Christchurch ‘thrill kill’: Heartbroken mum cannot escape brutality of son’s murder

It’s been 17 years since Shannon McComb was brutally murdered in a Christchurch carpark and every day since his mother has battled to escape the image of his caved-in skull, his bruised and battered body – her gentle boy’s life ended in the most violent way.

Last month Kristine Johnston was forced to relive the horror all over again when her son’s killers Kevin Green and Pakanui Morice appeared before the Parole Board for the first time.

They will remain in prison for at least another year – while McComb’s family continue their own inescapable nightmare of a life sentence.

McComb, 29, was found dead in a carpark off Kingslea St in Waltham in February 2004.

He had been beaten over a three-hour period – hit so hard with fence palings that the wood broke,his head stomped on until his skull smashed into pieces. He had also been stabbed twice in the back.

A court later heard that McComb’s murder was a “thrill killing” by Green and Morice, then 18 and 17.

The “aimless, self absorbed” thugs were sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

At the time of his death McComb was living rough, but he was not homeless and was supported by his family.

They said he chose to live outside after a terrible fire changed his life years earlier.

McComb was badly burned trying to escape when the house he lived in was set alight.

He got out, thenwent back in to rescue his best friend.

He sustained severe burns to his hands and body and after his mate died in hospital his mental anguish was almost unbearable.

“He didn’t trust people after that,” his mother said. “He couldn’t live inside after that, that’s why he was sleeping rough.

“He was so damaged by it. He was in constant pain. What those offenders really did was beat a cripple to death – Shannon only weighed 48kg, there was no way he could have fought back.

“His life was so tragic what they did to him makes my heart bleed.”

Johnston said she was haunted by her son.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him, it’s like he’s alive, it’s so hard for me to put him down,” she said.

“The parole process was pretty horrible… overwhelming. I had to open up everything that happened to Shannon all over again… It opened the floodgates, I was a mess.

“There’s always a fear that they are going to get out… that feels repugnant.”

Johnston wanted the focus to be on her son, and getting his story right.

She said he was bright and loving and brave and had survived so much in his life before it was taken that terrible day in 2004.

He loved chess, sport, cats and music.

“Shannon never went anywhere without taking his music to listen to,” said Johnston.

“He played the guitar and was devastated after the fire to realise he would never play his guitar again. Shannon’s hands were unbendable, and he had little use of them.”

Despite his injuries and challenges, Johnston said her boy was her world.

“He was my greatest teacher. He taught me to love,” she said.

“He was kind and I’d never met anyone as gentle as Shannon so when he was killed so brutally and violently, that absolutely cauterised me.”

The Parole Board heard from both killers as well as the McComb family.

Green, now 35,told the board the murder was the “culmination” of years of teenage deviance – getting expelled from “every school he attended” and “driving round seeking fights”.

He abused drugs and alcohol and had ongoing issues in prison but had made “significant progress”.

He had been involved in 60 incidents in prison but in the past three years his conduct had improved and he was working in the prison canteen in a “trusted position”.

“He can still be an angry person and has difficulty coping,” said Parole Board chairman Sir Ron Young.

He said Green was “deeply remorseful” and hoped to engage with McComb’s family for a Restorative Justice meeting if they were interested.

The board heard Morice, 34,”misused” drugs and alcohol before the murder and struggled in prison early on.

However his conduct had been “positive” for the past five years.

“He has had problems managing the emotions that have arisen from his offending,” said Sir Ron.

“Mr Morice does appear to have a pervasive sense of guilt and remorse. We consider he needs some help to come to terms with what he did.”

Johnston said she had no interest in the killers’ remorse and no intention of meeting them.

What they did was unforgivable and had destroyed her family – changing her as a mother, robbing her of her son and sending her other children into downward spirals of despair that they are only just recovering from.

His sister Sherralee lost her business. His brother Regan was just 12 when the murder happened and it robbed him of his youth.

“Shannon’s murder in effect was a murder of our family,” Regan said.

Sherralee said she was “deeply” affected and the parole process exacerbated things.

“Just as I felt I was beginning to heal I find myself crying and reliving the absolute brutality he went through,” she said.

“His murder forever changed me.”

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