"He was an inspiration."

That's how John Milne is remembering his 14-year-old son Sayyad Milne, who was killed when a gunman opened fire at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on Friday.

John Milne lived in Tauranga and taught at Te Puna School and Tauranga Intermediate School over 30 years ago. His daughter Brydie Henry - Sayyad's half-sister - still lives in the city with her family.

Milne fondly, at times through tears, remembered his son - a year 10 student at Cashmere High School - as a shy yet sweet boy who called him "Pops".


"I loved him so dearly, and of course I always will."

Milne, who is separated from Sayyad's mother, said he chose the name for its meaning.

"[Sayyad] means lion, brave and hunter."

Despite being a quiet boy, Sayyad's fierceness came out on the football field where his passion for goalkeeping shone brightly.

"He was a very talented goalkeeper ... [Cashmere High School] has got a big hole in their team now.

"He tried to stop every [ball] ... he'd come home with grazed knees."

Some of Milne's best memories of his son were when Sayyad was a little boy, running around and kicking a football. Milne had even bought him a new ball for his recent 14th birthday.

Sayyad's love for the sport was evident by his goal to play in the national or European circuit.


"He's got his dream now," Milne said, his voice breaking.

Milne said the show of community spirit in Christchurch and further afield had been "truly humbling" during the tragic time.

"[The gunman] wanted to bring us all down but he has bought us all together. People have come from all over. They don't know what to say but they just hug us."

Sayyad's older half-sister, Brydie Henry of Tauranga, also shared her grief following the tragedy.

"The words don't come easily, to be honest."

She travelled down to Christchurch following the news and attended an assembly at Sayyad's school, Cashmere High School, today.

She joined Sayyad's brother and sister, along with his football friends, to grieve for the teenager.

"They are just devastated. You cannot imagine, it's just the most awful thing.

"I've never seen so many teenagers crying."

While everyone was living "minute by minute" in Christchurch, the community spirit was strong, she said.