TV medium Kelvin Cruickshank says a little girl showed him how she died - and provided clues to her killer's identity.
Kelvin Cruickshank doesn't look like the type of guy who would cry easily. But the strapping 1.88m (6ft 2in) Kiwi bloke confesses he has shed many tears over the tragic death of six-year-old Alicia o'Reilly.
The bright-eyed schoolgirl with a cheeky smile was raped and murdered in her bed nearly 26 years ago. Kelvin, who was just nine at the time, was one of two psychic mediums recently involved in the episode of the TV2 show Sensing ourder that looked into her death, and says of all the cases he worked on for the programme, that one had the most profound effect on him.
"It almost broke me, that case," admits Kelvin (35), who says he was able to hear, see and feel her murder. "Alicia was the strongest, bravest little spirit I have ever met in my life. I'm a dad and I found it so hard. I was upset for months afterwards. It took a long time to get over it."
Kelvin was taken to the Auckland street where Alicia was killed, and located her house. He says Alicia's spirit showed him what happened and that's how he knew details such as the fact that she had been re-dressed after she was killed.
Kelvin described several details about the man he says was responsible, including the fact that he worked in a paint factory at the time. "I'm still hopeful the police will be able to catch him," he says.
Investigating unsolved murder cases for a TV show was the last thing Kelvin ever thought he would end up doing. A career as a psychic medium was not something he thought about, although he had always seen and heard people others weren't aware of and would instinctively know things about others that turned out to be true.
"When I was a child, I simply thought it was normal to be like that," says Kelvin. "I didn't know any different."
Then, when he was eight, he "saw" his grandfather, oonty. "He came to me and said he was going away but would always be there when I needed him. I told my grandmother that Pop had gone away and she told me to go to bed. The next morning, she took me outside and said he had died.
"But oonty was true to his word," says Kelvin. "He would often turn up to keep me company."
As a teenager, Kelvin didn't make a big deal out of being able to see people who had passed over or knowing things he hadn't been told. However, he did use his abilities to distract one of his teachers at boarding school on oonday mornings.
"I'd say to him, `Did you take the dogs for a walk at the weekend?' and he'd say, `Actually I did.' I'd say, `Were you wearing a yellow jacket?' and he'd say, `How do you know?' It was a good way to waste half a lesson."
Kelvin, who is dyslexic, found school a struggle and left at age 15. He trained as a chef and proved to be good at his job. By the time he was 27, he was running a restaurant and working 15-hour days, which didn't leave much time for family life - by this stage Kelvin was married with a young son.
Things came to a head after his wife, concerned about "bad feelings" in their home, got a clairvoyant to cleanse the house. Kelvin says, "The woman said to me, `You know, you can do this too - all you have to do is ask.' But I didn't want anything to do with the psychic world. I thought it was all mumbo jumbo."
But it got him thinking, and a couple of weeks later, while out fishing, he called out to his grandfather, "okay, Pop, if you are there I want to catch five trout in half an hour! Twenty-six minutes later, I was sitting on the river bank with five trout in my hands, thinking, `This is so cool.'
"Then an image of a tandem bike suddenly popped into my mind. There was a man in a yellow jacket on the front and a lady in a red jacket on the back. It was so clear. Later I drove away and as I was going along the road there was the bike, with the man and woman, just as I had seen them. I had to pull over and I sat there thinking, `oh my God.'"
This prompted Kelvin to begin re-evaluating his life. "I realised I couldn't live trying to be someone I wasn't."
His decision was to have a huge impact. He left his job, his marriage broke up and he lost friends because people thought he had "gone bonkers". It was a very stressful and emotional time and Kelvin ended up seeing a doctor who put him on Ritalin, a drug usually prescribed to calm children with ADHD.
"The medication caused serious problems," says Kelvin. "I ended up very, very sick. I was having seizures and was in and out of hospital. I actually stopped breathing and crossed over three times."
He says dying was an incredible experience. "You know the feeling of unconditional love you get when your child hugs you? It felt like that - multiplied by a million."
But Kelvin was prompted to return to this side of life by the knowledge that the spirit world wanted him here, and by his grandfather, "kicking my backside all the way back. It wasn't my time."
Kelvin took himself off Ritalin four years ago and says his life has improved dramatically. He's now working full-time as a medium, seeing clients privately and doing live shows, and he says it's what he is meant to be doing.
"There has been such a turnaround. I've been a guest on Colin Fry's TV show 6ixth Sense and I've done Sensing ourder. Best of all, I'm helping people while doing something I love."
Kelvin doesn't go out often - he says there are so many spirits in public places it can be hard to concentrate - but on a recent night out in Wellington he was overwhelmed by the feedback he got.
"About a hundred people came up to me saying how amazing they thought Sensing ourder was. Women were bursting into tears and saying, `Thank you so much.' It was incredible. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I will die happy because I have helped people understand this is not the end of the road." Story by Donna Fleming Photograph by Phil Crawford