My son died in 1994 but his heart just stopped beating

On the night of 29 September 1994, seven-year-old Nicholas Green was shot dead during a family holiday in southern Italy. The death was a tragedy for his parents Reg and Maggie, but their decision to donate his organs caused organ donation rates in Italy to triple in a decade - a result dubbed the "Nicholas effect". 

"The first time I sensed danger was when a dark car came up close behind us and stayed there for a few moments," says Reg Green, who is remembering the night his son was inexplicably shot by strangers in southern Italy. "Shortly after, this car began to overtake. I relaxed, thinking there was nothing wrong after all."

But, instead of overtaking, the car drew alongside. Green and his wife, Maggie, heard loud angry cries. They assumed that the men inside wanted them to stop.

"I thought if we did stop we would be completely at their mercy. So instead I accelerated. They did too so the two cars raced alongside each other through the night. A bullet shattered the back window. Maggie turned around and both the children appeared to be fast asleep."

In fact, Nicholas had been shot in the head although his sister Eleanor was sleeping peacefully. Seconds later, the driver's window was blown in too and the other car drove off. "I stopped the car and got out. The interior light came on but Nicholas didn't move. I looked closer and saw his tongue was sticking out slightly and there was a trace of vomit on his chin.

"For the first time we realised something terrible had happened," says Green, who has written a book - entitled The Nicholas Effect - about the experience. The events of that night were also adapted for Hollywood in the 1998 film Nicholas' Gift, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Alan Bates. "The shock of seeing him like that was the bleakest moment I've ever had. I looked at him having been shot and my whole world changed. Continue reading

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