The family of Kiwi rapper Louie Knuxx says the artist’s death has been hijacked by anti-vaxxers.
Knuxx, whose real name was Todd Williams, died two months ago of a heart attack while running on a treadmill at his home gym in Melbourne.
The 42-year-old, who grew up in New Plymouth, had been vocal in his support of vaccination and had his second jab in July.
However, his family told Sunday they began receiving disturbing messages within days of his death.
“Somebody had said, 'Hey I'm good friends with Todd Williams' family and I know that he died from the vaccine, so do the family',” his sister Liz said.
“His Instagram got hijacked by anti-vaxxers and there were the really, really sickening things that were said.
“It definitely felt like they were desecrating his memory and it just felt so disrespectful.”
What made things even more difficult for the family was that four days after Williams' death, New Zealand went into lockdown.
Family, friends and fans raised more than $50,000 to bring him home three weeks later.
“It was actually really stressful because we were repatriating his body and trying to also navigate grieving and not being with the family that we wanted to be with,” Liz said.
Meanwhile, the group where she first saw posts about her brother’s death on Facebook has grown to over 30,000 members. Some of them are practicing nurses, midwives and teachers.
But anti-vaxxers haven’t just been coming at the family online.
“A lady came into my work and was telling one of my workmates that she knows from me that Todd had died of Covid and that her son knew Todd really well,” his mother, Kerry, said.
“I don’t even know these people.”
Kerry believes her son would have been very annoyed by what was happening.
“To use Todd’s death for their cause, I think, is pretty low.”
The family has since received the Coroner’s report - final proof that he had not died from the vaccine they had been waiting for.
“We received it back after about two months of waiting and it said that Todd had heart disease that he was unaware of and it caused a heart attack,” Liz said.
The rapper’s own family history reveals the roots of his pro-vaccine stance.
“A lot of things I read were just the dangers of vaccinating babies and that how developing natural immunity is really important."
At first, Liz didn't vaccinate her own kids, but then her daughter Frieda got whooping cough as a baby.
“Having to sit there and see a disease kind of tear through her body that I could have prevented and people in the community could have prevented to protect the people that can’t be vaccinated.”
Williams stayed by his baby niece's bedside for six weeks.
“He was a really big rock for me when we were in Starship,” she said.
“After he became a very fierce advocate for vaccination and just that lived experience of seeing somebody with a preventable disease and yeah how horrific that was.”