Good Samaritan, best New Zealander

By Beck Vass

The widow of murdered "good Samaritan" Austin Hemmings has received more than 700 letters - and is still getting about four a week.

Jenny Hemmings called on people to write to her at Mr Hemmings' funeral explaining how her husband's death has changed them instead of sending flowers.

Mr Hemmings, 44, a father to three teenage children, was stabbed while going to the aid of a stranger in Mills Lane in central Auckland on September 25.

He has been jointly-named as the Herald's New Zealander of the Year, along with Mangatepopo canyoning tragedy hero, teacher Tony McClean.

Mrs Hemmings, who was delighted with the news, said yesterday that she was slowly replying to more than 700 letters.

Most of the letters conveyed admiration for how the family coped with the tragedy and how Mr Hemmings' death had restored their faith in God.

"Your truly amazing family have given an example that will change the world for the better," one letter reads. "We have never seen such a strong message of caring, peace and forgiveness speak out from darkest personal tragedy."

Another quote that was particularly poignant for Mrs Hemmings was sent to her by her sister-in-law.

It quotes Martin Luther King: "If I stop to help this man what will happen to me? But a good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I don't stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"'

Mrs Hemmings said she had found great comfort in receiving the letters.

Asked if the family had a message for people, Mrs Hemmings said: "Just to celebrate their families over Christmas time."

When police were hunting for the killer, the officer in charge of the inquiry, Detective Senior Sergeant Gerry Whitley, described Mr Hemmings' actions as "heroic" and said they may have saved a woman's life.

Mr Whitley was delighted to hear that Mr Hemmings was being honoured as New Zealander of the Year.

"It's fantastic for Austin and his family - particularly for his family - that such an important and honourable mention has happened for him."

- NZ Herald

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