Police dad: Nothing can prepare you

By Jamie Morton

Two years on, John and Sonia Wilson still feel the pain of losing their daughter, Whittney. Photo / Alan Gibson
Two years on, John and Sonia Wilson still feel the pain of losing their daughter, Whittney. Photo / Alan Gibson

Detective Sergeant John Wilson can't count how many visits he has made to families in the middle of the night to tell them of tragedies.

Yet more than 20 years as a police officer did not prepare him for the Sunday night in 2009, when it was he who answered the door to police.

It was 9.30pm on May 3 when Mr Wilson and his wife, Sonia, were told that their 23-year-old daughter Whittney, their "own version of Jessica Simpson", was dead.

Whittney had long dreamed of one day travelling to Egypt.

Instead, she died in the arms of her partner after repeat drink-driver Royland Alexander McCann's 4WD slammed into the couple's car near Atiamuri, south of Rotorua.

"I had no idea what had happened, but my wife knew immediately," Mr Wilson told the Weekend Herald after a coroner's inquest into his stepdaughter's death yesterday.

"I just didn't get it, really. My boss on my door step on a Sunday night ... That's the last thing in the world I expected - I'd seen Whittney only that afternoon.

"I've been in the police for 23 years, but when it's your own, it's completely different. It doesn't matter how many times you've done it yourself because it's completely different when you're on the receiving end. Nothing in the world can prepare you for that bad news."

Days after the second anniversary of Whittney's death, the grief is still raw.

"It's like it was yesterday, really," Mr Wilson said. "In the first year, we had the shock and the court process and a lot of stuff to keep us busy, but now we are settling into that period and the cold hard [fact] of the matter that she's gone."

Mrs Wilson said she tried to borrow Whittney's sunny optimism to get through her "long journey" through grief.

"When you've lost anyone close to you, it changes you forever - and Whittney was one of life's really genuine people."

The Wilsons back the hard-line approach Eastern Bay of Plenty police are taking with offenders such as McCann, and want New Zealanders to report drink-drivers before they kill others.

"I'd endorse anything that can prevent families having to go through what we've been through," Mr Wilson said.

Mrs Wilson said: "We definitely support the initiative. Anything that works has got to be a start."

- NZ Herald

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