Death driver plans school crusade
Drink-driver Raymond Hansen – in jail for killing three people in a horror crash on the Normanby overpass – wants to stop others from making the same mistakes.
The former Taranaki rugby rep has told the parents of one of his victims he wants to take a crusade against drink-driving to schools when he is released.
In October 2005, Hansen was sentenced to nine years in prison with a minimum non-parole period of five years. He is eligible for parole this August.
Rochelle Meads was one of the victims and her mother Jan Wallis, with her husband Neil, met Hansen through the restorative justice process.
The couple have since swapped letters with Hansen in which he has expressed plans to speak publicly in schools against drinking and driving.
The Wallises say people may think Hansen is just making the right noises to get out of jail but they believed he genuinely recognised the consequences of his actions.
They said they chose to confront their daughter's killer to help them forgive and move their lives forward.
"It's the brave thing to do. It was an opportunity for us to tell him exactly how we felt and he and his family can share the impact. We're all victims in this.
"As a mother I made a choice to go through this process, to be a better, not a bitter, person."
They chose forgiveness over the "black hole of unforgiveness", she said.
"Anger is an emotional enemy," she said.
"We didn't want it to invade us and make us embittered for the rest of our lives. Attack the problem not the person. We can't control how others act or respond but we can make the changes that need to be made on our part."
At the foot of their daughter's mosaic headstone that her friends and family made, lies an angel sculpture from Hansen's sister-in-law.
"From something broken, something beautiful can come from it," Mrs Wallis said of the mosaic metaphor.
And the Wallises feel the same towards Hawera police who many have also blamed for contributing to the accident.
An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released this year found police could have done more to stop Hansen from driving that night.
The couple admit they think police could have made better judgment calls on the day.
"Yes, our hearts ache with grief for the loss of these precious young lives but Raymond Hansen and the police face the discomfort of the consequences."
Within months of the accident, the two sat with police and talked it through.
"We all had tears in our eyes. They are human. We acknowledge they have made mistakes but we're all working through this together. There were many factors involved."
She emphasised that forgiveness is not excusing.
"It reaches beyond excusing. It acknowledges that drunken driving is inexcusable but pardons the offender anyway, it pardons the mistakes of the police officers."
While the Wallises have found forgiveness for Hansen, there is none coming from the parents of Aaron Hurley and Paul Cowper.
Donna Hurley said she would be making a submission to the Parole Board not to release Hansen.
"He can stay there as far as I'm concerned. He deserves every day he gets. I won't be forgiving him."
Mrs Hurley said she was glad the Wallises were dealing with their grief in the way they were, but "everyone's different".
The mother of Paul Cowper agreed, saying she would also be making a submission against parole.
"Donna and I are on the same page. I don't agree with him doing this public speaking. He won't be going near any schools around here."
She said she supported the prevention of drink-driving but Hansen was old enough to know what he did and that he had taken three young lives.
Taranaki Daily News