Champion of justice farewelled

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012
Greg King
CRAIG SIMCOX/ Fairfax NZ
FAREWELLED: Greg King

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It was the mark of a man who had represented people from all walks of life. Patched gang members - Mongrel Mob and Black Power - stood shoulder to shoulder with lawyers, police officers and politicians as Greg King was farewelled in Wellington.

The leading defence lawyer's white wig and black gown sat atop his wooden coffin as Wellington District Court came to a standstill for three hours and at least 800 people filled Wellington Cathedral of St Paul.

Mr King, 43, who recently successfully defended Ewen Macdonald on a charge of murdering brother-in-law Scott Guy, was found dead next to his car in Dungarvan Rd, Newlands, last Saturday. He is believed to have died the previous day.

"Greg was a champion of the underdog, with a passion for justice and a mastery of language and occasion," Archdeacon Monty Black told mourners. "Both Greg and his family have paid the ultimate price for his professional commitment. This is a personal tragedy of epic proportions for them.

"Greg said he had not had a break longer than four days in over five years. He was exhausted, unwell and disillusioned - still, Greg should not have died."

He urged people to take time out from their professional lives to spend time with friends and family.

Catherine Milnes-King said her husband's death was like a "black hole". The couple were together for 17 years and married for 15: "Two bickering and inseparable soulmates - the love of each other's lives," she said.

"He could be sharp with me and very to the point, but he was very gentle, loving and affectionate.

"He felt enormous empathy at human suffering and he carried the responsibility of other people's burdens enormously. He felt things deeply and was often moved to tears.

She quoted her husband: "If I had my life over I would have done so many things differently, but what I would never change is my marriage to my wonderful wife and our beautiful children. I loved them with every essence of my being and my parents too, and my brother."

She added: "Greg, you are my stars, you are my moons, you are my universe. You are my everything."

Jeffrey King praised his son for the many good choices he made in his life, including marrying Catherine. "I can't remember Greg making a poor choice until last Friday."

Judith Ablett-Kerr, QC, said she first met Mr King about 20 years ago when he walked into her chambers for an interview as a clerk. "He exuded positivity. He had confidence without arrogance. He had respect without obsequiousness.

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"Beneath that spiky hair and that youthful, healthy-looking face, he had a smile that lit up the room and immediately enveloped you in his positivity and warmth."

They regularly worked 18 hours a day, she recalled. "The criminal law is a demanding master and it can drain the very life from us if we are not alert to it."

MP Tony Ryall recalled Mr King as "a man of great empathy, with an ability to look beyond self-interest and genuinely cared for those on the other side of the courtroom".

Mr Ryall remembered him as not only a thoughtful and driven man, but also a sports fan, art collector and wine connoisseur with a great sense of timing and humour. "Greg's death is a great loss for New Zealand."

Justice William Young said Mr King was recognised as New Zealand lawyer of the year in 2007. "His professional achievements were remarkable by any standards, but in the context of a legal career that spanned only two decades they are absolutely extraordinary."

Close friend Paul Benjes said Mr King - born in Whanganui and raised in Turangi - excelled at school, and was a "fierce competitor" on the sports field.

"Greg was an extraordinary person in so many ways . . . He did nothing by halves."

- The Dominion Post

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