I found out my son had been killed on Facebook.
Those two words would plunge Crystal's world into darkness. Lance had been fatally stabbed.
The emotional wounds of their last moments together are still fresh.
"Mom, don't worry about me. We are all friends here." Lance uttered those final few words as he left his mom's car in Chelmsley Wood last November.
Hours later Lance, who had been out celebrating his upcoming birthday, was left to die on the street. Crystal, who has battled muscle-wasting disease and breast cancer, admits her toughest battle is against grief.
The 53-year-old said: "Lance used to phone me at least three times a day. He was my youngest son, but he was also my best friend.
"Even now it does not seem real and I spend a lot of time trying to block things out."
Reliving the painful memories of the weekend of his death the mother-of-three said: "On the night before he was killed we had sat up until the early hours chatting.
"We had ordered in a Chinese takeaway, we talked about his birthday plans and he stayed over and made breakfast the next morning.
"On the evening I dropped him back to Chelmsley Wood and he asked me how he could help me.
"I had been very ill and he wanted to know what he could do to help. I said the only thing I wanted was for him to stay safe.
"As he was getting out of the car the last thing he said to me was that I didn't need to worry because he was with friends.
"Lance was not a thug. He was not in a gang and did not carry weapons. He was a fun person to be around, he was popular, he was always laughing and he worked hard.
"He used to catch three buses each way for his job as a road safety worker in Erdington. It's just still so difficult to accept that he has gone."
Crystal has been told that Lance's killer, who was jailed in May for manslaughter, could be eligible for release in 2017.
Carlton Pollock, a man who "habitually" carried a blade "for his own protection", was jailed for ten years at Birmingham Crown Court.
Lance was attacked by Pollock outside a shopping parade on Craig Church where he'd gone to meet a friend to discuss a row that had broken out at a party. But Pollock turned up and stabbed Lance in a "moment of anger".
Crystal said: "He was killed by a coward who was carrying a knife and that same person had been carrying a knife at a children's party earlier in the day.
"You saw him lunge forward on CCTV and it was over in just 23 seconds.
"Lance did not deserve to die like that and to be left in the street.
"I still don't know why he was killed, or why he did not call for help.
"He did not even knock a door and that is one of the toughest things to deal with."
"I also never got the chance to say goodbye properly. I could not touch him and was only allowed to look at him through glass because it was a murder investigation."
Pictures of Lance adorn the one wall of Crystal's Warwickshire home, but she positions her chair away from the photographs to help her cope.
After Lance's funeral his friends handed her a disk of pictures in an envelope, which she opened for the first time while we were present.
"I still have his number in my phone memory. There have been times in the last 12 months when I have tried to call," admits Crystal who still has Lance's ashes and his unopened 2012 Christmas presents beside her bed.
"I have not been able to talk to my family about losing Lance. These are the consequences of knife crime that people do not see."
Speaking about some of her lowest moments Crystal, who worked at the Pavillions shopping centre food court before falling ill, said: "I have wanted to die. I have not taken my medication and not kept my hospital appointments.
"There have been days when I have just not got up from bed and days when I have not wanted to go on.
"My family have really supported me, particularly my sister. But when he killed Lance he killed the family, too.
"Some days are good and others are really bad. I don't think this will ever get any easier for me."
Jailing Pollock in May for ten years, Judge William Davis QC said he accepted his "deep shame and remorse" for killing his friend.
But the judge told him: "I am satisfied that, immediately before you used the knife, you deliberately took it out in a moment of anger and thrust it forward."
Speaking about the manslaughter conviction, Crystal said: "The police were so good to me and they worked so hard on the case.
"But I feel so let down with the verdict. He could be released in 2017 and I will have to live with this for the rest of my life.
"The reason I have got involved in the knife crime awareness event is because I want to get the message across to young people about what the consequences of carrying a knife are.
"Things need to change. Young people need to stop carrying knives.
"If they take them out they are going to use them."
Lance Gregory was stabbed to death on a night out celebrating his birthday, something his mum Crystal Murray will never get over
The scene in Craig Croft where Lance was stabbed
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|Publication:||Birmingham Mail (England)|
|Date:||Nov 14, 2013|
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