13 May 2009

Funeral held for slain Napier officer

10:16 pm on 13 May 2009

Thousands of people have paid their respects to Senior Constable Len Snee, who was killed instantly by a gunman in Napier last week.

Family, police officers, politicians, dignitaries and a members of the community attended Mr Snee's funeral at a packed Municipal Theatre on Wednesday. They were joined by hundreds more who stood outside and lined city streets.

Senior Constables Grand Diver, 50, and Bruce Miller, 40, were seriously wounded in the attack last Thursday. Gunman Jan Molenaar was later found dead in his Chaucer Rd home following a 50-hour siege that ended on Saturday.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad told mourners that Mr Snee, 53, and the surviving officers were brave men every day of their careers in the force.

Mr Broad said Mr Snee wore his police uniform with pride and honour for 33 years and the officers are a symbol of the price good people pay for a free society. He also paid tribute to civilian Leonard Holmwood, who was seriously injured trying to help the officers during the shootings.

Senior Constable Diver attended the service in full police uniform and was applauded by the crowd as he was bought out on a hospital bed to join a police guard of honour. He has since returned to Hawke's Bay hospital where Mr Miller and Mr Holmwood remain critically ill.

Inspector Michael O'Leary said Mr Snee was a true legend in times when the term can be misused.

"Lenny was the absolute embodiment of these principles - he was totally reliable, committed and loyal. The use of the word legend is often loosely applied these days, but Len is a true example. The number of people here today are testament to that."

Mr Snee's sons Sam and Joe said many men are strong, but unlike their father, few are capable of the perfect mix of strength and being gentle. They said their father had always provided a feeling of loving security, no matter where they were and what was happening in their lives.

Extended family member Brian Morris told of Mr Snee's passion for sport. He said he was a rock on the field and his work and play ethic were the same. Mr Morris said Mr Snee had a huge effect for someone who spoke such few words and he will be recognised for his deeds.

A cousin, Arthur Snee, said Len was a colossal man who strode quietly around his profession and will never be forgotten. He told Mr Snee's widow, Vicki, that love lasts forever.

Honour guard for officer

Mr Snee's body was brought to the Municipal Theatre in a hearse following two police motorbikes and a police car with lights flashing, past scores of standing officers.

The casket was draped with the police flag and had a police hat atop it. A Maori welcome was performed before the casket was taken inside for the service.

A montage of photos inside the theatre showed Mr Snee with family members, on fishing and police trips, and playing rugby. Mourners let out a round of applause at the end of the photos.

Police colleagues carried the casket out of the theatre, led by a lone piper. They were greeted with a haka outside, which included Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, who personally knew Mr Snee.

A police guard of honour and police dogs lined the route the cortege took as it slowly drove through central Napier. A private cremation for Mr Snee would be held.