THE PARENTS of a girl killed in a car crash have remarkably told how they took the man responsible for her death into their home – even calling him a son.
Elizabeth and Fernando Jimenez lost their daughter Maria just days before her 24th birthday in 2017, but felt obliged to help ‘friend’ Nick Hay as he faced prosecution.
24-year-old Maria Jimenez died in March 2017Credit: GoFundMe
She was killed after a car driven by friend Nick Lay flipped dual-carriageway in south west LondonCredit: SWNS:South West News Service
On that fatal night, Nick had decided to take the wheel of the car after a night out because Maria had been drinking.
As he took control, he veered down a dual-carriageway in south west London, reaching speeds of 110 mph.
Driving at more than double the limit, he veered across two lanes, hit a central reservation and eventually flipped the car.
Tragically Maria, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt was killed as police described the incident as “entirely preventable”.
The young woman’s parents were left consumed with grief as news of their daughters’ passing filtered through.
Father Fernando “collapsed to his floor” as Police turned up on his doorstep in Surrey.
He soon informed his partner Elizabeth and other family members who “wept together.”
But remarkably, as Maria’s mother’s mind reeled with unanswered questions, Elizabeth thought not just of her family and her daughter but of young Nick too.
“Suddenly I thought ‘Wait a minute, who is with Nick at the police station?’” recalls Elizabeth. “I knew his family lived in Singapore. He must be desperate.’
“I had never met this man before. I know that with their daughter killed many would react with furious anger and blame. But all I felt was deep worry for this young man I didn’t know. I just wanted to be by his side.”
But despite their daughters tragic death, her parents have chosen to forgive the man responsibleCredit: GoFundMe
Elizabeth was aware of the relationship the two has stuck up after her daughter had first mentioned Nick in 2017 – a young man who had come to the UK from Korea a year prior.
Maria spoke English, Spanish and Korean, and had been studying linguistics at Brighton University with plans to teach abroad after she graduated.
Elizabeth said the two had been supporting each other through hard times and were attending music classes together.
She spoke to her daughter one final time on March 22, 2017 as Maria headed off with Nick to their regular meetup. Hours later she was gone.
As Nick struggled to face the consequences of his actions, Elizabeth decided she needed to see Nick and bring him into the bosom of her grieving family.
“This situation was bad enough,” says Elizabeth. “I couldn’t bear the thought that Nick was going to be another casualty.”
She recalled watching the scared young man walk into the living room towards her partner Fernando – for whom had previously blamed for his daughters death.
“Nick hugged him and said, ‘please forgive me’. In tears they both collapsed to the ground, all the while Nick repeating his request over and over and Fernando saying, ‘I forgive you son’.”
We reminded him that he was forgiven and loved”
Fernando suggested that from that moment on that Nick would become part of the family.
“If I’d held onto these feelings, they would have destroyed me. Instead, I decided to love him. That’s the moment he became a son to me,” he said.
As the pair discovered Nick would be prosecuted and had nowhere to live, they invited him to stay.
“His family were on the other side of the world, he needed us. So, for six weeks he lived with us. We’d cook and walk, and it was wonderful to have him there.”
Soon Nick pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for five years.
But the grieving parents continued to visit him every week “reminding him that he was forgiven and loved.”
After three and a half years Nick was released but was swiftly taken directly to the airport and deported back to Singapore.
Elizabeth says: “He’s done so well. Now married and with a baby on the way we still speak every day. It’s only Covid that has stopped me visiting.”
Reflecting on their journey her father Fernando said: “The true power of forgiveness is for the person who gives it, not just the person who receives it.
“Nothing would bring Maria back. But forgiving Nick helped me heal.”
Elizabeth, added: “We always taught the children, never react with anger, always react with love.
“What we did with Nick is exactly what Maria would have wanted us to do. Now he is as dear to us as any child could be.”