'Part of me died with Michael,' says mother

By Martin Johnston

The mother of pizza delivery man Michael Choy, murdered by a group of youths nearly four years ago, yesterday told of how her world had "crashed" since the crime.

In a Ponsonby office tense with the collective grief of more than a dozen victims of violent crime or their families, the emotional stories of Rita Croskery and others were presented to politicians.

The prison policy election forum, organised by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, preceded the start today of the lobby group's political advertising campaign for tougher treatment of violent offenders.

"They say time heals," Mrs Croskery said, "but for me the passing of time has made no difference to easing the pain and anguish of knowing how my son was left to suffer, battered, cold, hurt and alone in his last hours of consciousness."

Mr Choy, aged 40, was bashed at Papakura in September 2001 by youths later convicted of manslaughter or murder. The youngest, aged 12 at the time, was sentenced to seven years' jail for manslaughter.

"Michael was a happy, gentle, caring person whose main aim in life was to make others happy, especially those less fortunate than himself," his mother said.

"Ever since my son was murdered my world has crashed around me and I wish it were I, instead of my son, lying at the bottom of the grave.

"My heart has been ripped apart and a part of me has died with Michael."

Mrs Croskery also described the pain caused by the justice system.

"It was oppressive sitting in the court with the offenders' families and at times I was so tense I nearly fainted - something I have never done before.

"Since the trial and sentencing there has been no let-up. The heinous circumstances of this crime are always in my thoughts as my life continues to revolve around writing submissions and attending parole hearings."

Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said its advertising campaign would be the country's most emotive and gut-wrenching ever. Featuring crime victims, it would urge people to vote for the parties that heard their pleas for safety and security.

National, New Zealand First, United Future and Act sent MPs to yesterday's forum. Mr McVicar said the Greens, Maori Party and Progressives did not reply and Justice Minister Phil Goff, who sent his apologies, "hasn't got the courage to show".

Mr Goff's spokesman told the Herald the minister was in a Cabinet meeting.

The parties at the forum all supported scrapping parole and compensation for prisoners.

Several of the planned radio ads were played to the meeting.

In one, John Hargreaves said: "Our beloved daughter Jennie was 21 this July. On her birthday we stood by the ditch where [aged 17] she had been murdered by a man on parole and wept; wept for the opportunity she will never have and for the joy that has left us."

Prison policy

Crime victims or their families demanded:

* An end to parole, so prisoners serve the time set by a judge.

* Easier access to information about prisoners.

* An end to compensation for prisoners.

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