Sunday feature: Family of murdered schoolgirl Coral Burrows open up about case that shocked the nation

The father of murdered schoolgirl Coral Burrows has spoken of his anguish after discovering an ominous picture the six-year-old drew, just days before she died.

Coral should be celebrating her 21st birthday this week, tragically she never made it past the age of six. Source: Sunday

Coral drew the picture in early September 2003, as part of a Father's Day card for Ron. But she never had the chance to give it to him.

"It was very clearly a picture of a police car outside a house. Coral was off to one side on her own, and the rest of the family was together. It was almost a snapshot of the future," her father Ron said.

On September 9 2003, Coral was savagely beaten to death by her mother's boyfriend Steven Williams, in a methamphetamine-fuelled rage. He secretly dumped her body on the shores of Wairarapa's Lake Ferry.

Police mounted a major search operation, but failed to find Coral's body until 10 days later, when Williams confessed to killing her.

Ron finally received Coral's card at his daughter's memorial service. He is haunted by Coral's drawing – particularly her illustration of a police car outside her house.

For months, Ron had been worried about Coral’s safety. He believed Steven Williams – who already had 88 criminal convictions – posed a risk to her.

"Prior to [Williams] moving into their house, [Coral and her brother Storm] were doing really well," he says.

But then she started to soil herself, and would hide under tables at school if she was rebuked by her teacher.

Ron noticed changes in Coral and Storm’s behaviour when they stayed with him in Te Puke. He was worried enough to call Child, Youth and Family.

"I tried to get them help, but [CYF] didn't wanna listen."

A damning inquiry after Coral's death found that CYF had failed Coral. It led to widespread changes in the way abuse notifications are recorded and investigated – subsequently saving the lives of other children.

The picture on Ron’s Father’s Day card was the last one that Coral ever drew. It has been preserved forever on the back of her headstone marking the site where she is buried in Matamata.