She imagined he would be a monster. But when she sat face-to-face with her son’s killer, all Grace Idowu saw was a sobbing little boy.
Most parents would never want to take a second look at the person who took their precious child away from them.
But Grace, 52, made the bold decision to go and visit Elijah Dayoni in prison after he brutally knifed her 14-year-old son David to death.
And today she insists she has totally forgiven Dayoni for what he did… and wants to help him become a better person.
She says that, rather than being met by a cold, calculated killer, Dayoni, 16 at the time, was full of remorse and desperate to make amends for his heinous crime.
“I needed to find out the truth,” says Grace. “He destroyed my family and I needed to know why.”
Dayoni stabbed star student David through the heart after a petty argument at a basketball court in Southwark, South London in June 2008.
more after the jump
caught on CCTV laughing and smiling as he fled. When caught two days later he was still wearing a white top with David’s blood on it. David, a devout Christian who wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, died three weeks later.
Dayoni was sentenced to a minimum 12 years and supermarket worker Grace recently travelled to Bristol to see him in the prison chapel.
“He was very emotional and upset, crying,” she says. “I could tell instantly he regretted doing what he did, and not just because he was in prison. I asked him if he knew David and he said he didn’t.
“So I asked him why he had done what he had done.
“He said he was out with a group of friends from his school. One recognised David as being from a rival school. He said that was why he did it. He had fallen in with the wrong people and asked me to forgive him.
“For me forgiveness is part of my faith and is unconditional. It wasn’t really difficult for me.
“David would have turned 19 this year, doing his A-levels, planning to go to university. We miss him every second of every day.
“I know he is watching over us. I want me and Elijah to work together to help him change in the future. But I want our meeting to settle in before I speak to him again.”
Grace requested the visit as part of the Restorative Justice programme which tries to teach offenders the error of their ways.
She said, “The police believed it would help Elijah learn the effect his actions have had on me and my family.”
She spoke out as she joined two other families, surgeons and police to help launch a campaign in schools to beat knife crime. Grace stood with Barry Mizen and Shakira Olumegbon, whose sons were also stabbed to death by youths (see below). Knife crime has spiralled out of control in Britain with 5,000 people treated for stab wounds in hospital every year. .
Barry Mizen and wife Margaret became passionate campaigners after son Jimmy was stabbed the day after his 16th birthday. Jake Fahri, 19, threw a glass tray at Jimmy that severed his jugular vein in Lee, South London in 2008. He got a minimum 14 years.
Barry, 60, a shoe mender, said, “Too much attention is focused on retribution for a crime. In the case of Jimmy’s attacker, everyone is keen to know he is going to spend 20 years behind bars. If there had been so much interest concentrated on him in his first 20 years, I believe my son might still be alive today.
“In Jimmy’s short life, he was loved and cared for. I don’t think his attacker, or all those like him, knew anything so precious.”
The family of Zac Olumegbon, 15, stabbed in front of his school in 2010, say pupils face a daily battle to avoid being knifed in some areas. Brother Debo, 26, said: “It simply should not be happening.”