‘I loved him to death’: Family’s pain one year after siege
"MAYBE he thought there was no going back."
One year on from the siege that left his nephew fatally shot by Queensland Police, Malcolm Vignes doesn't like to get lost in 'what ifs' and 'what might have beens.'
All he knows for certain is that Khrys is gone and he misses him.
"I still think he's going to walk through the door like nothing has happened," Mr Vignes said.
As events in Smithfield played out on March 29 last year, Mr Vignes had a nagging feeling that Khrys was in trouble.
His uncle didn't know it yet but Khrys Vignes, 30, was cornered in crocodile infested waters near Yorkey's Knob.
The day began with a pursuit from Palm Cove that left one police vehicle smashed at the Yorkey's Knob roundabout and Khrys' own ablaze on the Captain Cook Highway.
After a tense 10-hour standoff, Khrys Vignes was shot after he allegedly fired on the circling Rescue 510 helicopter.
"He probably knew it was not the smartest thing to wave a gun at police," Mr Vignes said.
"He had every opportunity to give himself up that day; I don't know what as going through his head."
When news of the shooting filtered back to Mr Vignes, he made a beeline to Smithfield Police Station.
There, his gravest fears were confirmed.
"The Detective who was on said 'you had better come inside,' Mr Vignes said.
"I knew straight away then what happened."
Still, the reality had not truly sunk in.
"Then we saw it plastered on the newspapers," Mr Vignes' son Joshua said.
Those closest to Khrys paint a picture of a much -loved goofball who wrestled with the demons of his military service and the consequences of his criminal record.
After working in remote locations in Western Australia for three years, Khrys Vignes spent a year in Lotus Glen.
In his darkest times, his partner Amber Lee Coppola was by his side, steering him toward treatment.
"He did not speak about it very often, it was not something he was comfortable talking about," Ms Coppola said.
Despite her steel core, Ms Coppola is still grief-stricken a year on.
"It has been horrible," she said.
"I lost my partner, at 21 you don't expect to lose the person you thought you'd spend the rest of your life with.
"It was upsetting to see how he was portrayed by certain people."
Her strength has left Malcolm Vignes awe-struck.
"Amber supported him through jail and that whole year afterwards," he said.
"A then 20-year-old kid going up to Lotus every Saturday to be with him.
"For someone of her age to go through this, I have no words, she has gotten through it pretty well.
"I may have lost a nephew but I have gained a niece."
Both Amber and Malcolm agree that Khrys needed help, but he was either too proud, private or pained to seek long term treatment for whatever darkness was hounding his private hours.
After years in WA followed by a year in Lotus, Khrys strolled back into his uncle's life.
"The day after he left jail he walked up to the house like nothing happened," Mr Vignes said.
"He walked to the fridge like he always did, I nearly died,"
Despite their time apart, Malcolm could see that Khrys was battling something.
"When he came out of Lotus we took him to a doctor," Mr Vignes said.
"I said to him 'I think jail made you quick to anger.'
"He probably thought he was bigger than the problem.
"He was a very private kid; it wasn't something he liked to talk about, Khrys did not like to lean on people that way."
Malcolm Vignes still thinks back that day in March and wonders what he could have done if he had even the slightest inkling where Khrys' fate lay.
"I would have told him to be more open as to how he was going," he said.
"You never really know what is bubbling under the surface.
"I would have been able to get him to give himself up.
"There is definitely a lot of guilt that I didn't grab him by the throat; that is what it would have taken.
"It wasn't anything that anyone could foresee coming.
"He put himself in a stupid situation … we can only speculate as to what went through his head; the end result was what it was."
But with the grief comes the joy of having known Khrys, even if tragic circumstance snatched him away too soon.
"I think about him and smile; I loved him to death," Mr Vignes said.
"I loved him to death.
"He was a funny kid, but very private too. "
He said he would often find Khrys in the garage, borrowing tools for his latest project.
'He loved to tinker, it was something he looked to escape to, he'd be fixing cars all the time," Mr Vignes said.
"He could turn his hand to anything; I miss his goofy jackassedness.
"I was his uncle but also his mate."
Mr Vignes is sure that wherever his nephew is now, he would be the first to admit the folly of his actions.
"If he did something stupid he would own it," Mr Vignes said.
"He was a loveable character, for but some reason that day it all went a little bit wrong.
"I don't harbour any animosity to police; I think 'you idiot, we can't go back, you can't change it."
Originally published as 'I loved him to death': Family's pain one year after siege