Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A review of 'Helen: The Helen Meads Tragedy'

Title: Helen: The Helen Meads Tragedy
Author: David White
Publisher: David Ling
Year: 2012
Reviewed by: Anne
Summary: "On the morning of 23 September 2009 Helen Meads was murdered by her husband Greg at the stables on their Matamata farm. It was the final chapter in years of control and abuse. Here, Helens father David White describes the events of that day, and what led to it, and tells of the ordeals that a family is subjected to when one of their own is murdered. It is a poignant and compelling story. There are issues of custody, access and bail, and looming court appearances. And often, as in this case, there is the killers family to deal with. Finally, there is also the bureaucracy and the media that have to be faced and accepted as inevitable intrusions on the private lives of the victims families. Families who would prefer to be left alone to grieve. Now that the trial and sentencing have been completed, much more can be told." (Back cover)

Last year I struggled through Sophie’s Legacy by Lesley Elliott. Struggled, not because I wasn’t involved in the story, but more from the depth of emotion portrayed through the words of a mother grieving for her daughter, going deep inside that grief and examining both it and the whole sad tragedy of Sophie’s murder at the hands of someone many call arrogant and narcissistic.

Helen is at once both similar but different. A father’s story is the byline and while David does not write with the density of words and examination of the grief evident in Sophie’s Legacy, it is as much what he leaves unsaid and his plain statement of facts as we are taken through the lead-up, event and aftermath of Helen’s murder at the hands of her husband, that brings the power to this book.

Carefully considered, and with quiet dignity, these two books stand out as evidence of the failure of the current bail system in New Zealand (and the absurdity of some of the bureaucracy in Government departments). Two lives taken too young, in Helen’s case leaving children to cope with something no one should have to. I admire the courage it must have taken to write this book, but the author would probably simply say, it was what had to be done, as have so many other things since that morning in September 2009 when life changed for his family.

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