Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

Polly Gillespie: Who is killing our children?

Someone posts a Facebook meme that's just meant to be "funny", and suddenly all the bloody faux bully police come out. Photo / Getty Images
Someone posts a Facebook meme that's just meant to be "funny", and suddenly all the bloody faux bully police come out. Photo / Getty Images

This column is a leaper. It asks two questions: Who is the nicest person I've ever interviewed? And who the hell is killing our children?

Poor Dr Jarrod Gilbert. I had him on the phone, captured like a cat with a mouse firmly between its sharp teeth and clamped jaws. I was chatting to one of the most fascinating people I'd interviewed in years and I wasn't about to let him go.

I'm asked all the time who is the "nicest" person I've ever interviewed. Bloody tough question. I can tell you that Avril Lavigne and Dave Navarro were dreadful and, in fact, I addressed Navarro using the "C" word, after which he apologised for being the "C" word, but it was too late. He was definitely a complete "C" word.

Lavigne was horrendous, but I now wonder if maybe she has some social disorder, because no one can actually be that strange or that rude.

So, the nicest? There are a few. Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas is truly lovely.

Sonny Bill Williams is a really nice bloke. Actress and comedian Melissa McCarthy is incredibly nice and warm and normal.

But perhaps the nicest (before I met Jarrod Gilbert) was Sir Richard Branson. He spent an hour with me. He wore a white linen shirt and white linen pants, and he smelled of apples and lemongrass. He had bare feet and glowing skin, and he made me feel very special, never more so than when I was leaving his hotel suite and he stopped me at the door and said; "I'm so sorry. I'm so rude. I didn't ask you about your children. Please come sit down again and tell me about your children."

That's nice.

I'm far more impressed by people outside the entertainment industry generally, and so when sociologist Dr Gilbert started talking to me about his new book project Murder: A New Zealand History I sucked up all of his brilliance like a big wide-eared sponge.

This guy is now in my Top 5 Good Guys. Nice guys. Smart guys. Great interviews. I asked him if it was tough researching murder. I asked him if he'd seen and read things that would tragically remain with him forever. I asked him which case affected him most profoundly.

I remember as a small child being fascinated by the Arthur Allan Thomas case. Even as a child I knew things didn't add up at all. When I got a little older I became completely consumed with the Gene and Eugene Thomas murders. I followed that case like they were neighbours or friends. I'm not entirely sure why, but I ashamedly admit it may be because Gene Thomas was so hot. I know that's shallow, isn't it?

When our nation's children are murdered I try not to involve myself because it breaks my heart, smashes my soul, and makes me question the very psyche of this country I love and proudly advertise every time I travel to interview stars.

I don't understand how anyone can kill a child. I don't comprehend how anyone can punch a child. I'm not an idiot. I'm a child of the 70s. I got smacked. Not often, but I got a palm across my arse more than once. But I cannot begin to imagine what is happening when someone punches a child, and then goes on to break their bones and murder them.

"It must be drugs" is my mother's answer to any crime, but I think my mother is wrong. It's easy to blame drugs, but I don't think drugs turn people into murderers of children. If you are a non-violent person it may turn you into a thief and a liar, but you have to have a "killer" inside to kill a child. So Mum is wrong. It's not drugs.

Is it poverty? Does anyone know why our country has one of the most shameful domestic violence records in the world? There are poor people everywhere, but not all poor and impoverished people kill children. Not all impoverished people drink and take drugs. I do, however, know a lot of rich people who do.

"What case affected you the most?"

Dr Gilbert was quiet for only a couple of seconds.

"Coral Burrows", he said with authentic sadness in his voice. "A little girl didn't want to get out of the car at school because it was raining, and for that she had her jaw broken, and was then brutally murdered, by a man who should have been her loving caregiver."

I have not stopped thinking about it.

"Why do we murder our children?" I asked him. "You're a sociologist. You must know."

"I don't have the answers, but we need them urgently," he replied.

Every single time a child is brutally murdered in this country and I write about it or blog about it on Facebook I get so many hundreds of people just as disturbed and upset as I am.

I feel like together, as a collective spirit, we can change the world, we can save lives, we can stop the violence, and then the next week another child is murdered. What on earth is wrong with us, New Zealand? And don't say "drugs" because that's like asking why WWII started and answering with "the Jews". That's not the answer. That's simply NOT the answer.

- nzherald.co.nz

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Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

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