Dad behind day to remember victims

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 12:57 24/09/2012
SIMON COWAN: His son Philip John Cowan died 11 years ago.
PHIL REID
SIMON COWAN: His son Philip John Cowan died 11 years ago.
DISAPPEARED: Philip John Cowan disappeared on the way from Wellington to Hastings on March 25, 2001.
DISAPPEARED: Philip John Cowan disappeared on the way from Wellington to Hastings on March 25, 2001.

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For 364 days of the year, Simon Cowan tries to make the world a better place, working with the underprivileged to prevent crimes like the one that killed his son.

For one day of the year, the Napier father wants to bring the country together to honour victims without focussing on the crimes, in memory of his son.

Cowan's boy, Philip John Cowan, died 11 years ago. His body was never found and though it's widely acknowledged as a murder, there has never been a conviction in the case.

It led to years of soul searching for the family, who believe they know who the killer is and have joined other victim advocates in fighting for better justice.  

"Apart from everything else, it's made me aware of how much criminal activity leads to strife and consternation and drama for people," Cowan said.

"But also that victims get forgotten pretty quickly. Every time you talk about it, people say 'wow' and then get into talking about the perpetrator and the causes of crime."

Together with his other son Hamish, Cowan has begun the White Heart Trust to remedy this issue.

White Heart Day, to be marked tomorrow at events around New Zealand, will be about remembering victims of violent crime or tragic sudden death like suicide.

This year the day, which features speakers from groups like the Sensible Sentencing Trust and Victim Support, will be held in Napier, Wellington and Auckland.

Hamish Cowan said the family - who held the first White Heart Day in Napier last year - want the ceremony to feel similar to Anzac Day.

"We want it to be peaceful. Everyone is welcome even if they haven't been affected directly by crime or suicide or car crashes and things."

Simon Cowan said he felt most people felt connected to victims in some way.

"You can think of cases like the Kahuis, Nia Glassie, Scott Guy...''

He said it would not take the focus from prevention.  

"The other 364 days of the year we can work on how to make the world a better place.

"This day is for remembering victims."

WHERE AND WHEN

September 25, at 12pm

Napier: Soundshell, Marine Parade. Speakers: Simon Cowan - Chairman of the White Heart Trust; Martin Williams - Chairman Pilot City Napier "Building Communities"; Zack Makoare who lost his teenage son, Kelly, to suicide.

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Auckland: Aotea Square. Speakers: Hamish Cowan, whose brother Phil Cowan was murdered in March 2001; Ruth Money of the Sensible Sentencing Trust; Tracey Marceau, whose daughter Christie was murdered in November 2011.  

Wellington: Midland Park, Lambton Quay. Speakers: Angie Georgiou - Local victim advocate; Tony Paine - CEO Victim Support, Wellington; Tyler McKelvey, who as a very young girl lost her cousin Steven Stone to murder.

DISAPPEARED

Philip John Cowan disappeared on the way from Wellington to Hastings on March 25, 2001, aged 26.

He was described as a talented soccer player with scholastic ability, but a free spirit who had dropped out of university.

Three men stood trial in 2003 for the murder but a jury never got to decide the case because a judge deemed the two prime witnesses inherently unreliable.

The three accused were discharged, a result that was deemed to be an acquittal.

Coroner Garry Evans was told last year that since the trial two confidential informants told police that Cowan's body may have been buried in the Tangimoana Forest near Bulls.

Cowan's body has never been found.

- Stuff

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