THE family of Zayden Veal-Whitting doesn’t want to live in a world of hate – but that intense and deep emotion blankets them because of the “monster’’ who killed their little boy.
They know hate serves no purpose and hope it will soon subside, but following the senseless and violent killing of an adored son and grandson, their hearts are too heavy to feel otherwise.
Zayden’s father, James Whitting, and stepmother, Michelle Kneebone, have spoken of how their world changed when Harley Hicks bludgeoned their son to death.
Hicks was this week found guilty by a Supreme Court jury of Zayden’s murder.
James and Michelle, along with James’ parents Lance and Anne, sat in court each day with their backs to the “scum’’ who killed their little boy.
“I didn’t look at him,’’ James said. “I haven’t looked at him once, he is just scum.’’
“I would like a harsh punishment – he might get 25 or so years, to Zayden’s 80 or 90 years.’’
Zayden's grandparents were grateful for a guilty verdict, saying "the monster that stole our grandson's life has been found guilty thanks to a studious jury''.
"His kind should never be set free.''
Michelle said this week’s guilty verdict “might be justice through the law, but it’s not justice’’.
“It was a relief, but after that relief followed just pure pain,’’ she said.
“The first day of the trial we got told that we were not to show emotion in the court, not to cry, not to smile, not to laugh, not to be sad.
“We still were - and there is one day we will never forget …. the pathologist day was the kicker.’’
But their hope now is to try to find a way through the pain and help their eldest son, Xavier, live a life of love.
“We can’t take away his pain, we can’t make it all better for him,’’ Michelle said.
“We don’t want Xavier to grow up hating, we don’t want him to grow up with hate because hate destroys – so when we are in the right mindset , we will try our hardest to make him realise we have love, we love Zayden, Zayden loves us and they’re the positives – but at the moment we can’t.
“It’s there, we know that – but he has taken all of our lives away.’’
Giving them the strength to do that are the memories of a little boy who first called James ‘dad’ the day before he died.
“He was just starting to speak, he could say da but hadn’t said dad – that day he was calling him dad for the first time,’’ Michelle said.
Zayden had his dad’s eyes and a beautiful smile.
“He was such a vibrant, happy child – he would rarely cry or grizzle, unless you weren’t fast enough with his food,’’ James said.
“We both love him very deeply and cannot begin to describe the raw pain our family is in.’’
The family wanted to express their gratitude to the Victorian homicide squad, particularly Detective Senior Constable Tony Harwood and an officer by the name of Kyle, who each “helped the entire way through’’.
The monster that stole our grandson’s life has been found guilty thanks to a studious jury. His kind should never be set free to keep all our children safe. The grief and torment he has bestowed on our family no one should have to suffer. Thank you to all the people involved in this case, the amazing Victorian Police and protective service officers, the supportive Office of Public Prosecution, the judge and all the understanding staff at the Bendigo courthouse.
Zayden’s grandparents, Anne and Lance Whitting.
From the first day I held you in my arms, you were now my second son. And you changed my life for good, I thought how someone so beautiful and so sweet and innocent could come from your mum and I. Your smile was one of a kind, it lit my whole world up and shined so bright. Your laugh you could not miss. You grew so fast and every time I saw you there was always something different from your hair to your eyes, to crawling to walking and talking. I will always remember the first time you said dad to me, it felt so good. And on the last day I had you, I was the proudest dad in the world. You had taken eight steps that day and when your mum pulled up that day, I took you out and put you in your seat and you said ‘dad’ and I thought ‘he does know who I am’. I love you my beautiful son.
Zayden was such a vibrant, happy child. He would rarely cry or grizzle at all, unless you weren’t fast enough with his food. He would quite often just be happy sitting down on the couch with his daddy or playing together with his toys. We both love him very deeply and cannot begin to describe the raw pain our family is in.
James Whitting and Michelle Kneebone.