Constable Matthew Hunt "had everything to live for" says mum

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 Jul 2020, 10:50AM
Contable Matthew Hunt will be farewelled today at a funeral at Eden Park. Photo / NZ Police
Contable Matthew Hunt will be farewelled today at a funeral at Eden Park. Photo / NZ Police

Constable Matthew Hunt "had everything to live for" says mum

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 Jul 2020, 10:50AM

Slain police officer Constable Matthew Hunt's mother has spoken for the first time about the death of her son - saying he had "everything to live for".

Hunt's coffin, draped with a police flag, has just been carried out of the funeral service by his colleagues, following a lone police piper.

Hunt's coffin, draped with a police flag, was just been carried out of the funeral service by his colleagues, following a lone police piper.

As the Eagle helicopter circled above, the coffin was placed on a plinth out on Eden Park as his colleagues - earing black arm bands and some choking back emotion - performed the flag ceremony.

They precisely folded the fabric that has been atop Hunt's casket for presentation to Hunt's family by Commissioner Andrew Coster.

HIs colleagues then performed a powerful haka in his honour, their grief echoing and rumbling though Eden Park.

Then, as sombre silence resumed, Hunt was lifted into back of the hearse and driven through a full guard of honour - again led by the piper, a police car with flashing lights, flag bearers and fully uniformed police dogs.

His family and close friends walked behind him on his final formal journey as a police officer.

The service itself is private at the request of the 28-year-old's family. They gave the Herald permission to livestream it.

It has also been revealed that Eden Park had dedicated a seat to Hunt - the one he sat at when he attended his last Blues game.

The seat has been painted "just the right shade of blue" and would forever honour the fallen officer.

Earlier this morning Hunt's coffin arrived at Eden Park after being escorted by police motorcade from the North Shore.

Family, friends and colleagues are now seated, along with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster and other members of his executive, Police Minister Stuart Nash and Rodney MP Mark Mitchell.

Hunt's lifelong dream was to become a police officer and he started working on the front line in October 2017.

It was on that front line - during what should have been a routine traffic stop - that he was killed.

The 28-year-old was shot multiple times in a West Auckland street on Friday, June 19, and died soon after.

Police Minister Stuart Nash has arrived, and greets Hunt's District Commander, Superintendent Naila Hassan.
Police Minister Stuart Nash has arrived, and greets Hunt's District Commander, Superintendent Naila Hassan.

A second officer was shot and wounded.

Constable Hunt's coffin was carried into the service to a cover of the song The Sound of Silence, arrived by friends, family and police.

His coffin is covered with a New Zealand flag and a bouquet of white lillies.

The Hunt family pays tribute to their boy

Slain police officer Constable Matthew Hunt's mother has spoken for the first time about the death of her son - saying he had "everything to live for".

Hunt's coffin, draped with a police flag, has just been carried out of the funeral service by his colleagues, following a lone police piper.

Hunt's coffin, draped with a police flag, was just been carried out of the funeral service by his colleagues, following a lone police piper.

As the Eagle helicopter circled above, the coffin was placed on a plinth out on Eden Park as his colleagues - earing black armbands and some choking back emotion - performed the flag ceremony.

They precisely folded the fabric that has been atop Hunt's casket for presentation to Hunt's family by Commissioner Andrew Coster.

His colleagues then performed a powerful haka in his honour, their grief echoing and rumbling through Eden Park.

Then, as sombre silence resumed, Hunt was lifted into back of the hearse and driven through a full guard of honour - again led by the piper, a police car with flashing lights, flag bearers and fully uniformed police dogs.

His family and close friends walked behind him on his final formal journey as a police officer.

The service itself is private at the request of the 28-year-old's family. They gave the Herald permission to livestream it.

It has also been revealed that Eden Park had dedicated a seat to Hunt - the one he sat at when he attended his last Blues game.

The seat has been painted "just the right shade of blue" and would forever honour the fallen officer.

Earlier this morning Hunt's coffin arrived at Eden Park after being escorted by police motorcade from the North Shore.

Family, friends and colleagues are now seated, along with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster and other members of his executive, Police Minister Stuart Nash and Rodney MP Mark Mitchell.

Hunt's lifelong dream was to become a police officer and he started working on the front line in October 2017.

It was on that front line - during what should have been a routine traffic stop - that he was killed.

The 28-year-old was shot multiple times in a West Auckland street on Friday, June 19, and died soon after.

Remembering Matthew Dennis Hunt

A candle was lit before the ceremony began just after 11am.

"Some people just can't help making a difference in our lives, by simply being who they are - they make the world a little brighter," said the celebrant Kerry-Ann Stanton.

"And when they're gone, we realise how lucky we are to have known Matt.

"The world has lost a very special person."

She said each person at the service had been touched by Hunt's death - and countless others watching the live stream.

She also acknowledged the courage of Hunt's family for their bravery in deciding to share the service and his farewell.

She said the journey of recognising the tragic loss of a young man was "painful".

"Matt lived his life with purpose… today is an opportunity for those who knew and loved Matt to share their memories," Stanton continued.

Born in July 1991, Hunt was raised on the Hibiscus Coast and attended local schools.

Stanton said he made friendships there with people who became his extended family - his brothers and sisters.

She spoke of his love of sport, his "methodical" planning and the full and rich life he was living.

He was ready to make the most of the opportunities in front of him.

"He was empathetic, a multifaceted young man at the cusp of the next phase of adulthood," she said.

However that future was "cut off".

Tributes for Hunt have started, led by Commissioner Andrew Coster.

"It is a privilege to be here with you today, to pay tribute," he said.

"Matt's memory is front of mind for us all… together we grieve with you, we share your loss, we will never forget Matt.

"We won't forget that he loved his job, serving his community.

"Matt's death touched all New Zealanders."

Coster said Hunt made the "ultimate sacrifice".

"He lived police values, he seized the opportunities to serve his community and make a difference," Coster said, almost breaking down in tears.

He said policing was "inherently dangerous" due to the unexpected element of the job.

"We are appalled by the taking of a young life in the sort of circumstances that keep us
awake at night," he said.

Coster paid tribute to Hunt's colleague who was also shot on the day.

"I commend you for your bravery and for doing all that you could in that horrendous
situation," he said.

He said all 14,000 police "held their arms out" to the Hunt family.

"We will continue to honour his life…. And we will honour it for generations to come… with the courage and compassion that Matt showed as he tried to build a safer country.

"Constable Matthew Hunt, thank you for your service - may you rest in peace," Coster finished.

The second person to speak was Sergeant Dean Taylor - Hunt's supervisor for the two years he spent working from the Orewa police station.

Hunt moved from Orewa to work for the Waitemata Road Policing Team just weeks before his death.

He outlined Hunt's career, which started in March 2018 when he graduated from Police College.

Taylor was visibly upset reading his tribute.

"Matt was a junior member of the team, who stood out," he said.

"Matt was a humble guy and wouldn't want this fuss - however on this occasion Matt, you deserve this fuss.

"Matt was calm, methodical and eager to learn. He made good decisions and was a good communicator.

"He was eager to hone his skills so when the time was right he could commence his detective training."

Taylor said "nothing fazed" Hunt and he gave him increasingly challenging tasks to help him upskill.

"He spoke to me more and more of wanting to progress his career," he said.

"He was very excited about his plan, and so was I."

That plan was to work for the booze bus team to upskill and fast track his route to the CIB.

"Matt was a very hardworking officer… he managed his time well," Taylor said.

"He always delivered a high standard of work."

Hunt would always fine-tune and perfect his assessments to make sure they were up to a high standard.

Taylor said Hunt never had to use tactical options.

"He could often negotiate with people, he never used the weapons we carry on us - if he
had to use force it was only minimal arm restraining techniques," he said.

"Humble, caring and proud, he made an impression on all who met him.

"He was so proud to wear the uniform.

"Matt, rest in peace - I've got the team - you will not be forgotten."

Friends pay tribute to their "brother"

Shane MacLennan said he had known Hunt since they were children and considered him a brother.

"I have a huge number of memories of Matt," he said.

MacLennan said Hunt was "goofy" but a "genuinely nice kid.

"And that never changed," he said.

"Matt had this ability to just make connections with people so easily… which was amazing considering he was an introvert."

Hunt was MacLennan's best man at his wedding and lived with him and his wife later.

He last saw Hunt on March 15.

"Matt you were an outstanding friend, one of the best… you were taken too soon… you will never be replaced, never be forgotten… love you brother," he finished.

Regan Green said Hunt was more like a brother than a friend.

The pair travelled the world together and shared many memories including attending games of rugby at Eden Park, which made the funeral venue all the more special.

"Matt was so humble and understated his whole life… and without any effort touched so many lives," he said.

"He was an intelligent, happy and determined man who was all in once he had his mind set on something."

Green, at times struggling to contain his emotion, said Hunt "really was a part of my family".

"My family considered Matt as another brother and son and Matt, they loved you very much.

"Losing Matt has left us sad, angry, confused, but mostly heartbroken.

"We promise not to cry over you for too much longer, because we know you would not want that."

Green promised Hunt he would follow his lead and push for more in life.

"We're going to miss you forever, we love you Matt," he said.

Sam Swaffield said when he heard the news an officer had been shot he was prepared to grieve for the nation.

But he never imagined he would be grieving for his best mate, his brother.

He has struggled to comprehend his loss and said he was not ready to say goodbye.

"No 28-year-old should have to speak at his best mate's funeral," he said.

"It is the gap left by the memories we were yet to make that will break my heart forever."

"Everyone got the Matt they needed for them, so in everyone's eyes they got the perfect Matt.... I got a supportive, loyal and encouraging friend."

Swaffield said Hunt was a "calculated foundation builder" who did everything with precision.

"At 28 Matt was just coming out of building the perfect foundation for himself... mate, the places you were going to go.... our journey through life will be a lonelier one, but you will be with us," he said.

"Every pint in the sun, every rugby game... every sunset, every clear sky night, every shooting star and every time the rain breaks just when we need it to.

"Matt, wherever you have gone you have taken a piece of us with you... wherever we go in the future, we will take a piece of you with us."

Planning Constable Hunt's funeral

Police worked with Hunt's mother Diane and wider family to plan today's service.

While they requested the service itself be private - meaning media and members of the public were not welcome at the venue - they have allowed the live streaming of the service.

The entire service will stream on the Herald's website and the Herald's Facebook page.

It is expected to take more than an hour.

This morning police confirmed further details about the service including that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will attend.

Police Minister Stuart Nash and Rodney MP Mark Mitchell will also be present.

Commissioner Andrew Coster - who will speak at the service - will be joined by other organisation leaders including Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha, Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers and Waitemata District Commander Superintendent Naila Hassan.

Police are expecting upwards of 1000 other staff to attend the service, with the majority of those coming from across the wider Auckland area.

Constable Hunt's casket and family will arrive at, and leave, Eden Park by motorcade.

A number of other people close to Hunt will also pay tribute to him.

A motorcade of police escorts the hearse to Eden park. Photo / Michael Craig
A motorcade of police escorts the hearse to Eden park. Photo / Michael Craig

Those include Sergeant Dean Taylor who was Hunt's supervisor for two years when he was based at the Orewa station.

Hunt had moved to the Waitemata Road Policing Team based at the Harbour Bridge station two weeks before he was killed.

Three of his friends will then speak, followed by his uncle, sister and mother.

Other special honours to be implemented for the funeral are an honour guard, police piper, motorcade, and flag presentation to his family.

Police protocols for the service

While Hunt's funeral is a private service, his family asked for police to assist with a number of formal and ceremonial aspects.

Police provided the Herald with details of those this morning.

"Police staff in attendance will be in their formal attire which consists of tunics and forage caps," they said.

"A police formal escort will accompany the hearse as the body of Constable Hunt is carried through a guard of honour.

Constable Matthew Hunt's casket escorted by a motorcade. Photo / Michael Craig
Constable Matthew Hunt's casket escorted by a motorcade. Photo / Michael Craig

"The police will include motorbikes, a police car, a piper from the Auckland Police Pipe band, two police dogs, and a colour party carrying the New Zealand and police flags."

Other formal aspects include:

• Flag folding ceremony: an official flag folding ceremony will be held where the Commissioner will present the NZ Police flag to the family of Constable Hunt. The ceremonial folding of the flag is a symbolic tradition which stems from military funerals and has been adopted by numerous police authorities around the world for funeral services involving a fallen police officer.

• Police haka: The name of the haka is "Ko Te Uru Pounamu". Traditionally haka was used and performed by tribal war parties at the front line of battle. Today the haka is performed at different occasions to honour loved ones and show police respect to friends and family members.

• Guard of honour: A long-standing tradition where police officers form two lines, forming a path for the hearse and the family of the deceased as the hearse takes away the body of Constable Hunt. The hearse will be escorted by the police bearer party and members of the ceremonial flag team. It's an opportunity for police officers to pay their last respects to the officer. All police funerals include this tradition, which typically concludes the formalities.

"This will not affect policing services across Auckland and police have worked hard to ensure adequate staffing rosters are in place," said a spokesperson.

A man and woman have been charged in relation to Hunt's death and the attempted murder of a second officer.

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges and will go on trial next year.

Their names are currently suppressed.

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