Photography by Brian Moody
16-year-old Jimmy Mizen was murdered in May 2008 when he and his older brother went into a bakery near their home in Lee, south east London. While inside, Jake – who had been cautioned by police several years earlier for harassing Jimmy’s older sibling – brushed past the brothers. A scuffle followed resulting in Jake hurling a glass dish at Jimmy and fatally wounding him. Jimmy’s parents, Barry and Margaret Mizen, hit national headlines when immediately after the attack they spoke of compassion rather than revenge. In March 2009 Jake received a life sentence for murder. The For Jimmy foundation was set up as a positive way of remembering Jimmy and works within the community.
It was a day after Jimmy’s 16th birthday when neighbours rang to say he had been attacked in the baker’s shop. I ran round the corner and saw this trail of glass and blood leading into a small room at the back of the shop, where I saw Jimmy lying in the arms of his brother Tommy, who said “go outside Mum, he’s going to be OK”. I did what Tommy said but in my heart I knew Jimmy was not going to be OK.
The rest of the day is a blur. Family and friends came rushing round. Everyone was in a state of shock because Jimmy was such a gentle lad, loved by so many people. The next morning we went to church as we always do on a Sunday, only this time everyone in the church was crying; our eight other children and a grandson accompanied us. When I came out of the church I was asked by all the press and media present how I felt, and I heard myself saying that I hoped the parents of Jimmy’s killer would be left alone as it wasn’t their fault. I said I didn’t feel anger because anger breeds anger, and that is what killed our son and could destroy our family too.
The days that followed were surreal – we didn’t understand what had happened or how to react. The house was full of people and the table stacked with food people brought over. There was this immense outpouring of grief but with it came a huge outpouring of love too. As terrible as this tragedy was, we felt blessed to have so much love in our lives. Love and prayer is what kept us going.
For me forgiveness is about not wanting revenge and not being angry. I’m not shouting from the roof top “I forgive” but by not wanting revenge I have an inner peace that a lot of people in our position don’t seem to have. Jimmy’s murder has done a lot of damage to this family and I can’t let it do any more.
Our role now is to reach young people before they end up in prison. I believe it is possible for anyone to change and that includes the person who killed our Jimmy.
My last memory of Jimmy is of the three of us standing by the cooker in our kitchen, on the evening of his birthday, having a hug and us telling Jimmy how much we loved him. That’s a very precious memory now.
On the day of Jimmy’s memorial, the week after he died, the Press were there again. I’d planned what I was going to say about the disintegration of society etc, but instead I found myself saying “Do we need more and more legislation, or do we need to ask ourselves about the kind of society we want to live in? Change has to come from each of us.”
For Margaret and myself our Faith is what has made our reaction perhaps different to what was expected. It is what gives us the strength to continue to speak about what happened and to try to bring something good out of something bad. I don’t think calling for ever tougher sentences is the answer, and the thought of capital punishment, even for the person who killed my son, fills me with horror. The only answer to violence in our society is a peaceful response; however there must also be a sense of justice.
The trial of our son’s killer was a very difficult time. It is distressing to hear outright lies about your child; and the way a defence will attempt to paint your loved one as something they were not is painful when all you can do is just sit there and listen. Although we didn’t have to be in court, it was important for me to hear every detail of Jimmy’s last moments, as a way of helping to deal with my pain. For us more important than any sentence was for the truth to be known and believed, and we were grateful therefore that before the life sentence was passed, the Judge said that Jake had completely lost control of his anger and as a result a blameless young man was killed. Jake has never shown any remorse, and as our victim impact statement was read out in court he said “I don’t want to listen to this shit”. Also the intimidating behaviour of some of Jake’s family in court was hard for our children to bear. However they kept their dignity and we are proud of them for that.
Since Jimmy’s death we have visited schools and prisons to share his story, and we hope it can help some people to understand that actions can have unexpected consequences. We have also been able to donate minibuses, called ‘Jimmybuses’, to local scout groups, and have formed a foundation in memory of his name.
We still miss Jimmy dearly, and never forget that it was a pleasure and a privilege to have been his parents.
To learn more about Margaret and Barry’s foundation, visit forjimmy.org.