Parents to murdered Sutton teen Chris Donovan forgive their son's killers
The parents of a murdered teenager say meeting and forgiving their son's killers has set them free.
Chris Donovan was just 18 when was killed by two teenagers and a 21-year-old in May 2001. The attackers were jailed but have now been released.
But, far from being angry, Chris's parents Ray and Vi, met all three of the killers after each left prison to tell them they have forgiven them and to talk about how they have rebuilt their lives.
Mr and Mrs Donovan, of Clyde Road in Sutton, met the first and second killers last year and the third and final offender earlier this month.
Mr Donovan said: "Before the first meeting we were nervous we waited in this room and the door handle turned. I went over to the door and held out my arms and we hugged.
"He said he was a 15-your old coward and that he'd killed our son. He said the first thing he did when he came out of prison wasn't that he went for a pint, he went to put flowers on Chris's grave.
"The second one walked into the room and a held out my arms and he just ran to hug me. He grabbed me and squeezed me and cried on my shoulder - this went on for about 15 minutes. If anyone had told me when Chris died that I would one day hug his killer I'd probably have decked them.
"The third one was similar. We hugged and talked."
Mrs Donovan added: "Now that we've seen all three it feels good. We've had our chance to forgive them and now I feel free.
"It's been very emotional but I think it's a good emotion."
The meetings were arranged as part of restorative justice, where criminals address their victims as part of their punishment, and the sessions were facilitated by mediators Calm - but it was Mr and Mrs Donovan who pushed for the meetings to happen. Mr Donovan even wrote to the authorities to back the third killer's bid for parole.
Chris was killed as he, his brother Phil and a friend walked home from a night out.
Stephen Andrews, 21 at the time, Ryan Seymore, 17, and a 16-year-old set upon them. Chris was left unconscous in the road where he was also hit by a passing car.
The killers were sentenced to life in prison but by this point Mr Donovan said he already made his mind up that he wanted to forgive them after seeing families at the Old Bailey during the trial.
Mr and Mrs Donovan now run the Chris Donovan trust which is dedicated to promoting forgiveness and educating people about the effect crime has on its victims.