Real Life

Anna Guy: The untold story

From the outside, Anna Guy’s recovery from tragedy has appeared lightning fast. Now pregnant with her sixth child, Guy, opens up about her private battles, and why karma will have the last laugh.

There’s no rule book on how to cope when your world falls apart in the most public manner. Just ask Anna Guy.
Nearly six years ago she was thrust into the centre of a high-profile murder case; her brother Scott shot dead, her husband at the time, Ewen Macdonald, charged with the crime. Macdonald was acquitted of murder, but jailed for five years for other offences that came to light during the investigation.
Guy, meanwhile, became the woman who didn’t just cope with the horror, she moved on: a new city, a new partner, a new baby to join the four from her first marriage, and now – happily – another child on the way, due in July.
Scared and alone
Her recovery hasn’t been as simple as it might sound. Behind the public image of joyful new beginnings is a woman who has kept her feelings locked up tight. Scared, facing down intense loneliness, her confidence in herself and others shattered, Guy says it has taken years to deal to her grief – to even talk about it with any sense of perspective.
But she’s there now. In a way, this pregnancy heralds the real new start of Guy’s life. Finally able to acknowledge all her pain, she wants to take some of the airbrushing off her story in the hope her experience can help others who are suffering.
Ewen Macdonald during the high-profile trial; an emotional Anna Guy outside court.
“I don’t want people to think I came through this tragedy and said, ‘oh, I’m fine now’,” Guy says, talking to NEXT from her home in a bush-clad suburb on Auckland’s North Shore.
“I admit, when I first got to Auckland I thought ‘this is great’, but I hadn’t hit the next layer of hard stuff. When I had a bit of space on my own, it all caught up with me. I have good days but then I also have days that I still find really hard.”
It took a lot of convincing for Guy to agree to do this interview. She has become wary of how she’s perceived.
For a while she blogged about motherhood – “a topic I know a thing or two about” – for a national website. But one day the moderator forgot to filter the comments. Guy rattles them off: “Who does she think she is? Does she think she’s some sort of celebrity? How did she not know her husband was doing what he was doing? Is she thick?
“That didn’t help my confidence at all,” she says drily. “My worst fear with this interview is that people will be pained by seeing my face. But I want to help people who are struggling. I hate the thought of anyone getting really depressed and feeling like there’s no way out. Terrible things happen all the time, and people don’t talk about it. Sometimes it’s easier to carry on and pretend everything is okay.”
One aspect to note about Guy: she can laugh and cry in equal measure. The tears – which fill those striking blue eyes but rarely spill over – are for the hurt she’s endured. The laughter – well, that’s for the same reason; a dark sense of humour borne out of the reality that sometimes in life, laughing is all that keeps you from falling apart. As you may have surmised about the 35-year-old, falling apart has never been an option.
No warning signs
Raised in the small North Island town of Feilding, Guy’s world before the tragedy was very small. She had lived either on the family farm, or on one “down the road”, her entire life.
She married her childhood sweetheart, Macdonald, himself a farmer who worked for her father. When they purchased their first home together, it was the house she’d grown up in, a separate title on the family farm.
While it’s hard to look back on her marriage now with fond memories, it all felt perfectly normal at the time. “Ewen and I worked together quite well as a team, tagging in and out,” she remembers.
Guy threw herself into parenting their four young children, intent on routines and order. She can see now that while she prided herself on being the best mum she could be, her marriage took a back seat. She has been through it in her head countless times and the answer is no, there were no signs it was all about to implode.
Anna is set to welcome her sixth baby
Early in the morning of July 8, 2010, her sister Nikki ran into Guy’s house with the news that their older brother Scott, 31, was dead. He’d been killed on the driveway of the family farm, shot in the pre-dawn darkness by a gunman who has never been found. And so the nightmare began.
“I thought whoever had killed Scott was coming back for me, for all of us,” she says of the weeks following the shooting. “I felt like we were being watched.”
Her biggest concern was for Macdonald, who still had to get up every morning to milk the cows.
“I used to say to him, ‘You’re going to be next, they’re going to kill you’.”
Guy laughs bleakly: yes, her life was about to get much worse, but not in a way she could have imagined.
Nine months after Scott Guy’s death, the police arrested Macdonald and charged him with the murder.
With most marriages, says Guy, there’s some kind of warning that you’re going to break up. Some kind of plan of how to move forward, especially with children involved.
Not so for her. “The day Ewen was arrested it was like he’d died too,” she says bluntly. “I wasn’t allowed to see or talk to him for about two weeks. I couldn’t ask him ‘what the hell’s going on? What’s happened?’
“I had never really been on my own before so it was a huge shock, and even harder to be left with four children and no explanation. I remember being so scared.”
With her head “constantly spinning”, and unable to sleep, Guy did the only thing she could.
“I had to stop thinking about everything at once. I decided to concentrate solely on the kids and set up routines for us to try to get through each day.
"I look back now and there is no way I would’ve been able to cope otherwise. If I had thought of everything at once I probably would’ve had a breakdown.”
One day at a time
It was more than a year before Macdonald’s trial for murder began; 14 months in which Guy’s world narrowed to one of: get the kids up, feed them, bathe them, put them to bed. Repeat. She says the loneliness was all enveloping.
Even though others could hug her, call her; at the end of the day, they couldn’t fix her situation. She was a solo mum of four, and it was up to her, and her alone, to make it through the day.
She tried not to think more than a day ahead. “I thought I was going to be on my own with this horrible thing hanging over my head forever.”
Although the community was supportive of the Guy family - complete strangers dropping off food, asking if they were okay – there was no escaping the fact everyone had an opinion on the upcoming trial, a piece of gossip.
Guy, the extrovert, who used to go into town for a coffee and a catch-up, couldn’t bring herself to leave the house for about four months for anything but the essentials.
“I felt so humiliated, and I wasn’t sure what people thought of me.”
For the first time in her life, she had issues trusting people.
“Even though the community were great, asking if they could help out in any way, I lost so much confidence, not only in myself but also with trusting others. I found it really hard to get close to anyone. I’d read things in the media and think ‘do those people think that too?’”
Guy (centre) her father Bryan (left) and mother Jo (right) leave court following Macdonald’s acquittal
Putting on a brave face
Only Guy’s immediate family knew what she was going through. Her mother Jo, dad Bryan, sister Nikki and brother Callum made a decision to stay close and support each other.
Guy was reassured by the fact that Scott’s widow Kylee, herself left alone with a toddler and another baby on the way, was “always really good to me”.
"She would say ‘it’s okay, you never knew’ [about Macdonald vandalising their newly-built home, a fact that emerged during the investigation].”
But despite that unity, they each had to find their own way through. While her mother “cried every day for a year, I thought she’d never stop”, Guy reacted differently.
“I remember just smiling a lot of the time and saying ‘yep, I’m doing okay’. Because if you said to everyone who asked ‘actually, I feel like rubbish and want to crawl into a deep dark hole and not come out until this nightmare is over’, not only would I be forever explaining how I felt, but I was afraid I would completely lose it, and I knew I had to keep myself together for the kids.
"It was easier just to smile and say ‘I’m okay,’ and just get through the day, because it got you to the next day.”
Adding to her worries, there was no money coming in. Once again, the normal marriage break-up rules didn’t apply.
She had a mortgage on the house, a mortgage on shares they’d just purchased in the farm, a personal loan – and a husband in jail, unable to earn. Her father, who had to hire two new full-time workers on the farm to replace Scott and Macdonald, could only give her a small allowance.
Guy had no qualification to fall back on and had only worked as a shop assistant and receptionist.
“I was now a solo parent with four children under seven in the middle of trying to grieve my brother dying and understanding what the hell happened. On top of that I had to sort out finances and work out how we were going to survive ourselves.
"All of a sudden my life was completely out of my control. I was pretty much screwed, so screwed.
“My father was amazing and helped me to sort out a budget. I had to find out what kind of benefit I could get with a husband in jail and absolutely no income. I remember walking into WINZ and explaining my situation so I could receive the domestic purposes benefit, I’ll never forget how surreal it all felt. But that was barely enough to cover the day-to-day expenses of a family of five.”The final heartbreak was having to sell her home back to the farm. House prices had dropped in the previous two years and she lost “quite a bit” of money on it.
“I was like ‘are you serious?’” she groans. “And I still owe money on it now.”
She shed a lot of tears about the move into a rental in Feilding owned by her grandmother, but it proved to be a turning point. She unpacked her boxes and realised the world hadn’t fallen apart.
“It felt like I was starting afresh. For the first time I started looking further ahead, and it didn’t look so bleak.”
Marriage in tatters
All the while Guy visited Macdonald in prison, steadfastly refusing to listen to everyone else’s opinion on him until she made up her own mind.
The investigation turned up some startling facts: Macdonald had committed arson on property owned by Scott, vandalised Scott and Kylee’s home, and clubbed 19 calves to death with a hammer. About six months after his arrest she knew her marriage was over.
“Even though I still didn’t know whether he’d killed Scott or not, I did know what [else] he had done.
"So I made the decision that I didn’t want to be with someone who would want to hurt others the way he did, and with someone who was clearly not who I thought he was.”
For the first time, Guy chokes up.
“Once I had made my decision, it became easier; it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. He pretended to be someone he wasn’t, but I would have found out sooner or later. You can’t pretend forever. She pauses to compose herself. “If I think about him now, I feel nothing.”
In July 2012 Macdonald was acquitted of the murder, although he would be subsequently sentenced to five years for his other crimes. Guy broke down sobbing in court after his acquittal; she thinks she would have done so regardless of the verdict. It didn’t bring the family any closer to the truth of who killed her brother, but it set her free to start piecing her life back together.
The Scott Guy trial and its aftermath attracted intense media interest.
Media interest
Until the trial was over, the family had not been allowed to speak to the media. Now everyone wanted their story.
“My phone did not stop ringing; it was insane. Eventually I stopped answering it,” Guy recalls. “I still don’t like the sound of a phone ringing.”
The family sought advice on how to deal with reporters, “a world we had no experience of”. Eventually she decided to give an interview.
“I got sick of the hounding and I just wanted to say it how it was. There were so many stories. I did feel better after saying my bit.”
But that wasn’t the last time Guy would be in the spotlight. With no career to fall back on, her world was beginning to open up. An offhand comment about having an interest in broadcasting made headline news and led to offers.
She had been involved in dance and drama growing up in Feilding, and was naturally outgoing, a talker, so when a radio station asked her to appear on the show as a guest DJ, she agreed. It was an experience she loved.
“It was a good distraction and opened my eyes to what I could do and be. I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem, I’d lost it. That experience boosted me up. I realised I can have a job, people think I’m good at something.”
New beginnings
Other media opportunities followed, including filming segments for current affairs show 3rd Degree. At the same time, she was taking tentative steps into a new relationship, something she “never saw coming”.
In a bid to give their daughter a break from solo parenting, Guy’s parents encouraged her to visit a friend in Auckland. That friend had a flatmate, marketing executive Brent Jameson, 39. He didn’t have a partner, or children, or any ‘baggage’ at all, let alone the kind that weighed Guy down. But they clicked.
Moving to Auckland was a logical next step. Guy didn’t want to stay in Feilding, where her four children with Macdonald; Finn, now 12, Jack, 10, Lucy, nine and Wade, seven, would always be known.
“I didn’t want the kids growing up with people feeling sorry for them or treating them any differently. I wanted us all to have a fresh start.”
Her kids had met Jameson, thought he was “pretty cool”. Nevertheless, it wasn’t her plan to move straight in with him.
“I didn’t think it was a very good idea to begin with. He had no kids, and I had four! I thought ‘this is not going to work’,” she laughs. “But we were both looking for a place to live, and with the way the market was going, it was proving difficult. So we decided to move in together. I thought it was going to be hard adjusting to having another person in the house again. The kids and I had our own little routines going but with Brent being so laid-back, we found it worked really well. I suppose we both didn’t over think it.
“Brent has never tried to be the ‘step dad’. He’s always been really good with the kids and just wants to be a good role model.”
Guy and partner Brent Jameson are due to have their second child together in July.
Finding equilibrium
On the wall behind Guy is a frame containing 24 photos of her life now, candid snaps of holidays and beach life, family and friends. She has found a level of happiness with Jameson that she never felt in her first marriage. She recently signed with an agency to do voiceover work and she likes being around for her kids, able to help out at school. But for all her new reality, the repercussions of her brother’s death are ongoing.
Two years ago, after daughter Ruby was born, Guy hit her “next layer of hard stuff”.
“Suddenly I had all this time to myself and I started to think about Scott, a lot. Before I’d experienced anger, devastation, sadness, but this was different. I’d pushed other feelings aside to cope, but then it all came rushing back and I got really down.”
Letting it out
Instead of keeping her feelings to herself, she told Jameson.
“And he said; ‘It’s okay. You’ve been through some serious crap’. I hadn’t said how I felt before then. I had taught myself to bottle it all up, which worked for a while. But I realised when I opened up, not only to Brent but also my family, I felt a little better. Having Ruby gave me the chance to slow down and really think about how I felt, learn to deal with it and let it go.”
She says that revelation was important.
“I’m in a good place now. I think you learn to live with a tragedy but I’ll never fully get over it.”
The hard reality is: there’s no ‘over’ when it comes to this situation. Somewhere, out there, is Scott Guy’s killer, and it torments her that they don’t have the answers.
“If you know the facts, that’s it, you can’t argue the facts. But with this, we don’t have all the answers so there will always be questions. But I do believe in karma. I don’t think the person who killed Scott will have the last laugh. What goes around comes around.”
She now lives with “the dull ache” of her brother’s death, but says time really has proven to be a healer – as much as she hated it when people told her that, all those years ago. And there’s another part of her life she can never fully let go.
In November last year Macdonald was released from prison. Conditions of his parole mean he’s confined to the South Island, where he works in forestry. Guy has full custody of their children, a step she put in place while he was in jail and one that was a huge relief for her.
“I worried that he’d come out and say ‘I want the kids now, you’ve had them for five years’. That would be horrible. I would do anything for my kids so to have them taken away from me would be devastating. We worked so hard to get to where we are now and they are happy and settled. To uplift them now would be a huge mistake.”
The journey ahead
The children still chat to Macdonald on the phone. Sometimes they feel like it, sometimes they don’t.
“I tell them it’s fine either way because at the end of the day, they need to make up their own minds about their father. I can be there for them and support them, but I can’t think for them. They all have their own journey ahead.”
She says her children are remarkably well-adjusted; that you’d never know, by meeting them, what they’ve been through. But she anticipates some tough times ahead.
“His parole will eventually end and he will be able to come up to the North Island. So things will keep changing and the kids might keep changing their minds about what they think as well; they’re only young.
"Of course I think about what’s ahead, but I try not to stress about it, it’s not worth it. Otherwise I would sit at home and worry all day, which would drive me insane. So I try to focus on what the kids need right now. And right now, I know they’re in a good place and they’re happy, so there’s a, well I suppose you could call it a peace at the moment. I don’t feel like I need to rant and rave at him.”
Peace. If anyone deserves some, it’s Guy. She’s feeling “very calm” about baby number six. Getting her family to this point of a normal, happy life has been both her biggest challenge and her saviour – a task to focus on when she couldn’t bear to think about the bigger picture. Mothers cope, because they have to, and Guy is proof positive of that.
Words: Rachael Russell

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