It was a murder mystery that fascinated the country. A middle New Zealand family torn apart by the killing of a young father with no known enemies - until revelations of a campaign of terror against the victim and his wife in the months before his death.

Suddenly, life on this farm in Feilding wasn't all it appeared to be. Someone hated Scott and Kylee Guy.

The mystery deepened when it was revealed that three chocolate Labrador puppies disappeared at the time of Scott's death.

But the most shocking twist came when the police accused Scott's brother-in-law, Ewen Macdonald, of being the killer.

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Ewen played many roles in this mystery - the grieving family member who helped carry Scott's coffin, the son-in-law who just wanted to keep his "head down", the vandal who wielded a splitting axe to damage Scott and Kylee Guy's new home and wrote hateful messages on the walls, the farmer allegedly consumed by jealously, and the accused on trial for a murder he said he did not commit.

After the arrest was made, the identity of the alleged killer posed more questions than answers. What evidence did the police have that a normal, law-abiding, gentle family man shot dead his wife's brother?

At the trial, the Crown said Ewen Macdonald was anything but normal. It accused him of being a law breaker and said no one in the Guy family had any idea of the dark thoughts going through his mind.

It was the Crown case that Ewen was forever tied to his rival, Scott, by money and by marriage and eventually saw murder as the only way out.

It said his grudge against Scott was probably ignited when the family sat around a motel conference table in June 2008 at a meeting called to clear the air and improve communication.

Scott - the older son who returned to the farm after living as a cowboy in outback Australia - declared he wanted to inherit the farm he believed was rightfully his. He came to the meeting with an agenda outlining his demands. The Crown said this might as well have been his "death warrant".

Ewen said nothing at the meeting, but his wife Anna - Scott's sister - "fired up" and even Bryan and Joanne Guy, Scott's parents, told him it wasn't going to happen.

The meeting ended after Scott said Anna was not doing enough on the farm to deserve a greater share.

Eventually, each couple was given a 10 per cent stake in the farm, Byreburn, and they moved on - or so it seemed.

But the rivalry remained and it was no secret to anyone. Visitors to the farm saw it, staff were aware of it and even the family knew something wasn't right.

Scott's life ended on his driveway before dawn on July 8, 2010, with his throat torn open and blood flowing from his wounds into distinctive footprints the Crown said were left by his killer.

And so began a case the defence likened to the "proverbial whodunnit".

Was that killer Ewen with the farm shotgun because he was fearful for his future? Was it Simon Asplin, a farm worker and the farm gossip, a possibility thrown up by the defence, because Scott was blocking him from working on the tractors? Or was it a known criminal responsible for a spate of aggravated robberies in the area?

The police said, no, it was Ewen.

The first day of the murder trial was also Ewen Macdonald's 32nd birthday. But instead of sitting down to candles or cake, he stepped into the dock in the big oak-panelled courtroom in the High Court at Wellington to answer a charge of murder.

"Not guilty, Your Honour," he declared firmly, head down but eyes raised enough to see the courtroom in front of him.

He was thinner than during his previous court appearance, and the suit he wore looked as out of place as the farmer probably felt with the eyes of the country watching him.

Ewen had always wanted to be a farmer. He grew up and spent his whole life around Feilding, and worked casually on Bryan and Jo Guy's farm until he was given a permanent job a week into his sixth-form year. Although, as Bryan Guy said, his younger daughter, Anna, was probably the greater attraction.

Ewen never really left the Guy farm after that. A six-month stint at nearby Cheltenham driving tractors when he was about 19 was the only real departure and he returned to the farm and to his relationship with Anna that was starting to get serious.

It seemed inevitable that the teenage romance would lead to marriage.

He was welcomed into the Guy family, and became drawn to them. He told police he grew to appreciate the supportive home life that consisted of Sunday lunches and church.

He had stopped attending with his own family, but he and Anna occasionally went to Colyton Anglican church, where their children were baptised.

His teenage life was markedly different from that of Scott, whom Ewen had known since he was 15 or 16. Scott had "plenty of girlfriends" - so many that Ewen couldn't remember all their names.

Scott wasn't all that enamoured with farm life. His mother Joanne laughed a little when she was asked about Scott and the farm.

"He grew up on it going out with his dad ...

"As he got into his teens, he wanted a weekend, but Bryan would always rope him into moving the stock."

Bryan did not pressure his children to work on the farm.

"Like all fathers" he wanted the best for them whatever path they chose.

Asked in court how he would deal with their lack of interest in the farm, Bryan replied: "I looked at it more as an opportunity for the children but tried not to put pressure on them that they were obliged to come home and please us."

The aim was to give the children a shareholding if that's what they wanted.

While Ewen was dating Anna and working on the farm, he lived with Scott for about 18 months in a cottage on the land. Their time as flatmates passed without incident, according to Ewen's initial statement to police. His description of Scott, made soon after his death, was glowing - and quite different from ones he gave later.

Scott was a good flatmate, not messy, and he did renovations on the house and cared for it as if it was his own. While they were living together they played rugby in the same team, Feilding Yellows.

Their friendship extended to other sports such as surfing, and they went spotlighting for possums.

Ewen thought enough of Scott to tell him he was planning to marry Anna, and received his blessing.

"You've been hanging around long enough," Scott is said to have told him. "You're made for each other."

Scott would later be best man at the wedding and it was soon after that that their lives began taking different paths.

Ewen stayed on the farm, being "moulded" into what Bryan wanted him to be, he believed, and kept his head down.

He and Anna had four children and began planning for the future. They wanted something secure and discussed their options, including moving away from the farm she grew up on.

The prospect for this was enough to leave Anna in tears. She didn't want to leave - ever.

When Scott met Kylee at a rodeo in 2003, the attraction was instant.

"From the moment we met we just couldn't be apart," she told the jury.

But Joanne Guy knew Kylee, her daughter-in-law, struggled with the move to Feilding, at least at first, and always wanted to return to Hawkes Bay, joking to the jury that a reason could have been the "weather's not great in the Manawatu".

When she moved to Feilding, Kylee would often stay at home when there were family lunches, joining only later, after she became a mother.

She grew close to Jo Moss, a neighbour - who was one of the first she called to say Scott was dead - and gradually the homesickness faded.

Ewen said there was tension between Kylee and Nikki - the eldest Guy sibling - in those early days, but Kylee and Anna had more to talk about after Kylee became a mother and they had more in common.

Even if she did miss home, Kylee wouldn't have had it any other way, as that would have meant being apart from the man she described as "one in a million".

"He was my best friend, the most amazing partner and husband," she said of Scott.

Having three families living and working so closely to each other did not mean they were constantly in each other's pockets off the farm.

Kylee said they got together only for "special" events, such as birthdays, because they "all had our own lives".

Even Anna and Ewen were distant to them. The two women were friends, but the couples rarely met away from the farm.

Ewen said it was because Scott and Kylee had more single friends. A typical night for him and Anna would be feeding and bathing their children, helping with homework and then putting the children to bed.

Much later, after the rivalry between Ewen and Scott worsened, Anna suggested the couples try to have a monthly dinner, or even pizza and a film, as a way of being closer.

They never did. As she recalled life before her husband's murder, Kylee could not even remember a single occasion when Ewen would drop by for a drink. His focus was his family and the farm - which was what put him on a collision course with Scott who, having never expressed much interest in the farm, was suddenly keen and wanted his voice to be heard.

The problem with that was there were other voices wanting to be heard, and Scott found it difficult to be taken seriously.

"He felt he wasn't being listened [to] - no one took any notice," said Kylee.

It was her impression that Ewen didn't like talking.

"In the end, he just gave up because he [Scott] felt he wasn't getting anywhere."

She wanted the court to know that Scott kept to himself - "he was a big softie". He didn't want to upset anyone and only wanted "things to be fair".

But at the June 2008 meeting, he upset the people closest to him, his family.

When Scott dropped his bombshell about wanting to inherit the farm, even Bryan and Jo were surprised.

Bryan explained he had been in a 50/50 partnership with his father and he had to be bought out, and wondered if they had explained that well enough when Scott was young.

Apart from the farm ownership, Scott was unhappy about Ewen and Anna moving into the family homestead, a move he felt he wasn't consulted about.

They were effectively getting the house for half-price through a $250,000 interest-free loan from Bryan and Jo. Anna believed he was consulted, but she knew he was "ratty" about it, especially because he and Kylee were living in a modest, rented cottage.

Ewen thought Kylee was behind Scott's move.

He told police he could see she had a big influence on the "stance" he took and felt her unhappiness in the house she and Scott had was a big factor.

"Finding out [Jo and Bryan] had helped Anna and Ewen, knowing we were struggling, was hard," Kylee said.

The meeting was tense and everyone tried to "keep calm" because Bryan had told them they all were there for the same reason, for the good of the farm.

The gathering broke up so Anna and Ewen could take their time to consider their response.

Anna and Ewen were stunned when Scott started talking.

"We were quite shocked ... We thought it was a basic meeting, to get our feelings out there.

"Scott came out very much on the attack," Anna said.

She remembered her father intervened and told him they had to work together for the business to succeed. Anna was relieved.

"Thank God Dad was on the same page," she told the jury. "It would have been horrible if that was what he was thinking too."

The family dynamics, and how they were all going to make it work, had always troubled Anna.

Of the three-families-on-the-farm arrangement, she said: "I wasn't so sure, because I don't think three's a great number - two's company and three's a crowd."

She was fired up as Scott demanded to know why she was getting the farmhouse when she hadn't worked a day on the farm. Ewen was in "disbelief" and helped her compose their response.

During that week Anna had no contact with her brother. At the follow- up meeting she said her piece and she felt Scott thought he'd been too harsh and the siblings hugged.

"We spoke about it and let it lie, and both got it off our chests."

But it wasn't all one-way traffic - Anna and Ewen made it clear Scott could not pick and choose his working hours and they wanted Ewen paid the same, about $100,000 a year.

The result was she got to see her husband more, he seemed happier, he was seeing their children more and life on the farm was improving.

Except that, according to the Crown case, Ewen was not happy, he was angry. He was angry that Scott could come back to the farm and begin calling the shots, angry that he was getting a better deal than him, and angry that he was seeing more of his son than Ewen saw of his children.

In October 2008, Ewen and friend Callum Boe, a young farmhand with whom he had a "childlike" friendship, went onto the farm in the middle of the night and, in his words, "torched" an old house Scott and Kylee owned that was waiting to be moved off the farm.

Ewen told police he thought the fire was funny. It wasn't aimed at Scott and Kylee and wasn't "revenge" or "vengeance".

Then, in January, 2009, the couple's new home was vandalised. Nearly every wall was damaged, new plumbing was ripped out, and windows were smashed. Not even Ewen could argue his message wasn't personal; the intention was to hurt Scott and Kylee.

He told police: "It wasn't a fair partnership. I slogged my guts out, worked my arse off. I was holding a bit of a grudge and was disappointed it wasn't a fair partnership."

It was the words he chose to describe Kylee - "f***** bitch slapper and whore" - that cut her so deeply.

"I was just shocked. I couldn't understand any of it. I just felt so violated. It was horrible, just horrible," she said.

Ewen told police his anger was directed at Scott because of work issues. But his wife told the court that when she confronted him in prison he gave a different answer.

"He said it was more directed at Kylee than Scott. He thought Kylee wound Scott up with his wild ideas and ringing him up [to come home from work]," Anna said.

She couldn't understand how her husband could be so angry, and for her not to have noticed a thing.

He said he didn't want to involve her because it would hurt her.

But there was yet another side to Ewen Macdonald that she did not know about. At night, while she was fast asleep, he would embark on "missions" with Boe.

Under cover of darkness, they would sneak on to neighbouring farms and poach animals. Stags worth almost $20,000 each were among their targets.

The missions annoyed Anna who agreed with the prosecution and defence that her husband and Boe had a childlike friendship and were always goofing around.

Their behaviour on those missions showed a different side to Ewen, from the community-minded father-of-four he presented in public.

This wasn't the committed farmer, who had been given industry awards, or the board of trustees member of his children's school.

This was a poacher, a firebug and an angry axe-wielding vandal.

Macdonald's lawyer Greg King said the things Macdonald did were heinous crimes that he would be punished for - but they did not make him a murderer.

During the interview in which police cornered him into confessing to the vandalism and arson, Macdonald sensed because of these acts, detectives would believe he was the killer.

Earlier, he agreed with their assessment that whoever did the damage was also the murderer.

"I guess it makes sense. It was all aimed at Scott and Kylee," he said.

But after admitting to his vandalism, he urged police to know one thing: "It looks obvious, all these leading up to events, but I'm not that psycho."

It was one thing, he said, to light fires and terrorise people with vandalism and obscene graffiti, and quite another to commit murder.

"I wouldn't take someone's life, I'm not that extreme."

In that same interview, Macdonald came up with a couple of reasons why he couldn't have been the killer.

He would have been "sweaty", he said, and agitated after doing something as heinous as murder, and his colleagues would have noticed something was wrong.

The police didn't think so. Later during the same interview Macdonald said to them, "I guess I won't be going home tonight will I."

He didn't return home that day and hasn't since.

In court, Macdonald's lawyer, Greg King, listened to witnesses tell of the rivalry between his client and Scott Guy.

But Mr King said the relationship between the two men had improved significantly by the time of the murder.

Only a few weeks before, they travelled to Southland for a dairying course. They shared a room at the Moana Court motel, ordering in pizza and watching a film. Another night they got KFC. They split up the seminars and shared notes.

Ewen told Anna he didn't want to complain about Scott and Kylee any more, and Kylee said Scott returned from the conference and didn't have a bad word to say about Ewen.

At the time of her brother's death, Anna said the whole family was focused on building a future together. "We were all in a really good space."

But if that was so, it hadn't always been that way.

The rivalry between the men was evident to farm visitors and those who worked there.

Dairy assessor Richard Cash was with a worker when he was introduced to Scott Guy, causing him to ask if he was going to take over the farm.

"Ewen just said 'thinks he is' and walked off," Mr Cash said.

Another farm visitor observed their relationship was "hot and cold".

Callum Guy, the youngest sibling, knew of the tension and what was causing it. Scott told him he was unhappy with the way things were going.

"He felt Ewen was taking over the farm."

But Scott, it seemed, was hedging his bets when it came to his future on the farm. He knew it was probably not forever.

In her evidence, Kylee Guy revealed she and Scott planned to leave the farm in 10 or 15 years to buy a smaller one of their own, because "We wanted to get somewhere in life."

That would have come as no shock to Ewen, who told Anna that he doubted Scott would stay on the farm.

Bryan knew Ewen, too, could be unhappy, "but he didn't speak to me himself".

Usually Ewen spoke to Anna who then relayed the message back to Bryan via her mother, Joanne.

Said Bryan: "I imagine he was reluctant to come and see me because [Scott] was my son."

And Ewen seemed to agree. After yet another discussion about the tensions on the farm - which was causing friction in their own relationship - a fed-up Anna told him if he felt strongly about something he should tell her father about it or speak to Scott.

His reply was always the same: "It's your dad's farm, he can run it how he wants to. It's not my place to say."

The conference showed the different streaks in each farmer's personality. Ewen was more operational and wanted to focus on technology improvements that could produce more revenue, and Scott was the ideas man who looked at the bigger picture - which is precisely what worried Ewen. Scott's ideas - and his easy access to Bryan and Jo - left him feeling vulnerable.

Soon after the men returned from the conference, Bryan and Jo went to another one. They looked at different options for the future which included plans to try to make more money from the farm so it could support all three families.

One idea was for Ewen or Scott to manage another farm in the area to bring more cash; another was to create a lake on the farm to run some kind of adventure-type activity.

That was one of Scott's ideas and his parents seemed to like it.

But Ewen spoke to Anna about his concerns, and she relayed them to her mother. He wondered whether his future was in milking the cows, or if he had a future in milking at all

"Anna had said to us, 'Ewen is a bit worried that the dairy farm side of the business would fall off'," Joanne Guy told the trial.

She said she told her husband he should speak to Ewen about it and that they were not going to "go off on wild adventures".

The trial heard that an earlier suggestion of moving from the farm reduced Anna to tears.

In court, she said she wanted to stay and run the dairying side and reassured her husband.

"I said to him, 'look I wouldn't panic'."

Bryan believed it was possible neither Scott or Ewen would have to move, but he and Joanne did not get a chance to speak with them before Scott was murdered.

When he got out of the bed for the last time, Scott went about his usual routine. He put on the clothes that he'd laid out the night before, and used the bathroom at the end of the house so he would not wake his wife and young son, Hunter.

"Then he'd have his coffee and normally check his mail, use the computer," Kylee said.

That morning he opened his laptop on the kitchen table and checked the weather, a news website and his Facebook page. It was still open to the Facebook login when a police officer came into the room after he had been killed.

Kylee said he would usually have a coffee - and he probably did so that morning as an empty cup was found on the bench when police scoured the home for detail, any clue, as to what led up to his violent death.

He wouldn't have breakfast then; that would happen after milking, when he returned home to have it with Kylee and Hunter.

Ewen started his day in much the same way. He had his clothes picked out and would dress in the walk-in wardrobe so as not to to disturb Anna.

Like Kylee, Anna didn't hear her husband get up that morning.

The Crown version of events is that Ewen biked the 1.4km between his home and Scott's with the farm shotgun and waited for his brother-in-law in the dark.

Just after 4.40am, Scott left his home. It would be the last time he would ever be there; Kylee too would never stay on the farm again.

As he drove down the long driveway towards Aorangi Rd he would have seen the gates at the end of the driveway were shut.

That was unusual.

They were usually closed only when stock was being moved. He stopped the ute and got out, the headlights still on and focused on what was immediately in front. The engine was running.

It was near pitch black that winter's morning so he never saw his killer coming until it was too late, or even at all. As Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said in his opening address, he would have been silhouetted by the ute headlight before the fatal shots were fired.

"The killer must have stepped out of the darkness, illuminated by the lights as he stepped into the beam," he told the jury.

A forensic pathologist, Dr John Rutherford, said shotgun pellets fractured Scott Guy's jaw, severed an artery supplying blood to the brain and passed through the roof of his mouth and eye socket before embedding into his brain.

Pellet injuries were also found in his left hand and forearm, possibly because Scott raised his arm to his face. The second shot could have been fired as he was falling to the ground.

When police re-enacted Scott's short journey from home they found even with the headlights on full beam he wouldn't have been able to see what wasn't immediately in front of him. Whoever was waiting near the fence line was well hidden.

Distinctive wavy footprints were found close to the fence line, where no one would have reason to walk, suggesting the killer waited there until they saw the headlights coming.

After the shots were fired and the mission was completed, the killer walked over to Scott's body and paused by his feet and then by his head. Blood from the gaping hole in his neck trickling into a footprint left behind.

After the murder, life on Byreburn was never the same again.

Scott was gone, Kylee never returned to the farm and for everyone else life as part of a high profile murder inquiry became the new normal.

Everyone was searching for answers and inevitably everyone had a theory. Drugs and extra-marital affairs were popular suggestions and were looked into by investigators.

Detective Sergeant David Thompson said there was many as 60 suspects, but the list was eventually whittled down to one - Ewen Macdonald, who was the only person police could find who had a problem with Scott.

The breakthrough came when Boe told police the truth about the arson and vandalism but officers found it difficult to work when their number one suspect was so close to the family.

Police believed if they found whoever was responsible for the arson and vandalism they would find the killer.

Months were spent looking into burglaries in the area but they came up with nothing.

"We looked at extended family, drugs, burglaries, criminal associations extra martial affairs. All those enquiries came to zero."

At the trial however, the intrigue of who killed Scott Guy would not die.

The defence raised the possibility of other killers and insisted the mystery wasn't solved.

One of the names on the suspect list was an aggravated robber who committed a robbery four days before Scott was killed. Part of his bounty was a carton of Winfield Gold cigarettes. A cigarette of that brand was found on Scott's driveway, and the man's sole alibi was a P addict who once threatened to kill police.

The defence team threw up another possibilty. Who was the scruffy man, reeking of alcohol and cigarettes, who turned up at a neighbours house and wanted to know where Scott was?

An investigation into that came up with no answers.

Then there was Simon Asplin, a farm worker who'd had a grudge against Scott since school. Ewen's lawyer Greg King said he wasn't saying he was the killer - but then offered a few reasons why he could be.

When Mr Guy returned to the farm, Mr Asplin lost his favourite job of driving the tractors. Asked who would kill Mr Guy, Mr Asplin replied: "Well, he's pissed a lot of people off."

Nearly two years after Scott's murder and the nightmare that began for his family, the man police said was responsible was found not guilty by a jury of seven men and four women in the High Court at Wellington.

After the verdict, Bryan Guy, with his daughter Anna leaning on his shoulder, spoke from the steps of the court.

"The pain of our broken hearts is at times almost too much to bear," he said. "However, through this tragedy we have learnt a lot. Mostly about ourselves - what we stand for, what our values are, what is important to us."

"We have learnt how important a father is to his children. We know that a father can never be replaced, but with strong family and community values and support there is hope for the future."