The funeral of slain police officer Sergeant Don Wilkinson on Thursday served not only as a tribute to his life but a public warning about how the drug methamphetamine was reaping havoc on families and communities.
Wilkinson, 47, was shot dead when trying to place a tracking device on a car outside a suspected P-lab in Mangere on September 11.
He and a colleague ran away when they were disturbed by the occupants but were followed and shot with an airgun.
Wilkinson died immediately but his partner, 44, who was shot several times, survived. He has since been discharged from hospital after undergoing surgery.
About 1000 mourners gathered in Holy Trinity Cathedral, in the Auckland suburb of Parnell, to pay tribute to the police officer who his mother lovingly described as a “sociable loner”.
While media were allowed to attend the service, they were asked to only film the first two rows, in order to protect the identities of many of the undercover police officers who were among the mourners.
Representatives from emergency services were also at the service, along with Police Minister Annette King, Defence Minister Phil Goff and Police Commissioner Howard Broad.
Also in the cathedral were members of avid squash player Wilkinson’s squash club, sitting alongside uniformed officers.
Beverley Lawrie said she was proud of her only child son and his work and if anything was to be learned from his death it was that more police would be shot unless “we clean up the gangs and the drugs”.
Lawrie said her son was not wearing his stab-proof vest but it was his choice.
“He died instantly thank God.”
Her son was a hero like many other policemen and he was a good man, she said.
Lawrie, whose voice remained steady throughout, also said how she had the privilege of attending a private service the night before with her son’s colleagues, where they sealed the casket.
Mr Broad echoed Lawrie’s concerns about drugs, telling mourners the war against drugs was not a new one.
The work Wilkinson carried out “had its fair share of risks” but was necessary in the fight against methamphetamine.
“Don’s death occurred while struggling to deal with illegal and dangerous drugs.
“Drugs and gangs go back at least 50 years. We’ve gradually built a culture where drugs are seen as a lifestyle choice. This must change.”
Broad said everyone had a responsibility in stopping the drugs culture and more than slogans and rhetoric were needed.
The Very Reverend Ross Bay, who also led the service for Sir Edmund Hillary in the same church, told mourners there was anger and confusion over Wilkinson’s death.
However, the country was standing with police against the scourge of methamphetamine and the havoc the drug was reaping on families and society, he said.
At the end of the 50-minute service, a lone piper led Wilkinson’s casket, covered with the New Zealand police flag, as it was carried on the shoulders of six pallbearers to the hearse waiting in the forecourt.
The hearse then took Wilkinson away for a private cremation, past an honour guard of hundreds of police officers.
As the hearse pulled away, 47 doves were released from white cages on the cathedral forecourt representing each year of Wilkinson’s life.