‘Harm Ends Futures Begin’ – David White’s story

David White on The AM Show 2019

When David White refers to himself as being ‘Just a granddad from Matamata’, you can’t help thinking if all granddads were like him, the world would be a better place.

David’s daughter Helen Meads was shot dead by her millionaire racehorse breeder husband Greg Meads 11 years ago. Just days earlier, she had finally declared she was leaving him after years of psychological and physical abuse, but he got to her before she could escape. Helen’s mistake was to tell him she was going.

To ensure stories like his daughters aren’t repeated, with the support of the Police, David has spent the last seven years sharing his experience with whoever needs to hear his message – health professionals, prisoners and the general public. He speaks from the heart. His story is confronting and he delivers it with real honesty and this resonates with his audiences. It gives them the strength to reach out, speak up for others or change their behaviour and David has made a difference.

People regularly call him to reach out about their situation. Hardcore prisoners have had light bulb moments after listening to what he has to say and vowed to change their ways. He has even had a letter turn up at home addressed to “Helen Mead’s Dad, Matamata’, from a random stranger asking for help.

Speaking to a packed room of health professionals at Northland DHB who regularly deal with family violence, David implored to them to not be “if only” people. He explained that he and several other people directly involved with Helen have had “if only” moments since her death and now it is time to stop being polite and to start making a change.

Before Helen married Greg, he made her sign a prenuptial agreement, and he held that over her throughout their turbulent marriage. Outwardly she was a happy person, who loved her horses, her kids and was a popular figure in the racing industry. Behind closed doors, Helen suffered at the hands of Greg. She did attempt to leave several times but never made it. When her mother and her daughter found out she had died, they both knew it would have had something to do with Greg.

Greg was convicted of her murder in 2010, but even from prison, he tried to keep control over her family. David and his wife Pam had to fight for the custody and financial security of Helen’s children, which lasted for nine long, expensive years. The children have suffered not only losing their mum but have had to live with the trauma of Greg being responsible, which the couple have had to navigate through.

Launching 'Helen, the Helen Meads Tragedy' in 2012

Launching ‘Helen, the Helen Meads Tragedy’ in 2012

During one of David’s presentations, he had a light bulb moment of his own when he realised for them to carry on and create a healthy environment for their grandchildren, they had to stop hating Greg.

With that, he set up a meeting with Greg in prison to discuss how to move forward for the kids, explaining that otherwise, they could lose them too. David agreed to support Greg’s release at his next parole hearing so he could be around as a father again and Greg broke down. He then decided to release his finances to support his children, which took just 12 minutes, after nine years of fighting.

“Greg has two and a half years until parole, and I’ll do all that’s required of me as far as corrections are concerned. We haven’t forgiven him, but what are our choices? We have none. We are doing this for our grandchildren.” David believes the key to change is to get people in danger to reach out and to equip those that they reach out to, to have the power to act. “We need to put confidentiality aside and put lives first. We have to understand that it’s all 100 percent preventable. It needn’t happen.”

Before this speaking tour, David approached 71 MPs around the country, asking them to support him. Only 44 responded. He still visited each of the 71 electorates, making 120 presentations from February until the end of May, because as he says, “Greg was worth $40,000,000, but he was still violent – violence knows no boundaries. Family violence is intergenerational, and we need to stop it. If we can raise the alarm, family safety teams can step in.”

Northland DHB violence intervention programme coordinator Paula Anderson says the Ministry of Health Violence Intervention Programme (VIP) has been in operation across all DHB’s in New Zealand since 2007. VIP aims to prevent and reduce health harm from family violence, specifically child abuse and intimate partner violence. VIP operates across all Northland DHB sites, and the VIP team provide consultation, support and training for all DHB staff around intervention in child abuse and intimate partner violence.

“It is important that ‘every door at Northland DHB is the right door’ for individuals seeking support for family violence. Every day, staff from around the DHB identify individuals and their children experiencing family violence, engage in safety planning and refer to external services and agencies to support the safety of the family/whanau.”

After his last presentation on Friday, David retired. He says he’s been speaking out for seven years and has decided to pull back as he’s lost resilience. He and Pam then ended this long journey by going to Spirit’s Bay, where they could finally grieve.

If you are in danger or are being subjected to sexual violence, call 111 – or call these 24 hour helplines:

  • Women’s Refuge (Females only) – crisis line available on 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
  • Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust (Males only) – 0800 044 334 Rape Crisis – 0800 88 33 00 Victim Support – 0800 842 846

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