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

Never forget victims, families plead

A national White Heart Day would ensure those lost aren't forgotten, loved ones say

Tracey Marceau comforts Trish Ferguson, Gary Marshall's ex-wife, at White Heart Day. Photo / Richard Robinson
Tracey Marceau comforts Trish Ferguson, Gary Marshall's ex-wife, at White Heart Day. Photo / Richard Robinson

In a perfect world, they would never have met. But yesterday, family and friends of people killed through crime and tragedy gathered at an emotional event as they pushed for a national day of remembrance for victims.

White Heart Day was launched last year in Napier but events were also held in Auckland and Wellington yesterday.

Organisers hope to roll the events out across the country and want the day marked on the national calendar, as with Anzac Day.

White Heart Day was founded by Simon and Cathy Cowan, whose son Phil was murdered in 2001.

His body has never been found and the three men charged with his murder walked free after a judge stopped the trial because the evidence was too circumstantial.

His brother, Hamish Cowan, said he remembered him every day and wanted the rest of New Zealand to spare a thought for victims and their families.

Mr Cowan was joined yesterday by the families of victims including murdered teenagers Christie Marceau and Emily Longley; Michael Choy, who was killed in a premeditated attack as he delivered a pizza; John and Josephine Harrisson, who were executed in their home during a bungled burglary; Jane Young, who was run down by a killer driver outside a Christchurch party; and Gary Marshall, who was stabbed to death in Orewa.

Caroline Longley said it was always a worry that her daughter, who was murdered by her boyfriend in England last year, would be forgotten.

"You see her friends growing up and going on with their lives, and we mourn the fact that our daughter had it all taken away from her," she told the Herald.

"You just want to say to them, 'Take Emily with you - don't forget her'.

"We think of her all the time, we don't need a special day for that. But days like this make you remember our loved ones."

Tracey Marceau spoke to the crowd gathered in Aotea Square, remembering Christie as a daughter rather than a murder victim.

"I can never describe what it has done to me. My heart shattered beyond repair. Now I have to be here and fight for what Christie could not.

"We will never refer to Christie as a victim - she will never be a statistic."

Mrs Marceau, supported by her husband, Brian, and their daughter, Heather, also revealed that a foundation was set to be established in Christie's name.

Details were still being finalised but the family wanted to remember Christie as the kind, strong, determined, brave and loving teenager she was, rather than representing the brutal murder that ended her life.

A spokeswoman for the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Ruth Money, said it was time for the Government to commit a remembrance day for victims.

Her plea was backed up by Mr Cowan, who said it was important for New Zealand to pay tribute to those who lost their lives needlessly.

After the moving and emotional speeches, the families and their supporters released white heart-shaped balloons and doves into the Auckland sky as a tribute to their loved ones.

Find out more

For more information on the White Heart Trust visit or

- NZ Herald

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