Murderous babysitter’s haunting messages
Warning: Graphic content
Amy King left her nine-year-old son in the care of a 15-year-old babysitter in their small town on New Zealand's South Island in October last year.
The scene that confronted her when she returned home later that night haunts her to this day.
Hunter MacIntosh was in his bedroom, lying on his back on the floor at the foot of the bed.
He was pale with blood around his mouth and had a large knife protruding from his stomach.
"Every minute I try to put one foot in front of the other and that hasn't changed since the moment I laid eyes on my poor dead boy," Ms King told Invercargill's High Court this week.
Clutching a framed picture of her son, she said her only regret was leaving him that night.
"About trusting a friend - trusting that she knew her son - and for that I will never forgive myself."
'WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF I KILLED SOMEONE?'
Daniel Alan Cameron, now 16, killed Hunter in his Otautau home on October 30, 2019.
That night, the babysitter had been texting Ms King - who left at about 6pm for a regular social outing - and sent messages to his mother and via social media to his friends.
Ms King, Hunter's stepfather Hayden Morris and Cameron's mother were reportedly playing pool together at a pub in the Southland town, which has a population of about 800 people.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the summary of facts says Cameron had been paid to babysit Hunter - who had liked him - on at least 10 previous occasions.
Ms King texted the babysitter earlier in the evening and at 10.10pm to check if Hunter was asleep. She did not get a response to the final question.
About 7.40pm he'd been seen walking along a street and at 8.20pm he sent a Facebook Messenger note to a friend which said: "Help".
Ten minutes later, Cameron sent a Snapchat message to three friends which said: "What would you do if I killed someone?"
At 8.35pm, he sent a Facebook message to another friend which said, "What would you think of me if I killed someone" and then a second message saying, "straight forward answer".
Some time before 9pm he was seen walking south along Riverton Otautau Rd and at 10.30pm he texted his mother to say, "I'm sorry come get me."
'SENSELESSLY AND NEEDLESSLY MURDERED'
When Ms King arrived home, still without an answer, she went to check on her young son.
She looked in Hunter's bedroom but did not see him in bed.
"She went to turn away from the bedroom, but then stopped and pushed his bedroom door open," the summary says.
She then saw the boy lying on his back on the floor at the foot of the bed. He had a large knife in his stomach and he appeared to be dead.
She ran from the house screaming.
Emergency services rushed to the scene but the boy had been dead for some time.
An autopsy indicated Hunter had been killed within 90 minutes of being in the care of the babysitter.
He had suffered three large knife wounds to his torso and chest area. He also had marks around his neck that were consistent with asphyxia as well as a moderate head injury.
Cameron arrived home just before 11.30pm and was arrested by police an hour later.
New Zealand Police Detective Sergeant Mark McCloy said Cameron "senselessly and needlessly murdered Hunter MacIntosh".
"Investigating the death of a child, particularly in these circumstances, always takes a tremendous toll on those involved and I want to acknowledge the exceptional professionalism and resilience the first responders and investigative team demonstrated throughout," he said on Tuesday.
"I also want to thank the Otautau community which was instrumental in investigating this crime and holding Hunter's killer to account."
Det McCloy said the boy's family had shown "remarkable strength in the face of incredible tragedy" since his death, noting Cameron's imprisonment "will not be the end of their grief".
"Although I know the result can't bring back Hunter, my hope is that it will help them to process what has happened in the coming weeks, months and years," he said.
"I know I speak for the whole community, in Otautau and across New Zealand, when I say that our thoughts are with them."
'I DON'T KNOW WHY HE DID THE UNTHINKABLE'
Cameron's lawyer, Bill Dawkins, still doesn't know why his client "lost control and behaved in such a grossly violent manner".
"Since my first meeting with the defendant I don't know why he did the unthinkable," he said, according to Stuff.
After his arrest, Cameron was examined and assessed by a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
They found him to be sane but couldn't establish the answer to "this most troubling of questions".
Mr Dawkins said there was nothing in Cameron's background or profile while could possibly have predicted the extreme, violent behaviour.
He had been assessed as mildly autistic, and there was mention of him being emotionally understated. Mr Dawkins believed he had been "somewhat insular in his lifestyle".
"His behaviour on October 30 just could not be predicted by anyone, including his family," the defence lawyer said.
Cameron pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced this week by Justice Rachel Dunningham to life imprisonment. He must serve a minimum of 11 years behind bars.
The judge described the crime as "every parent's worst nightmare".
She concluded it was a sustained attack but didn't find that it was premeditated.
"Home is meant to be a safe place for children and it was not," Justice Dunningham said.
The court heard that Cameron was bullied at primary school but his mother felt that had passed and not left any lingering effects on Cameron.
Stuff reported the judge said Hunter had a device that made a loud sound like an air horn.
"He kept making loud sounds with this device and would not stop when you asked him to," she said.
"If this is indeed the motive for murder it suggests you have a very significant issue with anger management which must be addressed before you can ever be considered for parole."
'WHY, WHY, WHY AND FOR WHAT?'
Ms King said people tell her: "Try to remember the good times."
"I remember finding my son dead - a knife protruding from his stomach, blood around his mouth - him being so pale and I just knew I couldn't do anything for him," she told the court.
"Thinking every minute of every day since about the horrific way that he died, how scared he would've been of Daniel, how painful and scary his last moments were."
She had been 28 weeks' pregnant at the time of her son's murder.
Ms King sobbed as she told the court she wished Cameron would stay in jail "forever".
"He chose to take away our son, my whole world," she read from her statement in court.
"It makes me sick that he's even still breathing when he suffocated my son."
Hunter's obituary in The Southland Times stated he was an "excited big brother to be".
"The only thing that kept me breathing and eating was our baby," Ms King said.
Hunter's grandfather put his hand over his chest when he spoke at the sentencing.
"My burning question is: Why, why, why and for what?" he said.
"Hunter, I am missing you every moment, day and night. You are forever in my heart."
In a statement, Hunter's family said he has a baby brother who will never get to meet him.
"As you have heard in court, he was very much loved by so many and this tragedy has been overwhelming and devastating to his many family members, friends and the community as a whole," the family said.
"(Cameron's) sentencing is another small step on a very long journey for us and no punishment administered by the Justice system will ever allow us to see Hunter's beautiful smile again, nor does it dull the extreme pain we all feel everyday he is not here. We all miss him so very much.
"Hunter now has a wee brother who will never know him and his cousins still cry when he is not there. Time has not yet eased any of the pain caused by this senseless act and we still wait for an explanation as to what happened and why."
- with NZ Herald
Originally published as Murderous babysitter's haunting messages