Tears at Helen Meads' father's regret

David White
David White

The father of a woman shot by her abusive husband has pleaded for people to act against domestic violence, saying he let his daughter die by not picking up the phone.

David White's unscheduled comments during the Women's Refuge conference Whanau of Tomorrow in Blenheim over the weekend left many of the more than 200 conference-goers, including experienced social workers, in tears as he spoke of his regrets for not acting differently to save the life of his daughter Helen Meads.

Mrs Meads was shot in the throat by her husband, Greg Meads, in September 2009, when she told him she was leaving him after years of abuse. In a surprise speech on the second day of the two-day conference Mr White challenged people to learn from his mistakes.

"You've listened to some experts and some very successful people, now you have to listen to a failure.

"I am a failure, because I let my daughter die. I knew Helen was in a bad situation. I thought we had it under control.

"I had no idea a man as old as me could pick up the phone and ring Women's Refuge. If I had made one phone call Helen might be alive."

Mr White wrote a book about his daughter's death, which was released this year, and he is a white ribbon ambassador, speaking to groups around the country about his experience.

He told the group at the conference the two most powerful words in the English language were "if only" and urged them not to become people who lived their lives thinking if only. Instead, he said, New Zealand needed to take responsibility for its appalling rates of domestic violence.

"I'm sick and tired of hearing about people's rights. I want to hear about people's responsibilities. When I grew up in New Zealand we were the safest country in the world, right up until the 1970s New Zealand held the title of the safest country in the world, year after year the statistics showed it. Now we're bottom of the heap."

Waikato Times