Cold- case ar­rests buoy ail­ing de­tec­tive

Orig­i­nal of­fi­cer- in- charge says break­through in Red Fox Tav­ern shoot­ing gives him in­cen­tive to keep fight­ing can­cer

Weekend Herald - - NEWS - Jared Sav­age

Po­lice re- in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Red Fox Tav­ern cold case vis­ited the orig­i­nal lead de­tec­tive, now gravely ill, to let him know they were close to mak­ing ar­rests in the in­fa­mous killing.

John Gott was the of­fi­cer in charge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion when pub­li­can Chris Bush was shot dead dur­ing an armed rob­bery of the Mara­marua tav­ern just be­fore mid­night on a Satur­day in Oc­to­ber 1987.

The case has re­mained un­solved for nearly 30 years, but took a sur­prise turn when two men, aged 57 and 58, were charged with mur­der late last month.

Now 77 and fight­ing can­cer, Gott told the Weekend Her­ald the news of the two ar­rests was “very sat­is­fy­ing”.

“It was one that al­ways stuck in the back of my mind. We worked re­ally hard on it, a lot of guys work­ing long hours, spread out all over the coun­try fol­low­ing dif­fer­ent lines of in­quiry.

“Un­for­tu­nately it was one of a few cases we weren’t so lucky on at the time. But the staff gath­ered a lot of in­for­ma­tion, a lot of ev­i­dence, for the day when things would change.”

Earlier this year, Gott knew that day might be com­ing when De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Gary Len­drum let him know the Red Fox Tav­ern case was be­ing re- opened.

His good friend John Man­ning, a re­tired de­tec­tive in­spec­tor who now works as the po­lice li­ai­son with ESR, also kept Gott in the loop.

“Since I’ve been sick, there have been a num­ber of for­mer col­leagues who have vis­ited and that’s been quite bril­liant. It gives you a lit­tle in­cen­tive to keep fight­ing,” said Gott.

“When you’ve been in­volved in an un­solved case, and it’s start­ing to look more pos­i­tive, it gives you a lit­tle buzz that the [ new in­ves­ti­ga­tion team] had enough trust in you to give you a lit­tle heads up.”

In July, Len­drum then went pub­lic to say the po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing new leads and foren­sic ma­te­rial col­lected at the time was be­ing re­ex­am­ined. “The men in­volved may have been in­tim­i­dat­ing 30 years ago,” Len­drum said in a press re­lease, “but they will now be mid­dle- aged or older and you may now feel com­fort­able con­tact­ing po­lice.” Then in late Au­gust, two men were charged with mur­der. “Thirty years on, the ar­rests are amaz­ing,” said Gott. The news had buoyed his spir­its dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time with ill­ness, with Gott describing his prospects of his re­turn to full health as “not good”.

“I’ve pretty much died twice and they got the fam­ily to gather around the bed. But I keep get­ting up, I gave them a hell of a sur­prise,” said Gott.

“So I’m hang­ing in there, I’m do­ing bet­ter than many thought I would. I say it’s my de­ter­mi­na­tion, my wife says it’s be­ing pig­headed.”

Gott, who also led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of se­rial rapist Joe Thomp­son, re­tired in 1995 and was awarded the Queen’s Po­lice Medal for dis­tin­guished ser­vice.

Len­drum con­firmed his visit to Gott but could not com­ment fur­ther as the case was now be­fore the courts.

Both men charged with the mur­der of Bush and ag­gra­vated rob­bery are sched­uled to ap­pear in the High Court at Auck­land next week.

Bush had been en­joy­ing a drink with three other staff mem­bers after clos­ing up the pub when two men en­tered the bar.

The two heav­ily dis­guised men, one car­ry­ing a dou­ble- bar­relled shot­gun and the other a base­ball bat, al­legedly yelled, “this is a hold- up”.

As Bush stood up, he was shot and killed. One of the men then al­legedly or­dered a fe­male staff mem­ber to search Bush’s pock­ets for the key to the safe.

The rob­bers fled with $ 25,000.

John Gott headed the orig­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Red Fox Tav­ern shoot­ing.

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