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‘He was a good kid, he didn’t deserve this’: Connor Whitehead’s parents pay tribute

Author
Sam Sherwood, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 25 May 2023, 12:15pm

‘He was a good kid, he didn’t deserve this’: Connor Whitehead’s parents pay tribute

Author
Sam Sherwood, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 25 May 2023, 12:15pm

The father of a teenager killed at a 15-year-old’s birthday party says there’s no victory regardless of a verdict that found two men guilty of manslaughter.

Connor Whitehead, 16, was shot dead in the northern Christchurch suburb of Casebrook on November 5, 2021.

Two men, Daniel Nelson Sparks, and Joshua David Craig Smith, were charged with murdering Whitehead.

On Wednesday the jury returned their verdicts. The jury found both men not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.

The pair will be sentenced on August 4.

After the verdict, Connor’s parents James Whitehead and Cheryl Mirren left the courtroom side by side along with two of his siblings, William and Cordelia.

The family held hands as James addressed the media wearing his white shirt with the words “Forever Connor”.

 “It’s been the worst time of our lives, losing our boy, losing Connor. Having to relive that time over the past few weeks has just been hell for us.”

Connor Whitehead was shot dead at a party in Christchurch on November 5, 2021. Photo / George Heard

Connor Whitehead was shot dead at a party in Christchurch on November 5, 2021. Photo / George Heard

As for the verdict, he said he did not care.

“I don’t care what happens to those men. There is no victory here for us today, we don’t get our Connor back when we go home, so who cares. We want to move forward and we want to love our loved ones and remember Connor, remember our boy, remember our friend.

“We don’t have to think about those guys anymore, they’ve been dealt with that’s out of our hands.”

“From the start, we’ve been here for Connor, and that’s the way it’s always going to be.”

“We love you Connor, we miss you.”

James Whitehead told the Herald his son was “literally an innocent bystander”.

Connor Whitehead pictured with his grandfather Bill Whitehead QSM, who had been described as the most decorated man in New Zealand rugby leage.

Connor Whitehead pictured with his grandfather Bill Whitehead QSM, who had been described as the most decorated man in New Zealand rugby leage.

“He was a good kid, he didn’t deserve this. He was a teenage boy, just there to have fun.”

From a young age, one of Connor’s greatest passions was music. Sharing his parents James and Cheryl’s love of rap music, he would regularly recite his favourite songs over dinner.

“To me, he was just a cheeky, loving, kind, fun-loving boy. He wasn’t fake or anything, he always had a nice thing to say about someone. He had the most honest, warm smile… he brightened the room when he came in.”

He had a good group of loyal friends, “his boys”, James Whitehead says.

“They were the sweetest, loveliest boys… a kind-hearted, loyal group of guys. They were all absolutely devastated when Connor was taken from us.”

His approach to life was “very philosophical”, and he was a deep thinker, Mirren said.

“Connor was an old soul who had a deep understanding of human nature and understood we are only human and people make mistakes - he demonstrated [that understanding] regularly.”

Connor Whitehead was "delightful, a sweetheart", his father says.

Connor Whitehead was "delightful, a sweetheart", his father says.

His friends were an “extension of his family”, she said.

“[He] had the most amazing group of mates… he loved every single one of them, one of the many characteristics he is loved forever for.”

He wanted his son to be remembered as “delightful, a sweetheart, that smile of his was all you needed to lift up your spirits”.

“He was just so full of life, that was Connor… you saw him and he made you feel good.”

Merrin said she cried daily thinking about her son.

“I just need one moment alone and I cry, or to hear a song… almost any song I can somehow connect to Connor even without realising. All moments I’m reminded we are missing Connor, that he is missing this - his life. We are so acutely aware of his absence.”

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