Margaret Mizen tells MANDY PILZ how her son’s murder has spurred her into doing more to help young people
Entering the Mizen household, the first impression is one of busy homeliness. A smiling Jimmy Mizen looks out from a large, prominently displayed school photograph.
What is most striking, however, is Jimmy’s mother, Margaret, whose gracious demeanour belies the fact that 16-year-old Jimmy was violently murdered in 2008, just minutes from their home in Lee, South East London.
What should have been an everyday visit to a bakery turned into what 19-year-old perpetrator, Jake Fahri describes as “three minutes of madness” in which, after a verbal altercation, he hurled a glass dish at Jimmy, severing his carotid artery and jugular vein, causing him to bleed to death in the arms of his brother Tommy.
“I was at home at the time,” Margaret relates, “and I got a phone call from someone saying, ‘Get round the corner. Jimmy’s been attacked.’ It was all so quick, and even though the bakery’s just minutes from our house, none of us could get there in time.
“When I arrived there was such commotion outside the bakery, and seeing Jimmy in Tommy’s arms I almost fainted. We all knew he was dead but we didn’t want to believe it.
“Just the day before he’d had his 16th birthday and had been so excited about planning a trip to California. He’d been so happy.
“The day Jimmy was killed was the day that changed our lives. In a matter of minutes we’d gone from being an ordinary family to being the centre of attention.”
Remarkably, neither Margaret nor her husband Barry experienced any feelings of anger or revenge. “We learnt early on that it was anger that killed Jimmy and we don’t want it to destroy our family,” she explains.
“God wasn’t responsible for Jimmy’s death, but I think he was ready for Jimmy and took him in such a way that people had to take notice of what’s happening in our society.”
I ask what impact this had on the community. “Jimmy’s death affected a lot of people,” she says. “We went to church the next day and emerged from the service with Barry’s shoulder drenched with the tears of the parishioners.
“Jimmy’s death really brought this community together. People brought food to our home and offered to do the housework. It’s also earned Jimmy huge respect and that makes me so proud to be his mum.”
Margaret tells me she is determined not to hold anything against Jake’s family.
“I believe in restorative justice,” she says. “I haven’t been asked to meet Jake yet, and if I were I don’t know what I’d say.
“I always think if someone’s really sorry, who are we to judge? Often if you look at the backgrounds of prisoners there have been such dysfunctional relationships that you can see why they’ve ended up where they have. That’s not an excuse for murder, but I think as a society we’ve got a lot to answer for.”
In response to Jimmy’s death, Margaret and Barry helped to start up the City Safe Havens (CSH) in Lee, which is part of London Citizens. The shops in the Lee area are now ‘city safe havens’ which young people can run into if they feel threatened. CSH has also spread to other areas.
They also formed the Jimmy Mizen Foundation which aims to promote the good in young people. It consists of supporting local scouting groups through, for example, ‘Jimmy buses’ – minibuses, an Awareness Project and an apprenticeship scheme for young people.
To raise funds for this work they will soon be opening a coffee shop called the Café of Good Hope.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” enthuses Margaret. “It’s a dream come true and maybe means I can carry on doing my best for the young people of this world without worrying about the funding all the time.”
Reflecting on how her life has changed since Jimmy’s death she says: “Before this I’d have said I was just a mum. Now I’m working almost full-time!
“I say, thank you Lord, for giving me insight into what’s important. I just think I’m so lucky to have Jesus in my life. I know he’s there for me every step of the way.
“Now I want to keep Jimmy’s name and God’s name alive and help people to see that faith is something to be proud of.”
Find out more about The Jimmy Mizen Foundation at www.jimmymizen.org
Christian Publishing & Outreach, registered in England & Wales (Charity no 221462).
Company limited by guarantee No 588731. VAT no 860 219 341.
Registered office: CPO, Garcia Estate, Canterbury Road, Worthing BN13 1BW, UK