The day I had tea with a murderer

Yep.  Exactly that.   Not me being funny or playing with words and saying “oh yes, my cat, the murderer of several mice” etc etc.

But in March last year I posted this on Facebook:

Shared a Kitkat this afternoon with a chap called Simon. Divorced, father of two doing an OU degree in psychology and criminology. We talked about love and forgiveness.

Nothing terribly extraordinary in that.

Except he was in prison for murder. As were the other 35 “residents” in the room.

Simon, you taught me so much about myself today that it was an honour to meet you. Wow, what an experience.


It is an experience I have not forgotten, nor do I think I ever will.

I was invited to see an exhibition on Forgiveness, the venue being a prison.   The prisoners had been working on the project and I won’t divulge too much of their stories for reasons of confidentiality.    In small groups my fellow guests and I chatted to a resident of the prison.   All were “lifers”.   About forgiveness, seeking it and accepting it.

Simon who talked to our group was in prison for murder.  He didnt talk too much about himself as that wasn’t the purpose of the visit.   And again, the specifics he did tell me I don’t want to divulge out of respect for all the families involved.

But we shared a Kitkat and that simple act seemed just so extraordinary.    I remember sitting there imaging somebody looking into that prison gym and just seeing ten circles of people, all chatting away and not thinking anything of it.   One man in each group was wearing a blue shirt with no jacket, and the rest were a bunch of people listening intently, drinking tea.  Or eating biscuits.

Not once did I feel threatened or afraid.  Simon was just another man.   Nothing like the image of a murderer we all have in our heads.  And yet in the eyes of the law he is.   He was convicted eighteen years ago and sentenced to life in prison.    He had not been outside of those four walls since the year my eldest daughter was born.     Hasn’t seen the sea, hasn’t been to the pub, hasn’t walked to the corner shop for a newspaper.   And nor should he.   Nor has the person he killed.   I am not debating sentencing or the rights of prisoners.

Right then, Simon was just a man drinking tea telling me what he thought about forgiveness.   He was struggling to ask for forgiveness as he hasn’t forgiven himself for what happened eighteen years ago and that is why he had taken part in the project.

We listened to an invited speaker who was part of a project called The F Word who had been tortured in Palestine.   Not only was he tortured and kept prisoner for a long period but his family were murdered.   He had forgiven those that tortured him.    Forgiven them as he felt they were only acting on orders.   Some of these people were men he had grown up with, been to school with.  Yet because of religion they had ended up on different sides in a war.

So he forgave them.

Could you?  Could you forgive somebody who had killed one of your children?  I am not sure I could.   And yet, many people have.  And others who have forgiven the most appalling atrocities.

If you have half an hour, just have a read through some of these stories:  The Forgiveness Project  and let me know what you think.


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  • You wonder how they cope day to day, they must think about so much, replaying things in different ways (at least I think that’s what they must do?). I have a distant cousin who killed his wife (not sure if it was manslaughter etc), he spent years in prison and then got deported back to his country or origin. I saw him once after that for about 5 minutes whilst my dad talked to him. I kept thinking “he doesn’t look like a murderer, he looks so normal”. Very strange few minutes but it’s something that’s just stuck with me.

  • Many moons ago (or so it feels) I had a most strange experience; I met a gangsta. A few of them as it happens (a couple probably well known). As odd as it sounds I will never forget that experience. The hospitality, kindness and honest of them astounding me.

    I found out things that, perhaps, I didn’t want to know and I found it hard to reconcile the stories of monsters with the people I met who, genuinely, were some of the nicest I ever had.

    I shared a pint. It will stay with me.