By PATRICK GOWER
Terence Traynor's mother had not seen her son for 25 years until he was convicted for the kidnapping of Baby Kahu Durie.
Ngaire Traynor, 78, saw him again for the first time when she visited him in jail last week as he awaited sentencing for the $3 million ransom bid.
Mrs Traynor told the Weekend Herald that when they faced each other at Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt, "We didn't know what to talk about, quite frankly".
"He was very pleased to see me, of course. He held my hand all the time, stroked my hand. He was, and still is, a lovely man. I suppose he is sorry, but he didn't really say."
Speaking publicly for the first time, Mrs Traynor said her son's appearance had "changed terribly".
"I never would have known him. He had a beard, longer hair, and his teeth - he hadn't given them any attention. He used to be a very handsome young chap."
Baby Kahu's family, including her parents, High Court judge Justice Eddie Durie and lawyer Donna Hall, stayed away yesterday as Traynor was sentenced to 11 years.
So did Traynor's family; he asked them not to come to the Wellington District Court.
Traynor had had no contact with his mother, two brothers or his sister since he left for Australia in the 1970s. The 54-year-old's father died in 1974.
About 20 years ago, while Traynor was still across the Tasman, his 5-year-old son, Nicholas, was killed when a tractor overturned in the South Island.
Mrs Traynor wonders whether it was the distress of the loss that "turned" him. She still does not know why the family relationship fell apart.
"Things just stopped. I don't know why. There was a total misunderstanding between us. We never had any words with each other or any argument."
It is understood that Traynor was deported back to New Zealand in the early 1990s after serving an eight-year term for armed robbery in Western Australia in 1987. He lived for a time on Waiheke Island, indulging his love of yachting and tending to a plot of native plants.
The Weekend Herald understands he also worked for a time as a porter at the Barrycourt Motel in Parnell.
It was when a sharemarket investment took a downturn in the wake of the September 11 terrorism in the United States that Traynor began planning the kidnapping.
For nine days after the baby was taken the country feared for her fate. When she was recovered and the kidnapper arrested, Mrs Traynor learned from her other children that it was her son.
It came as "a dreadful, dreadful shock - completely devastating news", she said.
She now rarely goes out in public, but said she intended to maintain the renewed relationship with her son and would visit him again in jail.
"Maybe I shouldn't be [ashamed of myself], but I am his mother.
"People have been very, very kind to me. I think everybody thinks he cared for little Kahu so well."
Mrs Traynor struggles to understand why there was so much media interest in the kidnapping compared with other crimes, and could not "bear to think of him spending all those years in prison".
"He never directly hurt anyone - except for the distress he caused the baby's family and the terrible trauma he has caused his own family.
"I cared for him all right ... I just can't talk about it ... My nerves are in tatters."