The teenaged driver who hit and killed a 15-year-old has spoken of her sorrow over the tragedy and says every night she prays for him and his family.
In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Herald, Rouxle Le Roux opened up about the fateful night on May 18 when she crashed into Nathan Kraatskow who was riding a bike and then fled the crash scene.
Le Roux, 19, who was last week sentenced to 11 months' home detention, said if she had one Christmas wish it would be to "bring Nathan back and take back what happened that night".
"I think about Nathan all the time. Every time I look at the moon and stars I pray and say sorry to his family. I pray that I can make it right somehow.
"I have really down days where I don't feel like going on any more. I am sorry and know words will never bring him back. I am going to do my best to not have his name go down in vain. I want to prove to them I am remorseful and I take this seriously and this will never happen again."
But Nathan's mother, Charlene Kraatskow, said her family did not care for what Le Roux said or felt about the tragedy which killed her boy.
She can only think about how her family will get through Christmas Day without him, adding she was not ready to undergo a restorative justice meeting with Le Roux or read a letter of apology she has given the family.
This week, Kraatskow started a petition, signed by 143,000 people, calling for an appeal and harsher sentence. But the Crown Law Office said it would not appeal.
The sentence, and a social media post Le Roux made prior, sparked outrage around New Zealand and questions over whether her remorse was genuine.
"I do feel bad for what has happened," the North Shore teen said.
"It was an accident and one I have to live with for the rest of my life. I made a lot of mistakes that night and I should have come clean and gone to the police - no matter what state I was in - there was no excuse."
Le Roux said she regretted her Instagram post at Halloween in which she wore an orange boiler suit, with her face painted in the style of a Mexican death mask, with the caption: "Hide the Kids".
She said it was "ill thought-out" and not related to the crash that killed Nathan.
"I know that it was insensitive to the boy's parents [but] I was talking about trick or treating."
Social media posts also claimed Le Roux's sentence was down to privilege. Her lawyer was a QC and driving a luxury vehicle.
But the teenager said her lawyer Belinda Sellars' fees were paid through legal aid, and the car was owned by her friend, a passenger in the car.
"The police gave me a whole list of lawyers, none of them picked up except Belinda. I can't thank her enough - she was obviously watching over me".
She said she had a "really hard life growing up". She was born in South Africa and as a child moved to New Zealand with her mother and older brother.
Her dad had left the family home when she was young and her mother has been on a sickness benefit since.
She said she was rebellious and left school aged just 13. After mixing with the "wrong crowd" and getting over two "toxic" relationships Le Roux did a super yacht crew course, which she was still completing at the time of the crash. She graduated on December 7 as the "most improved student", a week before she was sentenced.
But she said it was after completing a Community Alcohol & Drug Services course and other life skills courses after the crash that had helped her understand the consequences of her actions.
On May 18, Le Roux had been smoking cannabis with two friends, Sam, 21, and Luke, 16, on the night. She insists her alcohol intake was limited to one glass of wine and she had two cones of marijuanna, the equivalent of a joint.
Learner drivers are not allowed alcohol in their system and are not allowed passengers aside from a sober supervisor who has had a full licence for at least two years. But Le Roux said she drove as she was the most sober of the group.
"At the time I thought it would be for the best but given what's happened, obviously not," she said.
On their way to drop Luke off at his home in Kaukapakapa, Le Roux crashed into Nathan as he rode through a red light without a helmet while wearing headphones.
Le Roux confided she instantly "felt the impact "of something. Nathan had been struck with such a force that he was sent across the bonnet and into the air before he landed on the ground some distance away.
Le Roux said she slowed down but Sam told her "not to stop", and to "continue driving". But the most haunting thing Le Roux can't escape is abandoning Kraatskow.
"I didn't know how serious it was," she said. "We knew we'd hit something, we felt it and we heard it. There was a bit of hope in me that it wasn't a person I'd hit but I do take full responsibility. It was up to me and I didn't stop."
It wasn't till later that night back home Le Roux searched the internet, she realised what she had done. But she failed to contact the police till the next day because she was "in a state and wasn't thinking straight".
In a letter of apology to Nathan's family, Le Roux said: "My mother did not think I was in a appropriate state of mind to spend the night in the cells and agreed to take me in the following morning. I know this is no excuse".
The next day Le Roux and Sam went to a family friend, a former a panel beater, to see how much it would cost to get fixed. She was criticised for doing so before going to police but said she did so because she thought she was about to be locked up and wanted to help Sam first.
"There were no intentions of fixing it before going to the police station.
"I thought I was going to prison so I didn't want to cause any hardship for him, I was trying to help him."
Le Roux has revealed she has been labelled a "murderer" by people who live near her and strangers and her mum is too scared to go to her local shops. She rubbished claims on social media that she celebrated avoiding a jail sentence by hosting a party.
"They obviously don't think I have remorse and will try to make my life harder," she said.
"There is nothing to celebrate. I would never disrespect the family.
"It's scary to know how many people are against us. I want people to know I am no psycho with no heart."
But Charlene Kraatskow finds her remorse hard to believe.
"I have nothing to say to her. I don't know if I can find it in my heart to forgive her. Just everything I've seen of her and everything she's done, I don't believe anything she says."
She said she was disappointed that no appeal would be made over Le Roux's sentence but said she was "overwhelmed and humbled" by the public support.
"Obviously we are not the only ones who don't think the sentence is right. But we are leaving things for now. We have three other children to think about we need to focus on them and get through Christmas – it will be the hardest time."
Rouxle's apology letter
To the Sentencing judge and family friends of Nathan,
I am so deeply sorry and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I wish there were words that could be more suitable than just a sorry but no words can ever bring your son back and I know and understand that's why it'll never be good enough. Nothing that can be said or done will ever make up for what has happened to your little boy.
I did not mean for him to be taken from your lives and I wish more than anything I could turn back the clock and know what was going to happen that night or see him when I crossed the intersection because then he may well still be here with you today. I did not ever want something like this to happen it has never been my intentions to even hurt anybody.
I take full responsibility for my actions. I should not have been travelling that fast and definitely should not have driven after drinking wine and smoking cannabis. I now know first-hand why my actions were dangerous, and would do anything to take it back.
I wish had the strength at the time to stop immediately and not listen to my other passengers. It was my intention to stop, and I should have done so. I should have stopped initially or got Sam to drive us back when we swapped over. I do not blame anyone else I know at the end of the day I was driving and had the power to do so. I am sorry for not going to the police until the following day. I was in a state of disbelief and could not cope with my actions. My mother did not think I was in a appropriate state of mind to spend the night in the cells and agreed to take me in the following morning. I know this is no excuse.
The court can be confident that I will never get behind the wheel of a car and drive dangerously again,as I could not live with anything happening as a result of my actions again. I have not driven since the accident and will undertake any driving courses or programmes I am available to once I feel confident in my ability to drive again. At the moment I find being a passenger in a car traumatic enough,let alone driving.
I am doing the best I possibly can to better myself as a person and have engaged and completed all available programmes and group sessions that were able to help me in any way. Although I have continues to post on social media pictures where I look happy, that does not take away from my remorse or the fact I am dealing with my actions that caused Nathan's death and I sincerely apologise if it has offended or hurt anyone.
It is a very long road to recovery and is something I will have to live with and carry with me for the rest of my life.
I am extremely sorry for what my actions have caused,the death of another human being. I know no words can ever undo what has happened.
I would like to engage in restorative justice if at any stage in the future the family are willing to do so. I completely respect and understand that you are currently not wanting to.
Rouxle Le Roux