North London mum whose son ‘died in 2 minutes’ after being stabbed is ‘in the process’ of forgiving son’s killer

It is approaching 12 years since Godwin Lawson, a promising young footballer from North London who’d just been accepted to play for Oxford United, was tragically stabbed to death in an incident in Stamford Hill, not far from where he was brought up.

He was visiting a group of childhood friends and was most likely telling them about his new life in Oxford where he’d recently moved to train at the football club’s academy when a car suddenly pulled up on the street beside them.

CCTV footage shows four men emerge from the car, one carrying a knife. They immediately gave chase to Godwin and his friends, who attempted to run away.

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Two brothers in Godwin’s group got caught by the men, and both sustained heavy injuries in the fight that ensued.

Godwin had managed to escape, but being the sportsman that he was, he thought he was strong and athletic enough to handle the situation, so he came back to the scene and attempted to break up the fight.

It was at that moment that the knifeman stabbed Godwin in the chest, and he collapsed to the ground.

“He died within two minutes,” his mother Yvonne tells MyLondon, recalling the incident. “The two brothers in his group had some outstanding issues with the other boys, and my Godwin just ended up being caught in the middle”.

Moise Avorgah of nearby Tottenham was found guilty of Godwin’s murder and was sentenced to a minimum of 19 years in prison.

But no prison sentence of any length can replace in Yvonne’s life what Avorgah has taken.

“The trauma, and the agony and the pain of losing a loved one is hard to imagine. The anxiety, and the frustration, is hard to describe,” Yvonne explains, struggling to find the words to label her sense of loss.

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Saying that, Yvonne admits that she is currently “going through the process” of forgiving her son’s killer, and feels that forgiving him will enable her to focus more on a mission she has dedicated herself to since her son’s untimely death, that being the tackle knife crime and knife culture among London’s youth.

Sighing as she finds the strength to speak, Yvonne says: “I have had the opportunity to meet the perpetrator, who asked to see us and apologise. When the request came through I wasn’t emotionally ready, but I wouldn’t rule it out when I feel ready to meet him.

“I would tell him that we’ve not been able to smile for 12 years, that we’ve not been able to have Godwin on our dinner table for 12 years. We’ve not been able to hug him, or kiss him, and that’s heart-breaking.

“It has been a journey. I don’t think a few years ago I could see myself forgiving him. I think I’m going through the process of forgiveness. I feel the more I let go, the less it is a burden on me. The more I let go, the more energy I have to put into my positive work.

“When you hold that grudge, it makes you bitter and makes you lose focus. It was crucially important for me to learn to offload that luggage and continue to function”.

Yvonne wasted no time in getting to work on her mission to clean up London’s streets of knives after Godwin’s death.

She says that she started campaigning soon after her son’s funeral, adding that she was “determined and committed” to learn about knife culture, and why young people carry knives in the first place.

The more I researched and spoke to young people, I realised the scale of the problem was huge.” she says.

“I noticed there was no deterrent. Young people, especially those under 16, were often getting arrested and cautioned, and then they’d go do the same thing again. I was desperate to break that cycle and started a ‘two-strike campaign’, which meant if someone had been caught with a knife for a second time, they’d get a mandatory sentence.

“I met then-Prime Minister David Cameron who helped push the campaign in parliament, and in 2015 it became law”.

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Godwin Lawson had just signed with Oxford United FC at the time of his death

Having been brought into effect on July 17, 2015, the law stipulates that adults convicted more than once of being in possession of a blade face between six months and 4 years in prison. Young offenders aged 16 and 17, meanwhile, face a minimum four-month detention and a training order if they are caught carrying a knife on a second occasion.

Beyond campaigning for this law to be passed, Yvonne has led on a campaign called Early Intervention Prevention, which aims to work with young people who are likely to be victims or perpetrators of knife crime at an early age and offer them an alternative to crime.

Some of her work also includes engaging with parents and helping them understand the factors that lead to their children getting involved in knife culture.

Asked what she believes are the main causes of knife crime among London’s youth, Yvonne says: “I think it would be unjust for me to mention just one reason or one cause of knife crime. In our research, we learned young people had many different reasons for carrying a knife.

“No two answers were the same. Some said they carry it for safety, some said they get into a gang for status, some do it for protection, or some feel they have to resort to crime to support their families because there isn’t enough money in the house. Others said it’s because they got excluded from school and had nothing else to do, or because there wasn’t enough opportunity in their communities to get involved in something positive.

“Personally I think it’s a deep social issue, and we need to look at poverty, inequality and a lack of opportunities”.

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Yvonne was recently awarded an MBE for her efforts to tackle knife crime

Yvonne also has a word of warning for young people who get drawn into carrying knives.

“Whatever reasons you have for carrying a knife, we have evidence stating that young people who carry knives are more likely to die from knife crime. You’re not just putting others at risk, you’re putting your own life at risk as well,” she says.

As for parents, Yvonne urges them to not turn a blind eye to issues they may be having with their teenage sons and daughters.

She says: “Don’t ignore the problem because it will get worse. Do not suffer in silence. Seek help. There are lots of support groups out there. Make that change”.

Yvonne’s words of course come from a place of experience. She has worked for 12 years on various projects to not only punish those who commit knife crimes, but pre-empt young people from the reasons they resort to it.

Among those projects include football tournaments for young people from different parts of London through the Godwin Lawson Foundation, which has established ties with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, the Metropolitan Police and Crimestoppers.

She has also run support group meetings for mothers who, like her, have lost their children to knife violence.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. On November 30, she received her MBE at Windsor Castle, but the former school teacher of 16 years remains humble and focused on the task ahead.

She says: “What we do, we do it because we wan’t to make a change, not to get any award, but it was very humbling nonetheless.

“The work we do, we need to do more of, because we still have issues that haven’t gone away.

“In fact, it seems the issues are increasing. Winning the award made me think of this.

“If anyone wants to support the work we do, we need people with different skills to help us.

“At the moment it seems that people think knife crime only happens within a certain segment of society and it’s their problem, but we need to realise it’s a community issue that could affect anyone and everyone, not just a certain class or certain group of people”.

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