Page last updated at 18:08 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 19:08 UK

Bakery killing shocks community

By Alexis Akwagyiram
BBC News

Teenager Jimmy Mizen was fatally stabbed with broken glass in a baker's shop in Lee, south-east London.

BBC News spoke to locals as they come to grips with the aftermath of the 16-year-old's violent death.

Pupils at a shrine
Flowers and school ties adorn the shrine in Jimmy's honour

It should have been one of the most memorable days of their lives.

And it probably was - for all the wrong reasons.

Pupils at the St Thomas More RC Secondary spent their last day in school before leaving to sit their GCSE exams.

Instead of celebrating, the teenagers mourned the loss of a friend frequently described as a "gentle giant".

Following a Mass to honour Jimmy Mizen, which was held at the school, large groups of teenagers - many visibly distressed - descended on a makeshift shrine where dozens of flowers lay.

Ashleigh Walsh, head girl at the school, was among the pupils who arrived at the shrine, next to the bakery where he died.

The police tape and a smashed door window, where forensic workers could occasionally be spotted, provided the only indication of the violent killing which took place just days before.

'Friends with everyone'

The school shirt Ashleigh clutched was covered in words penned in different inks by various hands.

Holding it up, she explained that it bore tributes to a "lovely" friend.

"He was such a nice person - so kind," said the 16-year-old.

"When I heard what happened I thought it was a joke."

Ashleigh said that, prior to hearing about the death of her friend, she had planned to get a shirt signed by her schoolmates.

But such thoughts had now fallen by the wayside.

"RIP. You will never be forgotten. All my love," read one of the messages on the shirt.

"Jimmy - love you + miss you," read another.

Fellow pupil Conor Ferguson said Jimmy was "one of those people who was friends with everyone".

Ashleigh Walsh and friends
Ashleigh Walsh and her friends left a signed shirt as a tribute

"He'll be missed in a big way," added the teenager solemnly.

The group of pupils added their tribute shirt to the dozens of others under the gaze of television cameras, reporters holding microphones and others clutching their notebooks while talking into their mobile phones or jotting notes.

School ties were fastened to railings, as were balloons, while a plethora of multicoloured flowers nestled on the floor.

Most of the floral tributes bore cards with messages dedicated to the teenager, while pictures of Jesus and crucifixes highlighted the religious background of the youngsters, who attend a Roman Catholic school.

The Christian ethos of forgiveness has been the defining feature of the response to the killing by the teenager's family.

Indeed the stance was typified by the boy's mother, Margaret Mizen, 55, who said she had no anger towards his murderer but felt sorry for the killer's family.

Two families

This sentiment was echoed by family friend Richard Cross, who said there were two families to consider in the tragedy.

"It's not just Jimmy's family," said the 50-year-old undertaker.

"One family will never see their son again and the other will be visiting a youngster in prison, where he'll become a man."

Jimmy is the 13th teenager to have been fatally attacked in London since the start of the year.

Addressing the spate of violence among the city's youngsters, Mr Cross said it was time aggressive young people "started thinking".

Richard Cross
Richard Cross said two families had been affected by the killing

"He [the killer] just took a young boy's life who had everything to live for.

"A mother should never have to bury her child."

On a sunny spring day, with its tree-lined streets, Lee appears to be a peaceful London suburb.

And, according to locals shocked by a fatal burst of violence, it is usually a tranquil area.

Robert Talbot, who runs a door shop just yards from where Jimmy died and has lived in Hither Green for 25 years, called it "a good little community".

"There's never any trouble around here - it's very friendly," he said, adding that he, along with other local shopkeepers, had laid flowers.

Mr Talbot recalled speaking briefly to Jimmy's brother, who held the teenager as he died, after the attack.

The shopkeeper said the boy's sibling had been "dazed" while police cordoned off the bakery.

"One minute he [Jimmy] was talking to him; the next minute he was dead. He [Jimmy's brother] was shocked, understandably," said the shopkeeper.

Expressing sadness and disappointment at the youngster's death, he said it was part of a wider problem.

"There's too much violence in general at the moment," he said, adding that he would like to see more CCTV cameras outside shops.

Angela Stevens
It could've been any of our kids - that boy was in the wrong place at the wrong time
Angela Stevens
Shopkeeper

Meanwhile, Angela Stevens said "what you see is what you get - it's calm," in an attempt to describe Lee, where she lived for 15 years before moving to Halling, in Kent.

Ms Stevens, who owns a pet shop near the shop where Jimmy died, said crime was rare, although the bakery had been robbed on a number of occasions over the years.

She was standing outside her shop, talking to a friend, when she saw the killer flee the bakery on Saturday afternoon.

Ms Stevens, 39, said she "assumed he had snatched money and run away".

She only realised it was far more serious when the police arrived minutes after.

"Everyone wants the kid who did this to be caught. The boy killed came from one of the most decent families around here - he wasn't a street kid. He didn't hang around with other boys," said the pet shop owner.

Shaking her head, she alluded to the seemingly random nature of the attack which claimed the well-liked teenager's life.

"It could've been any of our kids. That boy was in the wrong place at the wrong time."




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