed, and I find that hard. I do find that hard to be seen differently. But then people are… not awkward around death… but what do you say to someone?”

A special tribute from the Screen on The Green cinema following his death

However, she said knowing the impact he had on the community and the love people felt for him is “what gets me through” the difficult times. “The community is kind of broken now – he was that safe space [for many people] if you ever needed to come and talk.”

Ms Maggs said that while the family have dealt with his death in the way he would have wanted – through “humour and sarcasm” and throwing endless garden parties – it was still a bitter pill to swallow.

“And that’s when it hits you the hardest, because you think, I’ve done so well keeping it together,” she added, “[and then] there’s days where you’re like, ‘I just can’t do it’.”

Recalling what she missed about her father, Ms Eastlake played a treasured recording of his laugh that she keeps as a memento on her phone.

“I miss his sarcasm, his whole presence, really, and his laugh, definitely his laugh,” she said. “He didn’t care who you were or what background you come from. He still treated you all the same. He was a sarcastic c***, I’m not gonna lie. But that was just him and there wasn’t a nasty bone in his body.”

A virtual teetotaller and avid book reader who was a regular at Islington Central Library, Mr Eastlake shunned mobile phones and used to say if people needed to contact him, “they knew where he was” or they could ring the public phone booth next to his stall.

Mr Eastlake and his wife’s only child, Ms Eastlake says he called her his “oak tree” and told her he “lived for her”. He was living with her at the time of his death. “One of the hardest things to accept after his death is how time has passed and her life has moved on – without him,” she said.

“I look at how much of my life he’s missed already. I’ve got a new job, a new boyfriend.

“A lot’s gone on this year, I feel like I’ve been plodding along.”

Anyone who wishes to join the memorial is welcome, and the family have asked for any donations to be made to the Ben Kinsella Trust.

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