A GIRL with learning difficulties lost her only friend when sweetnatured Beki Ali perished in a car fire with his mum.
Sarah Mitchell, 32, said she and her daughter, Mia, were devastated at news of the death of Beki (pronounced BK) and his 45-year-old mum Cathy Mhlaba, of Blythe Avenue, Shoebury on Tuesday.
Beki, 16, and Mia, 12, lived close to each other and both were pupils at St Nicholas Special School, Southend. Both had a condition which meant their mental ages were less than their physical ages.
Ms Mitchell said the youngsters had an extraordinary bond, unusual for children with their condition.
Describing Beki and his mum, she said: “Cathy was such a lovely lady. I didn’t know her personally, but I would meet her when Mia went to her house. She was a beautiful woman and such a lovely, lovely, lady. She always wanted me to eat there and was so friendly and welcoming.
“Beki was always smiling and was just such a sweet boy. He used to come round and borrow my hip-hop CDs from the Nineties.
“He would come back and repeat them to me – he was really intelligent in that way – and take another one.
“We used to talk about Wu- Tang Clan and groups like that and had a little friendship of our own. He was so sweet-natured, that’s what’s make it so upsetting.
“He would play in the garden with Mia and my six-year-old daughter, Ruby. He was just a lovely boy. He was over the moon when I gave him my Chelsea shirt. I’ll never forget that. I’m a big football fan and he was into it too, so it meant a lot to me.”
Mrs Mitchell is now dreading the day she has to explain to Mia what has happened to her friend.
She said: “I was so upset by what had happened but I kept thinking about my daughter as well. She has the same condition and didn’t have any other friends.
He was her only friend.
“My daughter is half-African and they had this little bond. She would say Beki reminded her of her dad.
“It’s extremely difficult for children with that condition to make friends, so it’s devastating for her. She doesn’t understand.
His number’s on her phone and she still thinks she can call him.”
A family friend of Beki described him as a caring young man who made people laugh with his Krusty the Klown impressions.
Cheyenne Brehaut, 17, of Saxon Gardens, Shoebury, went to primary school with Beki’s sister, Lisa. Her own sister was friends with Beki at St Nicholas Special School, which he attended between September 2008 and July 2013.
She said: “He was so funny. If you were upset, he would see that and come up and talk to you and do silly impressions like Krusty the Klown, which he proper sounded like, to cheer you up.
“He was so caring and always put other people before himself.
“My sister’s really upset. Her friend told her Beki had died and she didn’t believe him.
She just started crying, saying, that’s my best friend.
“He was really popular at St Nicholas, but he had so many friends around here as well. Everyone misses him so much. I never saw him when he wasn’t smiling.”
St Nicholas headteacher June Mitchell added: “Beki’s kind nature and beautiful smile made everyone around him happy. He was a brilliant sports player and played for St Nicholas on numerous occasions.
“He loved to sing and dance and often entertained others. He was a very popular member of the school. He was a shining star he will be fondly remembered and sorely missed by us all.”