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The mother finding solace after her son's murder - by visiting prisons to talk to killers

Jan 15, 2014

from the article in the MailOnline:

There it was, tucked between the magazines on her coffee table: proof that her beloved son was going to get married. When Lyn Connolly found the engagement ring catalogue, she instantly knew what it meant.

That evening, ecstatic, she teasingly challenged 28-year-old Paul about it.

Paul, who had been dating teacher Izzy Harris for two years, coyly admitted their happy secret: he had asked her to marry him. They had designed a diamond ring together, which they had been waiting for the jeweller to finish before announcing the news.

But just weeks after her happy discovery in August 2002, Lyn's joy was cut short. Paul was stabbed to death on a street near their Liverpool home by two men high on drugs in a motiveless and unprovoked attack.

Lyn suddenly found herself planning a funeral instead of a wedding. Hers is a story that would touch the hardest of hearts.

'There is the story of what happened to Paul and the story of how we got through it,' she says. 'I rarely manage to get to the end without crying.'

All the more remarkable, then, that it is a story she has chosen to tell more than 70 times in front of some of the most violent convicted criminals in the country - and plans to continue to tell it, again and again.

For although her son's life ended in tragedy, committed Christian Lyn, 61 - who has a daughter Joanne, 41, and husband Mick, 63, a former church pastor - is determined that his legacy should be one of forgiveness.

Within hours of Paul's murder, she and Mick told reporters at a police press conference they chose to forgive his killers.

'The words just came out of my mouth,' says Lyn. 'It felt like a natural response.'

And for the past seven years, she has tested that instinct to its limits by visiting high- security prisons to meet lifers who have committed crimes just as awful as those of Paul's killers, in an attempt to help them understand the effect of their crimes on people like her.

'When I found out what had happened to Paul, I didn't know how I was going to get through the next ten minutes without him, let alone the rest of my life,' she says.

Though she agreed to take part in a victim awareness programme four years after Paul's death only as a one-off, the numerous visits she has made since have given her a new purpose in life.

'I walked into the prison that first time not knowing what to expect, but the response was incredible. I left thinking: “I have to go back.” '

The healing power of forgiveness is one that the Ministry Of Justice takes seriously: last month, it unveiled a restorative justice pilot scheme at crown courts in England and Wales.

Operated with Victim Support, it will bring together victims and offenders - face-to-face or through letters - in a bid to cut re-offending while helping families to move on.

While Paul's killers have never agreed to Lyn and Mick's request to meet them, she takes comfort from the fact that her story has prompted so many other murderers, rapists and violent criminals to show remorse.

'Although the men who killed Paul have never said sorry, these people have,' she says. 'I went in there to help them - actually, they have helped me.'

Read the full article.

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Marianne Asher-Chapman
Marianne Asher-Chapman says:
Jan 15, 2014 12:26 PM

I feel exactly the same way. Working with this program in Missouri has helped me so much in living after the disappearance/murder of my daughter 10 years ago. We have still never found her remains. Speaking at JCCC and Algoa here in Missouri has helped me so much. I hope I help them too. I so believe in this program.

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