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Mark Prince: ‘Kiyan represents all those kids who are buried too early’

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“I’ll feel the whole spectrum of emotions,” admits Dr Mark Prince. “But more than that, it’s victory. Every teardrop has been worth it. Every night I can’t sleep it’s been worth it because my son’s name will forever be connected with helping the youth with the same mindset that killed him.”

It’s more than 13 years since Kiyan Prince – a talented youth player who had joined Queens Park Rangers two years earlier – was stabbed to death by a fellow pupil after trying to break up a fight outside the gates of his school in Edgware, north-west London. On Saturday, his father will attend QPR’s first home match of the season, against Huddersfield, as guest of honour after 63% of supporters voted to name the club’s Loftus Road stadium after the charity he set up in the wake of Kiyan’s death.

Established in 2007 he estimates the Kiyan Prince Foundation has already helped to educate 70,000 young people about the consequences of knife crime by delivering workshops and inspirational talks around the country despite a severe lack of funding. The sessions usually involve Prince emotionally reliving the events of the day his son was murdered in May 2006 in an attempt to illustrate the consequences of carrying a knife and, after spending an hour in his company, it is easy to see why the charity was overwhelmingly chosen ahead of such a good cause as The Grenfell Foundation, situated just around the corner from Loftus Road.

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“I feel the same as I did when I went through it then,” he says of the talks. “Sometimes I’m crying in front of them. It’s draining, it’s tiring and it takes a lot out of me. But who else is going to do it if I’m not?

“We see young people as future champions,” adds Prince, a former boxer who suffered his only professional defeat contesting the WBO light-heavyweight world title in 1998. “We don’t see them as criminals – even the ones that have a knife and are doing bad things. We see that, because of the problems that society faces, young people end up going to prison and being criminalised when that is not really who they are. I could easily have been in those numbers.

“Everyone wants the fast route but in their minds they don’t have the belief that they have what it takes to go through the long process of achieving something. I was homeless at 15, I didn’t believe I could be that guy who is in a suit and earning money. I didn’t even think of the idea of being able to create my own business – my mind didn’t even conceive that. We want to give young people the belief to think they can achieve whatever they want to.”

Dr Mark Prince at Loftus Road, which is to be renamed after his son, Kiyan.



Dr Mark Prince at Loftus Road, which is to be renamed after his son, Kiyan. Photograph: QPR

Prince eventually escaped a life of crime to become the WBO and IBF intercontinental light-heavyweight champion before a knee injury ended his career a few months before Kiyan’s death. He had already trained as a youth worker with Islington council by then but, faced with the choice of seeking revenge on his son’s killer, Hannad Hasan – a Somalian refugee who had been suspended six days earlier after urinating in front of a teacher – and starting the charity, he chose the latter.

“I’ve got purpose through pain,” Prince says. “And it inspires other people. I always let people know it’s not your experiences, it’s how you have interpreted that experience. When Kiyan died I decided I was going to go out there and be an example to others to show them what can be achieved, even in the worst-case scenario.”

Attempts to organise a meeting with Hasan, whose minimum 13-year sentence is up for review next year, were dashed at the last minute in April after Prince had received help from the mayor of London’s now-disbanded restorative justice service Catch22, although he has not given up hope of meeting him in the future.

“We were a week away from seeing him after 18 months of trying to organise it and the prison pulled the rug out from under it. It’s my right to meet him. He killed my son. The prison has got no right to stop something that we have organised – that was tough for me.”

Prince acknowledges that Hasan fell foul of the same societal problems that afflict so many young people but stops short of admitting he feels sorry for him.

“I don’t feel anything. He needs help if he is going to be let back into this community. It’s not so much about my feelings towards him but what we can do to help the individual. I always feel a little bit of sympathy towards someone who hasn’t had the support they need growing up so that’s why I tried to make the visit and go down there and have a chat with him.”

For now, though, the focus is on Saturday and remembering Kiyan, who would have turned 29 in November. New statistics released last month revealed that there has been an 80% increase in knife crime in the UK between March 2014 and this year, with 84 deaths recorded in London since the start of the year.

“Everyone wants someone to do something about knife crime but no one has a national idea that really impacts numbers so it changes the narrative,” admits Prince, who received an OBE for his charity work in January. “If we had the funding, we could cover thousands of people to spread the message.”

He is hoping to raise around £500,000 to fund the Inspiring Future Champions roadshow – a day of workshops and talks which Prince hopes will also feature appearances from the likes of Tyson Fury and the world light-heavyweight contender Anthony Yarde.

“What happens when young people see somebody they look up to and have a moment with them? It changes them for life and that could be the catalyst to make them think, ‘there is more to life’,” he says.

“That kind of money is Mickey Mouse compared to how much it costs to fund a murder case. Half a million to impact 1,000s of young people and £1m to imprison one murderer? It’s a no brainer.”

Prince adds: “All the companies that expect young people to buy their stuff should be all over this. I’ve seen sports products that are creating these balaclava style tracksuits and having these designs to make the guys on the streets even more fashionable. Come on, wake up here – we’re trying to save our children and they are making money out of the same thing. They are part of the problem not the solution.”

Yet while a sold-out Kiyan Prince Foundation stadium will pay tribute to one of their own on Saturday, his father hopes every family who have suffered because of knife crime can draw inspiration from his story.

“I don’t feel like a victim. I’m a victor,” he says, defiantly. “Whatever situation you put me in, I will come out shining. And I want Hasan to know that what he did didn’t make any difference. My son is a champion who is known for his character. Forget his football, people remember Kiyan for the impact that he had on their lives. From the kids that he used to protect from bullies on the way to school to the new kids in the class who had just come over from another country and he would make them feel at home. He was just a nice guy.

“I think Kiyan represents all those kids that are buried too early and we don’t get to see their potential. We will never know what they would have achieved – what they could have invented or records they were going to break. There’s treasure there in the ground. My message to kids is to not die full of your gift.”

To make a donation to the Kiyan Prince Foundation, visit thekpf.com

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