A family still dealing with the tragic loss of their teenage son are devastated a tree planted in his memory has been removed, exactly two years after his death.
Morgan Tosh died when a car he was travelling in spun out of control and smashed into a power pole in Auckland's Green Bay on December 20, 2018. He was just 15.
His older sister Bianca was travelling in another car and saw the horrific crash.
Morgan's mother Sherry Tosh told the Herald her family would regularly drive past the tree and it had been a vital part of their healing process.
She said they were shocked when a family friend told them that it was missing, revealing that the thieves had left behind a trowel and a trail of dirt heading away from the scene.
The tree had been planted on what would have been Morgan's 16th birthday last year and Tosh said watching it grow had brought immense comfort to the family as they dealt with the ongoing fallout of his tragic death.
"To the person who removed the pōhutukawa tree from Godley Green in Green Bay last night.... You most likely drove past the pōhutukawa laden lamppost metres away. This is where our gorgeous son, Morgan, was killed exactly two years ago last night/early hours of this morning," she said in a post on social media.
"Whilst we gathered in remembering him, giving each other strength, we learned that the tree planted in his memory had been stolen."
Tosh questioned the thieves' motives: "Maybe you needed a Christmas tree? Maybe you had what you believed to be the perfect spot in your garden? But what you don't have are morals, respect or kindness.
"Good luck - when you look at the flowers that you obviously feel we as a family, friends from near or far or Green Bay/Titirangi as a community do not deserve as much as you.
"You must sit firm in your faith that there is no such thing as karma. If you feel a presence around you - that be Morgan".
Tosh told the Herald that witnessing her brother's death took a massive toll on his sister Bianca, who had battled severe anorexia in the wake of the crash.
She said the family had been focused on helping Bianca recover and the tree had been instrumental in keeping Morgan's memory alive.
Pōhutukawa hold a particular significance for the Tosh family.
When Morgan was born at home in nearby Oratia, his placenta had been buried under a pōhutukawa tree and Tosh said that red was always her son's favourite colour.
Tosh didn't want to believe that it was anyone from the local community who was involved, saying that the tree was well-known in the area.
It was planted with the full co-operation of Auckland Council and Tosh praised the way that council staff had facilitated its planting and helped to maintain it.
Locals flooded social media with messages of support, noting that the tree was always flowering and sharing their own stories of loss, with many offering to donate towards a replacement.
Auckland Council Head of Area Operations – Community Facilities Paul Amaral said staff were sad to hear about the tree being stolen.
"We will reach out to the family and work with them in planting a new tree next year, when weather conditions are best."
'Didn't have a chance'
Morgan and a friend were heading to a Green Bay petrol station on Thursday, December 20.
It was dark and raining and his older sister Bianca was in a car ahead of them when Morgan's friend decided to overtake on a straight section of road.
Their car swerved to miss an island in the middle of the road, spun out of control and slammed into a power pole, killing Morgan and seriously injuring his friend, a 17-year-old who was on a learner licence.
"My baby didn't have an absolute chance," Tosh told the Herald in 2018.
"You could look at the pictures of that car and when you look at it you would think there are two cars there."
She let out "a scream and a wail... that just howls through your heart" when Bianca came home and broke the news, she said.
Morgan was a "cheeky monkey" with an incredibly big heart. His countless kind gestures for others were often little things - like walking a classmate between lessons because they were going through a hard time.
He was energetic, sporting, fun, passionate and stubborn - but his life was cut brutally short.
- Additional reporting, Chelsea Boyle