Rugby teen's mum and dad speak out
It's been 11 days since Brent and Mona Dudley had their last breakfast with their son Stephen.
The 15-year-old was feeling confident ahead of his science exam that day, two Thursdays ago, but that was to be expected. It had been a good year at Kelston Boys' High School for Stephen, but they wished him luck nonetheless.
Now, the Dudleys are contemplating a future without their "magic boy", who died after being punched repeatedly in a fight following rugby practice that afternoon.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the Auckland teen's death, the couple have a message about schoolyard violence.
"It's not acceptable. One punch can kill. One stupid act has repercussions for life," said Brent Dudley.
"It might be dumb frustration, anger or whatever but we've lost our son because of this."
Dudley said it was wrong that violence had become an acceptable part of society.
"For a lot of young men it's like a rite of passage, where they need to be engaged in some form of violence in order to be considered a man. And that is just, quite frankly, sickening. You can achieve the same thing in other ways."
The Northland couple, who settled in Kelston eight years ago, said their son didn't have a violent bone in his body, which made the news of his death all the more horrific.
They are not ready to talk about what led to the events on June 6, or about the two teens arrested after the fight. But they say talk of retaliation in the days after Stephen's death was upsetting.
"We don't want any negative ongoing actions to come from this tragedy," Brent Dudley said. "That would go against everything Stephen was about."
The couple described Stephen as a happy boy, keen on history, science, sport, debating and video games.
He had a "cheekiness" about him, and Mona Dudley said it was Stephen's love of life that made her son so popular.
"Stephen had a beautiful way of looking at the world," she said. "He was always respectful of everyone."
His father said even from a young age, he was drawn to people. "Stephen was bigger than us, he was bigger than anything I know," he said.
Stephen's popularity was reflected in the strong turnout at his funeral on Tuesday, held at Kelston Intermediate, where his father is the school caretaker.
About 500 people packed the school hall and grounds for the service.
The roads were closed to bring his body from the school to Waikumete Cemetery, where he was laid to rest overlooking his family home.
"I don't have the words to describe how blown away we've been with the support," Brent Dudley said.
"We unfortunately are the ones who are going to feel the pain the most but we know the whole community feels it too."
A 15-year-old and 17-year-old have appeared in court charged with assault in relation to the attack. Their names and other details that could identify them were suppressed. They were remanded on bail to appear again on July 2.
- Sunday Star Times