Death in the hills
Christine Pink has been handed a life sentence by the deerhunter who mistakenly killed her partner - and she wants the sentencing judge to know it.
"It's all in there. That's where I want to make my point," she says of the victim impact statement she has prepared for the judge who will sentence Tuatapere artist Wayne Edgerton in Invercargill District Court next month.
Edgerton - a hunting safety advocate - shot and killed dairy farm manager Adam Hill last month while they were hunting in different groups in a forest in western Southland on April 13.
Pink must now raise the couple's two daughters, Shikana and Maikayla, by herself. They have already had to leave the farmhouse in Wairio on the property where Hill worked.
"I was absolutely devastated by having to move out of that house."
And the girls are just as distraught at having to leave their pet calf Fat Boy and pig Porky. "They loved to play with [Fat Boy] and the girls used to feed him apples. That life has gone now."
She and Hill, 25, first met when they were students at Central Southland College in Winton. After school days they met up again, and soon became inseparable.
She describes him as a hardworking, fun-loving man who worked on dairy farms and as a tree-pruner in Invercargill with older brothers Roger and Tim.
The couple took up their farming post at Wairio about a year ago. He was promoted to an $80,000-a-year job, with a farmhouse as part of the package, looking after 1800 cows on three properties.
One careless rifle shot has taken all that away. Ranald McDonald, father of hunter Cameron McDonald, 29, shot in similar circumstances in Wairarapa on April 7, 2012, can sympathise. "Christine had found her soulmate in life, but now has to bring up her two girls by herself," he says.
He wants to see far harsher penalties, and compulsory manslaughter charges, in hunter shooting cases. He says the charges of careless use of a firearm causing death, laid against both Edgerton and his son's killer, Christopher Dummer, are not a strong enough deterrent.
"We need to change the law now. A more serious charge like manslaughter must be applied to all hunting deaths. That would add a certain gravity to the responsibility which comes with owning and operating a firearm.
"In short, if a hunter fails to identify his target correctly, and as a consequence kills another person, a significant term of imprisonment must be mandatory for this type of buck-fever behaviour."
Hill's father Dave noted the similarities between the two deaths. Both had done everything right: they wore high-visibility gear and never pulled the trigger without identifying their target. The men who shot them were in their 50s, and were safety advocates. Dummer was a former president of the Wellington Deerstalkers Association.
"It's a sick joke. Someone has got to pay for all of this senseless killing," Hill says.
McDonald says they were young guys with everything going for them. "Why is it the police code of arms rules now appear to be being routinely broken by experienced hunters preaching firearm safety?
"What we have here are people who tutor others in the rules of hunting and firearm safety, and then go out and blatantly disregard the most important rule of hunting - identify your target beyond all doubt."
Edgerton and Dummer both pleaded guilty to careless use of a firearm causing death. Dummer was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment.
Sunday Star Times