By PATRICK GOWER
A pencil drawing of a calf sits in a small picture frame on Daniel Luff's bedroom desk. He is not allowed personal belongings in his prison cell yet; he wants his mother to look after it until then. The drawing is precious - Tracey Luff will not betray her son by letting it be photographed.
It shows Buttercup, a calf Luff gave to his girlfriend, Stephanie Cocker, for her 16th birthday a year ago. He picked it out for the heart-shaped white patch it had on its forehead.
The drawing is by Stephanie. It doesn't have her name on it, which is why it is still there. The police took away every other item that traced the teenage couple's relationship as evidence that Luff's blind obsession with her led him to kill Detective Constable Duncan Taylor.
Luff gave Stephanie the calf even though she was from a fourth-generation Manawatu dairy farming family, surrounded by cows. Her pet calves would always go back on the farm.
Luff wanted her to have one she could keep for ever.
He knew it was a bit strange. From prison, he has written to a schoolmate: "I remember in maths I felt so ashamed when it got around that I'd brought a calf for Steph's birthday.
"It might be weird, but her friends were buying her toy ones, and it made her sad, so I just wanted to make her happy. It's important to me that any girl of mine is happy."
Buttercup is now a year old. Stephanie didn't take it when she broke up with Daniel in May. It is fenced in on the lawn around Tracey Luff's house. Tracey Luff plays with her sometimes. Buttercup is getting too big - she shouldn't be kept as a pet any more.
T WO months after their break-up, Daniel Luff lay on the ground outside Stephanie's house, surrounded by officers in black uniform. Their masked faces looked down on him. They stood around and abused him. They prodded him with their rifles.
The teenager was handcuffed. He had lost his glasses and could barely see.
He had just been tear-gassed before surrendering to the police armed offenders squad.
They had let their dogs loose on him, tearing flesh from his legs. This was treatment reserved for a cop killer.
It was the school holidays. Luff was 17 years old and in love for the first time.
Luff's armed siege of the Cockers' Rongotea farmhouse had begun four hours earlier.
Stephanie's father Robert had come in from the farm for lunch when Detective Constable Taylor and his partner, Detective Jeanette Park, arrived to warn them Luff was back in town.
Luff had come back early from visiting his grandfather in Samoa, a trip organised to break him away from his escalating obsessive behaviour over Stephanie.
The Feilding detectives warned the Cockers Luff might have a gun; he might try to hurt Stephanie. Only three weeks before he had turned up there with a gun, threatening to kill himself. The Cockers took out a protection order and got an unlisted phone number.
As they stood talking with Robert Cocker, Luff suddenly roared past in his army-green Land Rover. They decided to chase him, not knowing he was in a blind panic. He was acting mechanically. He can remember being unable to think straight.
Park would see him grin at her when he tricked them into pulling over before heading back up Taipo Rd to the Cocker farmhouse.
No-one will know what Taylor last saw of Luff - he had time to scream something like "run, gun" before Luff shot the 2m, "man mountain", former New Zealand representative basketballer in the chest from point-blank range. The shot from the Voere .270 rifle killed him instantly - hunters say it has the power to go straight through a large stag.
Luff says he did not recognise Taylor, a man he viewed as a friend. Before the shooting, the Luffs bumped into Taylor, his wife Melanie and baby Campbell in a cafe. Luff liked the way Taylor said, "Gidday, Tracey, Gidday Daniel", leaving his policeman's cap behind when out in public. He liked the way Taylor didn't use his size to his advantage; he liked the way he had been trying to help.
But now Taylor was dead, the 26th New Zealand police officer to die in the line of duty.
Luff then smirked at Park again as he turned the rifle towards her. He missed. That was her chance. The 33-year-old, who had represented New Zealand in discus, ran for her life, zig-zagging down the driveway to make herself a difficult target. Luff, a crackshot, hit her in the buttocks as she hurdled the cattlestop. Another shot just missed her head, but Park was away and hobbled 500m to a neighbour's home.
Robert Cocker watched Luff shoot Taylor dead. He, his wife and Stephanie barricaded themselves in a room, hiding Luff's 16-year-old target in a wardrobe.
Stephanie would escape first, then Christine. After Robert left, the police went in. The siege ended four hours after the farmer made a 111 call at 1.27pm.
Luff had been talking to their negotiator by phone throughout, telling them not to bother evacuating Taylor because he was dead, telling them that he was an expert hunter and if they tried anything they would suffer the consequences. He boasted about shooting at Detective Tony Heathcote, blowing away a fencepost beside his head.
He pleaded to speak to Stephanie, "just for an hour".
When the tear gas came, Luff gave himself up. He did not know that Stephanie had been in the house, that she had been behind a door, that he could have got to her.
He also did not know that she hid from him, ran from him.
He did not know she drew police a plan of the house so they could go in and get him.
Luff has always been obsessive. It might be Land Rovers. Engines. Hunting and guns.
When he was a boy, it was locks. Padlocks, keys, keyholes - he would dismantle them, put them together, file keys for them.
Daniel John Luff was born in Wanganui on September 28, 1984. The birth certificate says father-unknown, and he has taken the name of his mother, then 18. His father, Ian Thomas, is part-Maori, part-Spanish - - Luff has inherited his height and looks.
Abandoned by both drug-addict parents, as an infant Luff was shipped from home to home.
One family, who want to remain anonymous, remember taking him into a farming supplies store. When they left, they found he had stolen a padlock.
Tracey Luff believes his obsession with locks started through his separation from his parents - both were locked up in prison.
Ian Thomas has spent most of his life addicted to opiates and is now brain-damaged from a drug-related standover in prison.
Luff has seen him only half-a-dozen times. He last bumped into him in a Wanganui park a few years ago and they talked for an hour or so. Luff's arrest for Taylor's murder reunited them - Luff and Thomas have seen each other inside Wanganui's Kaitoke prison, where Thomas is serving yet another sentence for petty crime to feed his drug habit.
But they only saw each other from a distance. They have not spoken. From jail, Luff has told friends he never wants to turn out like his father.
Tracey Luff has also fought an opiate addiction. She has been to jail for fraud.
She was reunited with Daniel when he was eight. Since then, they have been living in the Rongotea area, first with an elderly widower who Tracey married and then with a bachelor suffering from a kidney condition for whom she is still a caregiver. She has another child, Julius, Daniel's half-brother, who lives with his father.
Daniel is close to his mother, more like friends than mother and son. But their difficult backgrounds isolated them in the farming community. People gossip about them.
They say the boy is a thief, a prolific burglar who has been inside every farm shed in the district. The Luffs were outsiders in the area well before the shooting.
His mother visits him every second day, and says her own prison experience makes it worse - she knows what can happen inside.
Despite his family background of neglect - including attending 12 primary schools - in the eyes of others Luff emerged relatively unscathed until the shootings.
He is described as a dedicated and thoughtful student by teachers at Palmerston North's co-ed Awatapu College.
But talk to his friends and you will get a different story each time.
"Blinky" made a different impression on everyone. Some say he was a loner, others say he could be extroverted when he wanted to be. Some say he was always the first to be bullied, others that he had a violent streak.
They all say he was obsessed by Stephanie. T HEY met on the school bus that took teenagers from their rural area into town; him to Awatapu College, her to Palmerston North Girls' High. They went out for about a year before their break-up in May.
Perhaps because he had not had a normal family, Luff quickly fell in love with the Cockers as much as with Stephanie, but felt they would never accept him.
But he was clear; he would only ever love one woman and that was Stephanie, just like his grandad, who married the first girl he met.
He would be with her for the rest of his life. They had opened a joint bank account. He had plans to marry her after she became a vet and he a diesel engineer.
Stephanie dumped him because he was too possessive. Although she had wanted to break up with him since Christmas, he would not take no for an answer. She eventually told him she wanted to concentrate on her exams.
Unable to handle the break-up, he stalked her for two months before the shootings.
First he tried to kill himself. Friends say he slid into her car as she came out of a school meeting and slit his wrists before her.
He prowled outside Stephanie's school ball while she cowered inside, guarded by teachers and friends.
She begged the school counsellor for advice on how to deal with him.
Luff also threatened to kill a friend of Stephanie's whom he thought had broken them up. He walked past her on the bus, stared at her and said: "You need a bullet in your head".
Luff's problems - among them a depression-related disorder - had been noticed. He was having counselling; he was a week away from a psychiatrist's appointment on the day of the killings.
And Duncan Taylor knew all about it. He was investigating not only his obsession with Stephanie but a string of petty crimes in the area.
Taylor had taken Luff on as a project, trying to "get him back on the straight and narrow".
In a letter to his sentencing judge, Luff would write that he asked for help with his problems, but did not ask enough. He singled out Taylor as the one who helped him the most. It was through Taylor's baby that Luff - who knows what it is like to be raised without a father - first realised the enormity of his crime.
Before deciding to plead not guilty last month, Luff uttered to his mother: "He had a baby, Ma. He had a baby."
His feelings for Stephanie have not changed despite the break-up, the counselling, the police involvement, the killing and now the sentencing.
The morning after the shooting, Tracey Luff saw her son in the police cells, oblivious to the magnitude of his crime. Luff, rocking like a baby, said to her: "Do you think Stephanie will understand now, mum? Do you think she will know how I feel about her?"
Psychologists say this points to more than just an "unreasonable attachment" of an emotionally vulnerable teen. It is more likely an inborn personality disorder; not so much a crime of passion but the detached behaviour of a cold-blooded killer.
Luff's letters from prison talk about cars and school balls. He compares the prison superintendent to a school headmaster. It is "groovy" that showers are only every second day. The one-time outdoors man has now started catching up on television soaps.
But his life has changed: the guards keep him away from other prisoners as much as they can because they cheer on the "cop-killer". When they see him, they tear off pieces of paper and ask for his autograph.
Yet only recently he has written: "I gave her all the time and love she asked for ... Obviously now she's really angry and doesn't want to talk to me. I love her more than anyone but I'm buggered if I know how to show it. What do I say? If you have any ideas, I'd be very grateful to hear them because she needs to know how much I care and it's eating me up in here, her not writing or anything."
On the eve of Luff's sentencing, another, older prisoner whose voice he could not recognise called out to him after lights out.
"Come on, mate. There's got to be more to it than just [the girl]. You can tell me. There's got to be more to it."
A friend of Stephanie's, who reluctantly spoke on condition she was not named, says the 17-year-old does not know if she will ever be safe from Luff, and says becoming close to him is a decision she will always regret.
It remains to be seen if Luff will ever get over her while on the inside.
"We were always like, 'Girl, you can do so much better [than Luff]'," says the friend.
"Then he started stalking her, but she was strong and put up with it. She just had to play it safe and that was what she was doing.
"But she never, ever thought he would go this far. I mean, what does she do now?"
By PATRICK GOWER