Half a generation ago, environmentalism was a minority cause embraced by former hippies or eccentric scientists. All that changed one evening in 1985.

The French bombs that sank the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland also killed Fernando Pereira.

The green movement was catapulted to the front pages, its David-against-Goliath cause catching a wave of sympathy that endures to this day.

But while the ecological cause gained its first martyr, on the other side of the world two small children lost their father.

Today, Pereira's daughter Marelle, now aged 28, wants to show the mental scars that the attack inflicted on her - the proof that "collateral damage" can devastate lives.

Ms Pereira was 8 years old when her father left Amsterdam to fly out to the South Pacific to join the Rainbow Warrior as Greenpeace's photographer in the campaign against French nuclear testing.

"I had a feeling at that moment when we were saying goodbye at the airport and it only clicked with me later on in life," she told the Herald.

"I remember saying, 'Don't go, Daddy. Don't go because you won't be coming back!'

"My dad just laughed it off and said, 'Don't be silly. I'm going away for a while and I'll be back soon'. Then he entered those big Schiphol Airport entrance doors and he waved goodbye. And that was that."

Marelle headed back to school and, from time to time, would receive postcards from her father. A few weeks later, she and her younger brother, Paul, were packed off to summer camp. One day, while she was playing a ball game, a teacher came over and asked Marelle to join her for a moment. She saw her mother, sitting with an uncle.

By the time Marelle had walked over to them, her mother was in tears and the child's heart had filled with dread.

"I was 8 and my brother was 5. The whole bombing and finding out that your dad is not alive anymore had such an impact on my life and my brother's life. It was a shock.

"You feel emotionally broken and you feel there is a gap in your life."

For years, Ms Pereira says, she blotted things out in her mind, aching for her father despite her mother's best efforts to be a "perfect mum and dad at the same time".

Ms Pereira, now a nursery-school assistant, lives in a simple, two-storey brick house in Zwanenburg, west of Amsterdam. The bleak town is so close to Schiphol Airport that, she says, you can see the planes' turbines turning.

She lives with her partner, Hamilton-born Tukirunga Matthew Ahu. In the lounge, the top of the piano is cluttered with family photos.

One is of Marelle being pushed along in a pushchair by her father; another shows her as a toddler with her mum and dad.

Another frame displays a photo of Tukirunga's parents. Tukirunga was just 12 years old when his father drowned in Indonesia.

Ms Pereira said one of her most precious memories was the ring her father gave her when she was aged about 6.

"Then, it fitted my middle finger, but when the years went by I outgrew the ring, so it went from this finger to that finger and eventually to this little pinkie.

"Now it is even too small for my finger, but I am so afraid of losing the ring that I decided to get a permanent tattoo on my pinkie that is similar to the ring. I just don't dare to wear the ring any more in case I lose it."

She says she joined Greenpeace not because of what happened to her father but because she believes in supporting those who seek to protect the planet.

She badgers the French and New Zealand authorities about the Rainbow Warrior case, hoping to dig out information to add to the mosaic of knowledge about how and why her father died.

She is open and friendly with visitors but her mood changes when it comes to talk about this quest, and she becomes single-minded, almost strident, as she recounts the rebuffs in phone calls and trips to Paris.

"I am still fighting for the truth. My family is still fighting for the truth ... I am doing all this research to try and find everything, to try and give my family at least a peaceful feeling just to continue life and make the most of it."