10 years on: Remembering schoolboy Jimmy Mizen and the safer London legacy his death inspired

Inside the Good Hope Café in Ladywell Fields, set up in honour of murdered schoolboy Jimmy Mizen

Inside the Good Hope Café in Ladywell Fields, set up in honour of murdered schoolboy Jimmy Mizen, Pic: Callum Haslehurst-Mackenzie

Outside the Good Hope Café in Ladywell Fields, Lewisham, the sun beats down as barefoot locals lie on the grass and smile.

Through the speakers, Bon Jovi’s ‘Shot Through the Heart’ plays: an inappropriate, yet oddly fitting soundtrack for the day.

Exactly 10 years ago, a little way down the road, schoolboy Jimmy Mizen died from loss of blood, when a plate thrown by 19-year-old Jake Fahri, shattered on his chin and severed arteries in his neck. Jimmy had tried to stand up to threats made against him and his brother. It was the day after his 16th birthday.

Today he is remembered not just here, in the Ladywell café founded in his honour, but in a memorial service at St George’s Cathedral, and in the hearts of a community that Jimmy’s family have tried for a decade to educate with his story.

Shortly after his death, Jimmy’s parents Barry and Margaret Mizen set up ‘For Jimmy’, a charity working to honour the death of their son by educating young people on the devastating reality of violent crime. Through this work, the couple hopes to be among the last South London parents to outlive their child.

“We go into schools and talk to years Four, Five and Six, sharing Jimmy’s story,” says Margaret. “It’s a hard story to hear but if you share it in the right way, it doesn’t frighten them. I believe what they do is take it. They take this whole message of change, this whole message of peace, on to their secondary schools, and can become less violent people because of it.”

After telling their story, Barry and Margaret ask young people how they can make their streets feel safer and help prevent another lost future like Jimmy’s. This dialogue has led to the creation of the ‘CitySafeHaven’ scheme; which encourages businesses to give refuge to young people feeling threatened on the street.

When a frightened young person enters a shop displaying the Safe Haven logo, the owner will close the door, phone for help and shelter the youth until they feel safe enough to leave. According to Margaret, Safe Havens aim to be “sanctuaries of peace” away from the “sometimes terrifying streets”.

Looking at the near-idyllic scene surrounding the Good Hope café, in Ladywell’s largest park, it is unsurprising when you notice a Safe Haven sticker in the window.

Standing next to the sign, which stands as a promise by the proprietor to their community, 19-year-old customer Will thinks it changes a lot. “More than giving you somewhere to be that’s safe, it changes how you feel about the people running the shops.

“I think it really improves the relationship when you know people there actually want to help you.”

Businesses involved in the Safe Haven scheme promise to give refuge to young people who feel threatened on the street

Businesses involved in the Safe Haven scheme promise to give refuge to young people who feel threatened on the street, Pic: Callum Haslehurst-Mackenzie

Beyond educating the community about their own story, part of what Barry, Margaret and ‘For Jimmy’ hope to achieve, is to change society’s perception of Jake Fahri.

When Jimmy’s death first made national headlines in 2008, one of the most repeated statements was how different he was to his killer: Jimmy Mizen, ‘the big friendly giant’ the apparent opposite of excluded school-bully Jake Fahri, dubbed a ‘wannabe gangster thug’ by The Times.

But both these boys came from the same, suburban neighbourhood. Even today, a decade on, Fahri’s family home is less than 500 yards from where the Mizens live.

What Barry and Margaret try and show, is how given the right, toxic environment, a killer can come from anywhere.

In her book, A Legacy of Peace, Margaret told the story of how her family coped with Jimmy’s death. At one point, she recounts a time when she and Barry went to speak at a prison. Afterwards, a chaplain asked Margaret whether, when in a room of convicted murderers, she saw 100 people like the boy who killed her son. She replied: “No, I saw 100 people who could have been my son under different circumstances”.

In the same peaceful manner that helped them make national headlines one decade ago, Barry and Margaret want to make their community believe that empathy, not vengeance, is the answer to stopping young men like Jake Fahri.

“Ever harsher punishment will not change what is going on here,” says Barry. “Threaten all you want, it won’t change people. I think the idea of lecturing young people about their behaviour will not work either. Our work is about trying to bring young people along with us, but also the community itself.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Barry said: “There has to be a reason for the violence in some young people, for the criminal behaviour – and that’s what we must work on.”

Jimmy Mizen was murdered a decade ago on May 10, 2008, a day after his sixteenth birthday

Jimmy Mizen was murdered a decade ago on May 10, 2008, a day after his 16th birthday, Pic: Millwall FC

Most recently, Barry and Margaret have been spreading this message through sponsored walks, hosting at least one a year since 2013. This year, the couple are hosting three, across a number of London bridges, and all taking place on May 26, commemorating what would have been Jimmy’s 26th year.

At £20 for adults and £10 for children, all money raised by the walks will go straight to ‘For Jimmy’. “Together,” says Barry, “we can give Jimmy’s death meaning.”

To register a place on ‘Walking For Jimmy’ on May 26, click here, or to donate to ‘For Jimmy’ click here.

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