For 13 years horse breeder Greg Meads has denied murdering his wife Helen at their Matamata farm - days after she announced she was leaving him - saying shooting her at close range was an accident.
But today he stunned his victim's family and the Parole Board by admitting that he pulled the trigger deliberately and that he was taking responsibility for Helen's brutal death.
Meads said his change in stance came - literally - overnight, which led the board and Helen's family to question the validity of his admission. Is Meads finally putting his hand up for one of New Zealand's most high-profile domestic violence-related murders? Or is his confession merely an attempt to fast track his release from a life sentence? Senior journalist Anna Leask was at the hearing.
Helen Meads was working in the stables at the Matamata property she shared with her husband Greg when it happened.
It was September 23, 2009.
She chatted to a friend on the phone and seconds after the pair said goodbye Helen was dead, shot at close range in the neck.
It was her husband who pulled the trigger.
Four days earlier Helen had announced she wanted to end the 12-year marriage - a relationship punctuated by domestic violence.
He went to confront her and took her life, leaving three children without a mother and her parents David and Pam devastated.
Meads pleaded not guilty to murder, saying he was the one who shot her, but he never intended to kill his wife.
He claimed the gun had gone off accidentally that he had not deliberately pulled the trigger, so a conviction for manslaughter would have been more appropriate.
The jury rejected that claim and convicted him of murder.
He was sentenced to life in prison and ordered to serve a minimum of 11 years before he was eligible for parole.
He was refused an early release from prison last year as the board felt Meads - who still claimed he was not guilty of murder - was still a risk to the public.
Meads appeared before the Parole Board again today and the Herald was granted permission to attend the hearing.
Neither the board nor Meads' victims were prepared for what was about to come.
'I killed Helen, I pulled the trigger'
Since the day it happened Meads has maintained Helen's death was a terrible accident.
But today his narrative was vastly different.
Meads spoke in circles and was chided by several board members for not answering directly but he finally made his point clear.
"I killed Helen, I was the person who pulled the trigger and I am fully responsible for her death," he said.
"Yes it was a deliberate act, I raised the gun and I pulled the trigger."
Meads also admitted being abusive and physically assaulting Helen during their marriage.
He initially claimed his turnaround came after he'd had "quite a lot of time to go through the incident" in his own head and with his psychiatrist.
"What brought about this change?" probed Parole Board chairman Sir Ron Young.
"You've told untruths for 13 years, why should we rely on what you're telling us now when for the past 13 years it's been a lie?
"You didn't wake up this morning and go 'oh, that's right, I pulled the trigger'."
Meads claimed that until last night he had "probably avoided" revisiting the moment he killed Helen.
"I have come to terms with the fact that when I had my hand on the gun it was a voluntary act and I've pulled the trigger," he posed.
"It's not an accident, I admit that now. It is a change.
"I think it was deliberate that I grabbed the trigger and that was the end of Helen's life."
When pressed by the board he conceded he had not discussed the matter in any depth with the expert and had decided in the past 12-24 hours to take responsibility.
Young said the sudden admission was "worrying" and he "expressed concern about the genuineness" of it.
"But if it is [genuine], good on you," he said.
"It is a very serious charge, but assuming it is genuine, it's a positive change.
Safety plan 'inadequate' and fails to address issues
Meads presented a safety plan to the board, which he would adopt if released.
He identified only one "high risk" issue and that was his lack of trust in intimate relationships.
The board said it was nowhere near enough for them to accept and missed out on crucial issues like how Meads would cope around firearms.
"I am repulsed by firearms or any weapons, I couldn't even pick up a hunting magazine now," he claimed.
"I would not be living on a farm. I would be living in a town environment where there'd be no firearms accessible or necessary to come into contact with.
"I've totally divorced myself from that type of environment, I can't even bring myself to be near a firearm - even in court that day when they asked me to pick it [the murder weapon] up I was shaking and unable to be near it."
After speaking with Meads for about 30 minutes the board said it was clear he was not ready for release.
Sir Ron said given his new admission and position on the murder he had much more work to do with his psychiatrist and on his safety plan.
Meads was refused parole and will not see the board again until April 2023.
Helen Meads' family not convinced
Helen's father David White told the Herald he was not surprised Meads' parole bid was rejected - but it was still a relief.
He had previously supported the murderer being released but said he now considered him a risk to others.
White told the board Meads' denial of the facts and lack of understanding of domestic violence were a huge concern to him and his family.
He was sceptical of Meads' admission.
"Everything about it is just so goddamn insincere," he said.
"It is the first time he's admitted it, it's taken 13 years to get here and he did it overnight, I think he's worked out that if he doesn't start saying the right words - whether he believes them or not - he's in prison for a very long time."
White hoped the admission was genuine but had little faith in Meads.
"If he keeps denying it, [he's] going to be kept in prison," he said.
"It was deliberate, do I believe he has accepted it? It would be a big push on a dark night... but I'm hopeful he has."
White said as of today he was washing his hands of Meads.
After Helen died he and Pam took on her younger children and raised them, cared for them, provided for them.
They are now adults and did not need their grandparents to fight for them in the same way, White said.
He also had nothing more to say to Meads or the board.
"I thank the board for listening to me, but this will be our last submission," he said.
"I could not think of another word I could say to help them. Whether he meant what he said today or not, he's got a hell of a long way to go.
"I can see no reason to see him again."
White said his focus from now on was his family - particularly his wife.
They had been through "all sorts of turmoil" and after 13 years it was time to release their painful burden and to heal as much as they could.
It also meant White would stop working with victims of family violence - helping them get out of dangerous homes and rebuild their lives.
He has been doing that since soon after Helen's murder.
"I'm 78 in a couple of months - it's getting far too difficult," he lamented.
"Now it's time for Pam and I to learn to love each other again, the way we did before Helen was killed.
"It's time to live our life."
'It was an accident" - a look back at Meads first parole hearing
Meads' appeared before the board for the first time in August last year.
He maintained then that the killing was accidental - he did not deliberately pull the trigger.
He told the board he went to have a discussion with his wife to clarify their future.
The board spent "some time" speaking to Meads about "why he had taken a loaded shotgun" to that meeting.
"Mr Meads said that he simply wanted to clear up what he thought was some confusion about what his wife was doing, after he thought they had reached an agreement about their future," the Parole Board decision stated.
"We think Mr Meads' narrative is quite different than the conclusions reached by the Judge at sentencing and, most importantly, quite different to the verdict."
Meads presented a safety plan to the board for his release based on his personal "view and motive and circumstances of the killing".
But the board said given his view was at odds with the facts that plan was "inadequate".
The board said Meads needed to do more work with a psychologist and acknowledge what really happened to his wife and his culpability as determined at trial.
They said a "reassessment of his risk" and "any further rehabilitation and reintegration" needs should be based only on that narrative.
"In addition, we consider the psychologist needs to work with Mr Meads to develop a safety plan that reflects the circumstances described by the Judge rather than Mr Meads' narrative," the board said.
"In the meantime, he remains an undue risk."
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay.
Where to go for help or more information:
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz