She was murdered by a boy who had just given her a lift on his bicycle handlebars. It was a killing that stunned the nation, writes Beck Vass
Liberty Templeman had never given her parents a reason to worry.
The vivacious, outgoing teenager was in constant text-message contact with her mother and had left her parents a list of 90 friends' phone numbers for if they ever needed to get hold of her.
So it was immediately upsetting to Andrew and Rebecca Templeman when she didn't reply to text messages in the hours before she was reported missing on Saturday, November 1, 2008.
Soon her disappearance gripped the nation and rocked the pretty Bay of Islands town of Kerikeri.
Liberty Templeman's killer was on the loose for five days after her body was found.
Police, who had been speaking to him from day one, remained unusually silent about how she died, and the town was stunned when a 14-year-old boy was charged with murder and indecent assault.
This is how the story unfolded:
HAVING spent the evening painting his son's new bedroom in their three-week-old home on Auckland's North Shore, Liberty's father, Andrew Templeman, frantically drives to Kerikeri and, arriving at 1am, stops the first person he sees.
"Do you know Liberty? Have you seen her?" he asks.
The boy knows Liberty but hasn't seen her, so Mr Templeman heads to Kerikeri police station where a sleepless night of searching begins.
By early afternoon that Sunday, Libby's friends have made posters and are putting them up in shops. Groups of teenagers are searching.
One of the searchers knew where Libby was. The police had already spoken to him. So had Rebecca Templeman. Both were suspicious of his story.
After speaking to the boy at his home about 5.30pm that day, Sergeant Ross Laurie passes an old feijoa orchard and, on gut instinct, wonders if his staff have looked there yet.
Following a trail of freshly flattened grass, he reaches a grassy knoll and sees what he thinks is a mannequin lying in the stream.
As he gets closer, he recognises Libby's clothes. He radioes staff in the station and tells them to call him on his cellphone. When they do, he orders them to turn off the police radios, knowing Libby's father is with them, waiting for news.
When it comes, it is so shocking it attracts international media interest. Kerikeri's first homicide investigation is launched.
Two days later, Mr Templeman returns to Auckland to identify his daughter's body in the mortuary at Auckland City Hospital.
LIBBY had been revisiting friends in Kerikeri, where the family had moved from Essex, England, four years earlier.
In her mother's words, they came to New Zealand "for a better lifestyle, better quality of life - and to teach the children not to be afraid to take risks".
All the friends she spent the last two hours of her life with speak of sending text messages to their parents to ask permission before they went anywhere. Even her killer had a 7pm curfew.
Libby ran into him by chance, on a driveway with a group of teens, and the group walked into Kerikeri New World supermarket about 5.30pm. On the way, Libby sat on his bicycle handlebars. Within an hour, he had killed her.
Security video footage shows Libby and a girlfriend smiling and skipping and holding hands as they go into the supermarket at 5.45pm.
The group returns to the driveway. Some of them go home to meet curfews.
Libby, filling in time until her friend finishes work at 9pm, decides to head back to the store. The boy goes with her. She sends her last text message to a friend, giving him her landline phone number at 6.32pm.
Her body is found 23 hours later, near-naked and badly beaten, hidden face down under ginger bushes in the Wairoa Stream.
She lies just 600m from where her killer says he last saw her at Kerikeri High. Within 24 hours, a school hall has been turned into a shrine to a bubbly and popular girl.
Near her body, on the grassy knoll, police find a "significant" pool of blood, two torn-off bra hooks, a necklace with purple beads and a name tag with "Liberty" on it.
They also find a broken silver star necklace, given to her by a close friend on the day she moved to Auckland, and two soft-drink bottles.
POLICE say the boy attacked her there and dragged her into the stream. He says she walked there, storming off angrily, her hands covering her bleeding face after he accidentally knocked her over when they went to get a road cone from the water.
In the video interview recorded three hours after Libby's body was found, the boy repeats what he has already told them several times, saying he left Liberty near the school and hasn't seen her since.
Afterwards, he says, he cycled home, showered, and watched the comedy movie Liar, Liar.
He tells police he was wearing a green shirt but when asked for the clothes he had on, gives them a blue one.
On Monday, November 3, in a second video interview, the boy is shown a security camera image of himself and denies knowing where the green shirt is.
By Wednesday, November 5, detectives execute a search warrant at the boy's home and find a plastic bag containing a green blood-soaked polo-shirt and tissues thrown in the bushes outside his bedroom window.
When the boy is arrested on Friday, November 7, he says he accidentally knocked Libby over, which resulted in them fighting. He says he feared she would tell the police.
"So, um, I strangled her, and I pulled her into the river where no one could find her, and pulled down her clothes so if they do find her it looks like a rape, or someone else."
But he denied this on the stand in court last week, saying he "thought" he had strangled her "because I heard from other people that's how she died".
This was not a normal court case, if there ever is such a thing. For two weeks, the parents from each side - four well-dressed professional people - sit just nine seats apart. None of them or their supporters belong in court.
The case seems to affect everyone. Staff at the cafe down the street study the Templemans' expressions when they arrive for lunch each day, to find out what might have gone on on each day of the two-week proceedings.
EVEN the court staff speak of their sympathy for both sides. There are no winners.
Yesterday, the Templemans and supporters appeared in court, wearing ribbons in Libby's favourite colour, orange - some of them made from the same fabric used to tie the tribute left to her on the railing of the Cobham Rd bridge above the stream in which she died.
It is the same colour they painted her casket three nights before her funeral - where they asked people to "come with colour, come with a smile to a celebration of Libby's life" - to remember a bright and happy person, who dyed her hair bright red and wore different-coloured fluorescent laces in her black Chuck shoes.
Also left on the bridge are Libby's own words, threaded in orange through the memorial, just to remind people of her sunny outlook on life: "Everyone is absolutely gorgeous in their own way."
A POEM FROM LIBBY'S PARENTS
We came here today to contemplate
Our daughter, waiting, at Heaven's gate
Within the arms of God above
With other friends we've lost and loved
We wake each day in disbelief
That Libby's heart no longer beats
But listen carefully and you will hear
Libb's "bubbles of giggles"; they're always near!
The sadness weighs our hearts with grief
Our minds play tricks with disbelief
A thoughtless act, a selfish need
A gutless crime, a dirty deed
We want to hold her, see her once more
And tell how proud she has made us all
Our beautiful girl, so vibrant and true
Rest assured she's watching over you
Let's not forget what truth youth brings
Being honest and open with hearts that sing
Her words will ring out, every day
"Everyone is gorgeous, in their own way."
Rest in Peace