Death of former Police Commissioner Bob Walton

Death of former Police Commissioner Bob Walton

National News

Former Police Commissioner Bob Walton passed away peacefully at his home last night.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said Mr Walton saw policing through a tumultuous time during his tenure as Commissioner from 1978 till 1983, which included the occupation of Bastion Point and the 1981 Springbok Tour.

In extending his condolences to Mr Walton's family, Commissioner Broad said the family had accepted an invitation for the funeral to be a police service.

Details of the funeral in Wellington, probably early next week, are being worked on and will be advised in due course. Mr Walton is survived by his wife Marjorie and daughter Jan.

The official Police history publication records that Police intelligence played a vital role during the Springbok Tour and this was a trademark of Mr Walton.

The high quality of this intelligence information contributed greatly to police performance during the tour. According to later reviews, the reports were level-headed, distinguishing fact from rumour and never giving way to panic or animosity.

In 1963, as a Detective Inspector, he had been a leading member of the team which established the Armed Offenders Squad. One of Mr Walton's leading contributions to its success was his insistence upon methodical intelligence-gathering. He was instrumental in developing the operational blueprint for the squad. The resulting policy of cordon, contain and appeal is still followed.

As Detective Chief Inspector, Mr Walton led the Bassett Road murders in 1963. The major breakthrough in the crime came when Parliamentary undersecretary Robert Muldoon escorted Mr Walton to a man he believed could aid the investigation. This man implicated John Gillies who was later sentenced to life imprisonment with co-accused Ronald Jorgensen. Ron Jorgensen later disappeared from Kaikoura and his car was found over a cliff.

He was sent to Washington in 1964 to study enforcement methods against narcotics and on his return was directed to from specialised drug squads. Although drugs hadn't to that point been a large problem in New Zealand, the Bassett Road murders were said to be committed under the influence of drugs. Mr Walton helped draft the 1965 Narcotics Act. At the time the Act was seen as draconian in relation to the problem. It paved the way for undercover operations and exemption from prosecution those officers involved in this work for the Crown.

In 1979, Mr Walton had established a specialist disaster victim identification team following the Granville train disaster in New South Wales. The 1979 Mt Erebus disaster occurred only a matter of weeks later and the team was sent to Antarctica.

Mr Walton was Commissioner at the time of the Thomas Royal Commission into the murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe in 1970.

He had seen active service during the Second World War and was still a colonel in the Territorial Force when he was Commissioner, a unique combination of offices.