Exclusive: The wife of the last policeman killed on duty has broken her silence to reveal the heartbreak of losing her school sweetheart.
Speaking on the eve of the 10th anniversary of what became known as the Napier siege, Vicki Snee revealed that her husband, Len Snee, was shot dead just two weeks before the birth of their first grandchild.
"Leonard died doing a job he loved but he was so much more. I think Leonard's biggest legacy is his family," she said.
"He didn't get to meet any of his grandchildren. He now has five. He was a strong man with a gentle heart and it is sad that the young ones will never know him."
Len Snee died shortly after he and fellow officers Grant Diver and Bruce Miller went to Jan Molenaar's Chaucer Rd home on Hospital Hill on 7 May, 2009, to execute what was expected to be a routine drugs search warrant.
Molenaar opened fire with an automatic rifle on all three officers and Lenny Holmwood, a friend of the gunman, who intervened.
They were shot in the first minutes of what became a 51-hour siege that saw many acts of bravery and ended with the gunman's suicide.
Several of the people most impacted by the tragic events have told their stories to the Weekend Herald for the anniversary.
Vicki Snee began by explaining why the family had not previously spoken. "We are not big talkers and we are private people."
At the time, she and sons, Sam and Joe, were in shock. "We shared the saddest time of our lives with the whole country. This is something you can't prepare for. How to behave, just how much to share. We didn't know."
The funeral for Snee, a Hawke's Bay rugby rep, drew an enormous crowd.
As they dealt with their loss in the glare of national attention they were also preparing for the arrival of a new generation. The first of Sam's two children was born exactly two weeks later.
Joe Snee, who has three kids, says they are too young yet to be told what happened to their grandfather.
Joe has recently returned with his family to Hawke's Bay, having lived in Auckland. He constantly thinks of his father, he says.
"I think, how would Dad handle certain situations because he is obviously your hero, the person you look up to.
"I often think that I want my kids to view me how I view Dad."
Vicki remarried but the relationship did not last and she is again living in Napier in sight of the hill where it happened.
She has nothing to say about the man who killed her husband. "I don't let him enter my head."
She put her thoughts down in writing.
"Leonard didn't just go to work one day, have an accident and die. He was killed for doing his job.
"It was a job he loved but he was so much more. He was a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a cousin, a friend.
"He was a top sportsman. Rugby, cricket, hockey, if it had a bat and ball, he excelled at it. Table tennis, netball, and javelin too, he played to win. And let's not forget soccer. When he broke his arm one year playing rugby he spent a whole season playing soccer.
"I think Leonard's biggest legacy is his family. Having worked for his father's shearing gang from a young age he was looking forward to one day retiring and playing golf with his friend. Sadly he never got that choice.
"He worked from the age of 10. Yes, after school, weekends, holidays, all through his school years.
"For me, life doesn't stop just because I am sad. The sun still rises every day and every day people still have their hopes and dreams.
"For me life is about squashing down sad and putting on a brave face.
"I have many happy and fun memories from our school days right through to the day he died. But I don't feel the need to share these with the general public. They are mine to cherish."
On Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of his death, the family will attend a private function organised by Napier police.
Len Snee became the 29th police officer to be killed in the line of duty. His is the last name on the memorial wall at the Police College in Porirua.