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Camden New Journal - by SIMON WROE
Published: 13 March 2008
Betty Austin with a photograph of her son Michael
Betty Austin with a photograph of her son Michael
Every day Betty thinks of the son beaten to death five years ago. But does anyone else remember?

‘I want the killers brought to justice. Then I can start grieving for him,’ says mother

FROM the living room of her council flat high up in Bloomsbury’s Brunswick Centre, Betty Austin looks out towards Farringdon, the scene of her son’s murder five years ago.
Since that night on June 12, 2003, when Michael Austin was attacked in Cowcross Street by two unknown assailants, his 74-year-old mother has been waiting and hoping that his killers will be caught.
But while Betty thinks about her son every day, her worry is that the case has been forgotten.
“It’s difficult to talk about Michael, even now,” she said, giving her first interview in more than four years. “You don’t expect to bury your child. Nobody knows what it’s like to lose a son. I want to see the killers brought to justice. Then I can start grieving for him.
“Until now my head’s been filled with the question: ‘Why did they do it?’ He was a gentle giant who helped everyone he met. He didn’t deserve to be killed like that.”
Mr Austin, 34, a musician from Kiln Place, in Gospel Oak, was hit repeatedly with a metal bar or baseball bat about the skull as he stood outside Farringdon Tube station shortly after midnight.
There were 47 CCTV cameras in the vicinity but only two were recording at the time of the attack.
Two men in their 20s were snapped fleeing the scene and then meeting three other men outside a nearby nightclub but their identities remain a mystery to police.
Mr Austin was taken to the National Hospital for Neurology in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, but died three days later without regaining consciousness.
Following his death, some newspapers portrayed Michael as a newly wed husband, others as a drug addict and beggar.
The truth, his mother is keen to point out, is not as clear-cut as sinner or saint.
Betty said Michael had known his wife for just six weeks – three before they married. Michael moved back in with his mother two weeks after his wedding, telling her “he had made the biggest mistake of his life”.
Betty watched him call his wife the night he died to tell her it was over.
Although Michael had problems with heroin addiction, his mother claims he was kicking the habit and recalls him attending a methadone clinic in King’s Cross every week.
Nor, she says, did he ever need to beg. She would give Michael money whenever he asked, even when she knew it was being put to bad use.
“I can’t see any motivation for why they did it,” she said. “He was a very open person. He asked me for money on the night he died and I gave it to him. He told me everything.”
Betty, close to tears, added: “He was always so kind. He’d share everything with people – whatever he had. All right, he was a drug addict, but he was my son. I watched him on the drugs and it killed me.
“I tried to help him and all his friends. I’d have them back here for Sunday lunch, but I didn’t really know what to do. Most of his friends are dead now.
“The detectives used to come round every day after Michael died. Nobody bothers with me now. They weren’t interested in Michael because he was a drug addict and that’s the bottom line.”
Five years on, Betty has just finished paying off the bills for her son’s funeral. Once an active member of the community and secretary of Brunswick Centre’s tenants’ association, the former nurse no longer attends meetings.
“I’m not the same person as I was,” she added. “It shattered me. We were very close. He told me he’d always look after me.”
Michael was born in Brighton in 1968, the youngest of three children. His father died a year later and Betty had to take two jobs to support the family.
They moved to Thamesmead, where Michael developed a lifelong love of Millwall football club.
He was a talented musician, able to learn music “by ear”, but his temperament changed suddenly when his best friend drowned swimming with him in the Thames aged 14.
Michael survived but he never forgave himself for his friend’s death. His descent into drugs started soon after.
“Michael had a death wish ever since,” says his mother, looking out towards Farringdon.
“I’ve blamed myself sometimes – if I had taken him to a psychiatrist maybe things would have been different. But at least he’s not hurting any more.
“It’s only us that’s hurting – the ones he’s left behind.”
A police spokeswoman said: “All lines of inquiry have now been exhausted. However, if any new evidence comes to light it will be investigated.”

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