From the very first moment she met Ewen Macdonald, Jo Guy felt a niggling unease towards the man who would marry her daughter Anna, and later be charged and acquitted of murdering her beloved son Scott.
The rest of the family accepted Ewen with open arms – husband Bryan (58) showed him the ropes on the family farm as if he was his own son, and Anna (32) had four children with him, with Scott (35) as best man at their wedding.
Loyal to a tee, Jo (56) ignored her initial instincts and found a way to love Ewen and accept him into her close-knit family – which included her other children, Nikki (36) and Callum (27).
Ewen (32) was acquitted of Scott’s murder in July last year, but pleaded guilty to other crimes, including the massacre of farm animals, and vandalism and arson of property on the family farm that he had worked so hard to become a part of. Discovering Ewen’s betrayal, Jo revisited the initial feelings she had towards him harboured deep down in her soul, and proved that a loving mother’s intuition is never wrong.
“Mother’s worry more. Our radars tend to be watching out for the littlest things,” says Jo, who didn’t like the way Ewen constantly teased Anna, to the point where he would make her cry.
“You can’t live two separate lives without being found out. It’s the law of nature. You can’t keep things hidden forever.”
Despite the fact that Ewen was acquitted of murder, Jo and Bryan can’t get past the bizarre acts he pleaded guilty to – heinous, vengeful actions that targeted Scott and his wife Kylee, and which he is serving a five-year jail sentence for.
“It’s soul destroying,” Jo admits. “The crimes were against all the values we hold dear – truth, honesty and caring for each other.”
With her husband Bryan by her side, the loyal couple invited the Weekly into their Feilding home to talk about a new book released this week.
Entitled Scott Guy: His Parents’ Story of Love, Betrayal, Murder and Courage, Jo and Bryan relive that traumatic moment on July 8, 2010, when their son was gunned down on the family farm – and how they survived the gruelling trial, where Ewen was charged with the crime. The public interest has been so intense, Jo felt she had been gutted open like a fish. Sharing their courageous story in this revealing book is helping the couple heal their immense pain.
“It’s amazing to step back and see some of the moments you have been through and how much you have grown and learned,” Bryan reveals.
Jo says that losing a child to a horrific murder feels like your heart is being ripped out of your body. But having the father of your grandchildren charged and acquitted of the crime is another feeling altogether – describing it as an atomic bomb exploding through the whole family. The pain has been so unbearable, Jo shudders every time the phone rings, thinking it’s more bad news.
The couple have been through tough times in the past. When their four children were younger, their relationship went through a rocky patch – but they sought help to strengthen their bond. Learning the tools to cope through the hard times actually prepared them to overcome the worst tragedy imaginable.
“It’s really important to build a strong relationship before you hit adversity,” Bryan explains.
“We recognised early on that it would either split us apart, or draw us closer together. But this was not going to destroy us. It’s jolly hard, but it’s the right choice to make.”
Jo speaks about the dark periods, and how the love for her family helped her through the trauma.
“Normally, my dreams are full of colour with lots of stuff going on. But when Scott died, everything was black. I didn’t dream for months.”
Over time, Jo worked through her grief and the dreams eventually returned.
“I dream of Scott walking through the paddock. He’s waving at me. That’s how I know he will always be in my heart,” she says, clutching onto a locket with a picture of Scott inside.
“When it comes to grieving, there’s no rulebook. You feel something one day and another the next. Rather than just
fighting those feelings, you accept one day at a time.”
The grandparents want to remain strong for the family – especially the grandchildren, who are far too young and precious to be involved with such an ordeal.
Anna has four children to Ewen – Finn (9), Jack (8), Lucy (6) and Wade (5) – and is expecting a baby in March to new partner Brent Jameson. Also, there’s Scott’s two young sons to wife Kylee – Hunter (5) and Drover (3). Scott never met Drover, as Kylee gave birth after her husband was killed.
“The two boys are a mixture of their father,” says Jo about her grandsons, who live in the Hawke’s Bay with their mother. “They’re our little bit of Scott. Hunter often looks up to the sky to try and find his dad. It breaks my heart.”
As for Anna’s children, the family continue to be upfront with them about why their father is not around any more.
“Although we’re honest, we don’t give too much information. We keep it simple and offer them heaps and heaps of cuddles and love,” Bryan says.
The couple received a letter from Ewen, who tried to reach out to them during the early stages of the trial. But they have stopped all contact, finding it hard to forgive him for his crimes – including the slaughter of 19 calves, burning down a home on Scott and Kylee’s property, and vandalising a brand new home they were hoping to move into.
“Forgiveness is a process. We haven’t thought about that yet,” Bryan admits.
Ewen is up for parole next month – and the possibility of him not serving his full sentence angers Jo.
“We don’t get time off for good behaviour, why should people in prison? I’m not all what I seem. Soft and fluffy and nice Granny Jo. I get wound up about a few things,” she tells.
Scott and Ewen worked on the farm, which caused friction and rivalry between them. Bryan and Jo hoped to one day pass the property onto their children – continuing the family farming legacy in the Manawatu. But Bryan says he will now end up selling it.
“There’s not the same motivation, particularly with farm succession. Once we thought we would pass it on to the next generation, give them an opportunity. We’ve gone away from that idea. It doesn’t have the same hold,” Bryan says solemnly.
As for their son’s murder, the police continue to look for clues, hoping to solve one of the most infamous crimes in New Zealand history. But Jo and Bryan say nothing will bring their son back.
“It’s not our fight to win or lose, we’ve already lost Scott. We may never know the real truth, but it’s not something we dwell on. We have to get on with our lives,” says Bryan.
Every single day, the parents miss their son dearly – a golden child, a loving husband, a devoted father, a much-loved son, brother, uncle and mate. Each birthday, and on the anniversary of his death, Jo bakes her son’s favourite treat – a chocolate cake.
“I talk to him a lot. I don’t visit his grave site often, because I don’t feel he’s there. I feel his presence everywhere I go.”
Despite the huge void that Scott has left, Jo says the family have plenty to be thankful for. Nikki married her husband James Speedy this year. Anna is happy in a new relationship and expecting another child, and son Callum is engaged.
There was a period when Jo thought she wouldn’t be able to cope. A frequent swimmer, at times she wanted to stay under the water and never surface. However, Jo now appreciates the good things in her life – and is invigorated each time she hits the water.
“When the sun is out, it sparkles across the pool like diamonds. That’s when I know it’s great to be alive.”
Photos of Jo and Bryan Guy: David White