WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
A grieving mother has told of her hatred of the teenage babysitter who killed her nine-year-old son - and said the murderer had been texting her like normal during the evening.
Hunter MacIntosh's distraught mother, Amy King, clutching a yellow-framed picture of her son, told a court today of the devastating effect the murder had had on her, after she discovered her dead son in his bedroom following a regular social outing.
She wished babysitter Daniel Cameron - who was today jailed for at least 11 years - could be imprisoned forever, "as he chose to take away our son, our world".
She said she barely functioned any more, following the murder on October 30 last year in the small Southland town of Otautau, 40km northwest of Invercargill.
"Every minute I try to put one foot in front of the other and that hasn't changed since the moment I laid eyes on my poor dead boy," she told the High Court in Invercargill.
"My reality is that I was 28 weeks' pregnant at the time and the only thing that kept me breathing and eating was our baby."
The trauma of finding her son dead haunts her days and nights.
"People say, 'Try to remember the good times' - I remember finding my son dead - a knife protruding from his stomach, blood around his mouth - him being so pale and knowing that I could do nothing to save him," she said.
"Thinking every minute of every day since about the horrific way that he died, how scared he would've been of Daniel, how painful and scary his last moments were."
She struggles to comprehend that the killer was texting her during the period he murdered her son.
And she hates the killer and despite his age - he was 15 at the time - she says he knew what he was doing.
"He is a brutal murderer, his age should have no influence on his sentence, and no sentence will ever compare to the sentence he has given Hunter and us. Life really is a 'no life' sentence for Hunter."
She spoke about Hunter being her life, her world, her reason for living.
There were angry scenes in the court today.
Cameron was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 11 years.
His own lawyer told the court it was still unclear why the now 16-year-old killed Hunter.
Justice Rachel Dunningham told Cameron, who pled guilty to murder, the impact of his offending had been devastating.
"Your crime is every parent's worst nightmare. And Hunter's family is living that nightmare," she said.
The brutal killing had also shattered the small community of Otautau, the judge noted.
Justice Dunningham concluded it was a sustained attack but didn't find that it was premeditated.
She said Hunter was just a child, and while Cameron was also very young, he was older, bigger and stronger.
Another aggravating factor was that Hunter was in his home and Cameron was left in charge.
"Home is meant to be a safe place for children and it was not," Justice Dunningham said, adding that Cameron abused Hunter's trust in the worst possible way.
The court heard that Cameron was bullied at primary school but his mother felt that had passed and not left any lingering effects on Cameron.
Taking into account his youth and the fact he needed to be rehabilitated, Justice Dunningham sentenced Cameron to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 11 years.
After the sentencing, as Cameron was led into custody, he was threatened and abused by members of the public gallery.
Several family members were upset by the final sentence.
"Life really is life for Hunter," his mother sobbed in the courtroom.
"He was only f****** nine," someone else said.
As a white prison van left the courthouse, more abuse was hurled, with one woman yelling: "You mongrel!"
Crown prosecutor Riki Donnelly said there might not be a more devastating thing for a family to suffer than the death of 9-year-old child who had so much in front of him.
Coming home to find her vulnerable son murdered was "a parent's worst nightmare", Donnelly said.
Hunter's family continue to question why Cameron came to kill.
Defence counsel Bill Dawkins said that was the most perplexing and troubling question for everyone.
He still doesn't know why Cameron "lost control and behaved in such a grossly violent manner".
After his arrest, Cameron was carefully examined and assessed by a psychologist and a psychiatrist. They found him to be sane but couldn't establish the answer to "this most troubling of questions".
But Dawkins said there was nothing in his background or profile which could possibly have predicted the extreme, violent behaviour.
He had been assessed as being mildly autistic, and there was mention of him being emotionally understated. Dawkins believed he had been "somewhat insular in his lifestyle".
"His behaviour on October 30 just could not be predicted by anyone, including his family," he said.
Dawkins said it would not offer much comfort to Hunter's family, but such a killing in New Zealand was rare.
Cameron also wanted to say he was sorry to Hunter's family, his lawyer told the court today.
Amy King said every waking moment was about Hunter and she loved it, the court heard.
"I have no regrets except leaving him that evening. About trusting a friend - trusting that she knew her son - and for that I will never forgive myself."
Justice Dunningham praised King for her "courage" in reading her victim impact statement today.
Hunter's aunt and godmother Mandy King remembers a "super caring and kind, sensitive" wee boy who had a unique personality "who brightened up the lives of anyone he touched with an everlasting bond to his mum".
She questioned how it's fair that a murderer gets "another chance at life when Hunter's is no more".
Although the thought of Cameron consumes her family with "an extreme amount of hate and anger", she looked at him in the dock and told him: "Today is all about Hunter, it is not about you Daniel and never will be.
"I hate you with all my being and hope that in time you have the mental ability to feel the pain, hurt and circumstances you have brought to us," Mandy King said.
Hunter's grandfather Alistair MacIntosh, who shared a birthday with his beloved grandson, said he feels guilty he couldn't be there for Hunter in his time of need.
"Hunter died afraid and alone at the hands of a monster with no help of hope, only his wee dog Olly to watch it all," he said.
Wondering what Hunter's last moments were like "torments us all and will do forever", said grandmother Sharon King.
"No one deserves to die like that," she said.
"That poor wee boy alone, all by himself when all our lives we've loved and protected him, how do we live with that?"
Sharon King believes the killing was a cold-blooded murder, saying Cameron's conscious and deliberate actions should not be ignored.
The summary of facts says Cameron had been paid to babysit Hunter on at least 10 previous occasions.
Hunter's mother had gone out that Wednesday evening about 6pm for a regular social outing.
She texted the babysitter earlier in the evening and at 10.10pm to check if Hunter was asleep.
While Cameron had been texting earlier, she did not get a response to the final question.
About 7.40pm he'd been seen walking along a street and at 8.20pm he sent a Facebook Messenger note to a friend which said: "Help".
Ten minutes later, Cameron sent a Snapchat message to three friends which said, "What would you do if I killed someone?"
At 8.35pm, he sent a Facebook message to another friend which said, "What would you think of me if I killed someone" and then a second message saying, "straight forward answer".
Some time before 9pm he was seen walking south along Riverton Otautau Rd and at 10.30pm he texted his mother to say, "I'm sorry come get me."
When the Amy King returned home about 10.30pm, she went to check on her son.
She looked in Hunter's bedroom but did not see him in bed.
"She went to turn away from the bedroom, but then stopped and pushed his bedroom door open," the summary says.
She then saw the boy lying on his back on the floor at the foot of the bed. He had a large knife in his stomach and he appeared to be dead.
She ran from the house screaming.
Emergency services rushed to the scene but the boy had been dead for some time.
An autopsy indicated Hunter had been killed within 90 minutes of being in the care of the babysitter.
He had suffered three large knife wounds to his torso and chest area. He also had marks around his neck that were consistent with asphyxia as well as a moderate head injury.
Cameron arrived home just before 11.30pm and was arrested by police an hour later.
Detective Sergeant Mark McCloy said he had got to know Hunter's family over the past few months and they had shown remarkable strength in the face of incredible tragedy.
While today's sentencing may be the end of the court process he said it will not be the end of their grief.
"Although I know the result can't bring back Hunter, my hope is that it will help them to process what has happened in the coming weeks, months and years.
"I know I speak for the whole community, in Otautau and across New Zealand, when I say that our thoughts are with them."
In a statement the family said the sentencing was another small step on a very long journey.
"No punishment administered by the justice system will ever allow us to see Hunter's beautiful smile again, nor does it dull the extreme pain we all feel every day he is not here.
We all miss him so very much."
They said Hunter now has a little brother who will never know him and his cousins still cry when he is not there.
"Time has not yet eased any of the pain caused by this senseless act and we still wait for an explanation as to what happened and why."
The family thanked emergency responders who attended on the night, police, prosecutors and the local community for their help since the death.