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Film-maker apologises for comments

15:30 Sun Aug 26 2012
Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker who was killed while on duty in Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker who was killed while on duty in Afghanistan.

A film-maker who sparked on-line fury with provocative comments about a woman soldier killed in Afghanistan has apologised to Jacinda Baker's family while hitting out at the extreme reaction.

Barbara Sumner Burstyn, a Canadian now living in New Zealand, on her Facebook page accused Lance Corporal Baker of "killing innocent people".

"Oh, so fallen soldier Jacinda Baker liked boxing and baking - did they forget she also liked invading countries we are not at war with, killing innocent people and had no moral compass," she wrote.

"She 100 per cent does not deserve our respect for her flawed choices. Go to war expect to be killed. You can't have it both ways - oh nice little career with the military and shock horror when you get blown up."

The post went viral around the internet and by Sunday around 20,000 people had joined a Facebook group called "Sumner Burstyn give back your NZ Passport!".

Sumner Burstyn, in a blog on Sunday from Canada, said it had been a difficult few days.

"I made a...thoughtless comment for which I unreservedly apologise to the family, friends and loved ones of Jacinda Baker.

"I do not in the slightest gloat at this young woman's death - I bemoan the tragic loss of her valuable life. Certainly my choice of words at the time was not good."

However, she said the Facebook group response had been extreme.

"On it the men and soldiers of New Zealand threatened to rape run me over, to burn down my house and murder me. They extended the threats to my family.

"This is the black underbelly of my country. Many of these men, and mostly they were men, posted these threats as members of NZ Armed Forces."

She said no one in the Defence Force had tried to control their staff.

The soldier who created the page, Ted Grainger, has tried to calm the outrage.

"Right people. No one on this site will advocate rape or murder," he wrote.

Sumner Burstyn, who is also a regular columnist for the New Zealand Herald and has received government funding for her films, told the Herald on Sunday she did not know when it would be safe to return.

Her family had had to flee their home after her contact details were published. She said the New Zealand police and Interpol were investigating the threats.

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