Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Remembrance day plea for victims of violence and tragedy

Phil Cowan. Photo / Supplied
Phil Cowan. Photo / Supplied

Organisers of an annual memorial event for people killed in tragic or criminal circumstances are calling for a national remembrance day for victims along the lines of Anzac Day.

White Heart Day was started last year by the family of murder victim Phil Cowan, who was killed in 2001. His body has never been found and the three men charged with his murder were discharged eight weeks into a trial after the presiding judge decided the evidence being heard by the jury was too circumstantial and "manifestly unjust".

The family wanted to do something to remember Phil that would also effect change.

"When my brother was murdered there was a lot of soul searching for a number of years," his brother Hamish Cowan told the Herald.

"We were a middle class family from provincial New Zealand, never been involved in anything like this, then all of a sudden we are in the middle of a High Court murder trial."

The Cowans soon realised that already-established victim-centric groups were about creating solutions rather than remembering the actual victims. So that's what they set about doing.

"There's no day like that on our national calendar at the moment ... we want to roll this across New Zealand and we're hoping it will become a national event," Mr Cowan said.

"We're surprised it hasn't happened before."

"We draw parallels with Anzac Day. Not everyone's sons, daughters or grandfathers have been off to war, but everyone still gathers on the 25th of April to remember what they gave for this country."

The first White Heart Day was held in Napier only, but this year events will also happen in Auckland and Wellington.

Guest speakers at the hour-long "reflection" include Tracey Marceau, whose 18-year-old daughter Christie was murdered in their North Shore home last November, Zack Makoare, whose son Kelly committed suicide, and Tyler McKelvey whose cousin Steven Stone was murdered.

The events are open to anyone who has lost a loved one in tragic circumstances, or who wants to remember victims in general.

White Heart Day

* Remembers victims killed in tragic or criminal circumstances.

* Today from 12-1pm at venues in Auckland, Wellington and Napier.

* For more information visit or

- NZ Herald

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