Forgiveness and the Jimmy Mizen Foundation

The Mizen Family

Barry and Margaret Mizen recall the murder of their son Jimmy, and convey their determination that good things must come out of his death. “Our son Jimmy was 16 on May 9 2008. He celebrated in the evening with a friend who shared the same birth date. He spent the evening with his many friends and really enjoyed himself. Prior to leaving for the evening, he had a three-way cuddle with both of us; he looked so smart and we told him how much we loved him and how very proud we were of him. He also told us how much he loved us“.

That was the last contact Barry Mizen had with his son, and it is a precious memory. The following morning, Jimmy was given the day off from his job where he worked with his dad in their shoe repair shop as a treat for his birthday; by the time he got up, his dad had already left.

Jimmy spent the morning in a local café with his brother Tommy and a friend. On returning home, he sat on the sofa with Margaret and asked her about doing the lottery, as he was now 16 and legally able to play. They were having a laugh and Margaret remembers the time with love, although after he died the sofa was thrown out as it was too painful for her to look at.

He went with his brother Harry round the corner from home to buy the ticket, and then the two of them went into a local bakers, as Harry wanted to buy a sausage roll.

In there was a local 19-year-old man, who wanted to get where the brothers were standing,” Barry said. “He told them to ‘get out of the ******* way’. Jimmy replied that some manners wouldn’t go amiss. This riled the man, who then challenged Jimmy to a fight outside the shop and he went out to wait for Jimmy, who did not want to fight, so stayed in the shop. The man came back and started jabbing a car key towards Jimmy’s face; Jimmy still didn’t want to fight. This made the man even angrier. He picked up two plastic drink bottles and started hitting both our sons over the head with them.

Jimmy and Harry tried to force the man out of the shop and they closed the glass doors on him and held them shut. By now the man was in a complete rage – he had ‘gone berserk’ as one of the many witnesses said. He picked up the bakers’ shop sign and used it to smash the glass on one of the doors which made the two brothers back away”.

The man then charged Jimmy further into the shop and around the back of the hot food counter. He threw the sign at Jimmy. As the youngster put his hands forward, to protect himself from the sign, the man picked up a glass oven dish and threw it from less than a metre away at Jimmy’s head. It was thrown with such force it shattered on Jimmy’s chin. A large piece cut into his neck and severed his carotid artery, partly severed his jugular vein and lodged into his backbone.

Jimmy’s neck immediately gushed blood and he staggered into the back of the shop, shutting himself in a cupboard to escape his attacker who had by now left the shop. He was running up the road with ‘a grin on his face’, as another witness recalled.

Tommy, who had been summoned by Harry during the initial confrontation, now arrived at the shop and followed the trail of blood to the cupboard. He tried to open the door but Jimmy was holding it from the inside. He eventually forced it open and was confronted by his very frightened looking brother. When Jimmy realised it was Tommy, a look of relief came over him and he collapsed into his brother’s arms.

Tommy tried desperately to stem the flow of blood but he couldn’t and Jimmy died in his arms,” Barry said. “We were told later that the injury was so severe that nothing could have saved him.”

The couple said that it would have taken a book to record all that had happened in detail, but what seemed to attract so much attention was their response to their son’s death.

The following morning, we went as usual to the 9am Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, although this time we had the whole family with us. The congregation was in shock and disbelief, and there were tears from everyone,” Margaret said. “We have been parishioners for many years, and are fully involved in the life of the parish as Eucharistic ministers and readers, and also being part of prayer groups and parish support groups. Jimmy himself was a former altar boy. What we weren’t prepared for was the press waiting outside after Mass; they were surprised at our response as it was at odds to what they had expected. We spoke about the kind of boy Jimmy was, about his kindness, decency and sociabilty.

Jimmy Mizen by the Thames, LondonThrough all of what has, and is, happening, our faith is the only thing that can make any sense of the death of our dear Jimmy, the second youngest of our nine children. We didn’t feel any anger towards the killer, and people assumed this lack of anger, this lack of wanting revenge, was forgiveness. Perhaps it is. Neither of us has, in any way, wanted to do to the killer what he did to our son. We hear the word forgiveness often and had never really contemplated what it meant, but since Jimmy’s death, and through the many hours of thinking and reflecting, we can put it no better than to say ‘it is not wanting revenge or any kind of vendetta’. Almost perversely, we have a great need to bring something good and positive out of Jimmy’s death.”

In the immediate months after Jimmy died, the couple said they ‘prayed and prayed’ at all times of day and night. “Many times we are both awake in the middle of the night and we pray together,” Margaret added. “We have such a need of our faith, and at no time have we felt compelled to blame God and turn away.

During the months after his death, every daily reading, every reading at Mass sounded as though it was especially written just for what had happened to Jimmy. We thank God for that. At no time have we felt abandoned. We have such a sense of Jimmy being near, and also of Jimmy being with Jesus. We experience this closeness even more as we receive Jesus in the Eucharist. When it is particularly painful, we pray to Our Lady for her intercession. Usually by saying three Hail Marys, this brings an immediate sense of calm.

We want to see good come out of what has happened, and this will be our focus from now on. We have spoken about our experience in a few schools, a ladies prison and also at a couple of Christian conferences. If it is a Christian school, we speak openly of our faith – if not, we speak of faith generally, but emphasise that we believe with all our heart that this world is not all there is.”

Just after Jimmy died, the couple were given around £100 from some student friends of their son Harry who had decided to have a collection for them. “As our local scouts were in the process of fundraising for a minibus, we gave it to them,” Barry said. “As more money was given, we thought ‘let’s make this into a gift from Jimmy’. So we actively promoted what we were trying to do in Jimmy’s memory and said we wanted the bus to be called ‘Jimmybus’.”

Such was the response after various newspaper and magazine articles, and especially from the Catholic community, that the couple have bought not one, but two ‘Jimmybuses’ and are now collecting for the third one.

Jimmy had also been promised an apprenticeship after being the first person to go on work experience with a property maintenance company for a local authority. After he died, the company created two apprenticeships in Jimmy’s memory as he had shown them, in their own words, ‘the potential of youth’. “Two young men are now halfway through their training, and we are looking to expand this for other young people,” Barry said. “We have set up the Jimmy Mizen Foundation and have located an empty shop and are now seeking funding to make the shop useable. We are determined that what happened to our dear son will not, with God’s grace, beat us. It will not break our marriage, as so often happens, or our family. We found some of Jimmy’s year 11 RE coursework on the subject of ‘Justice, forgiveness and reconciliation’. In his own words ‘the teachings are very hard to follow, and we can only do this with Jesus’ help’.”

We are determined that what happened to our dear son will not, with God’s grace, beat us

For more information on the Jimmy Mizen Foundation please click here

Photo 1: The Mizen family. [Photo credit: Barry and Margaret Mizen]

Photo 2: Jimmy Mizen by the Seaside. [Photo credit: Barry and Margaret Mizen]