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Former Police Commissioner Bob Walton, 86, died peacefully at his home in Wellington last night.
Police Commissioner Howard Broad said Mr Walton saw policing through a tumultuous time during his tenure from 1978 to 1983, which included the occupation of Bastion Point and the 1981 Springbok Tour.
Police intelligence played a vital role during the Springbok tour and this was a trademark of Mr Walton's career.
In 1963, as a detective inspector, Mr Walton was a leading member of the team which established the Armed Offenders Squad.
One of his contributions to its success was an 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 investigation into Auckland's Bassett Road murders in 1963.
The major breakthrough in the case 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.
Jorgensen later disappeared from Kaikoura and his car was found over a cliff.
Mr Walton went to Washington in 1964 to study enforcement methods against narcotics and on his return was directed to form police drug squads.
Although drugs had not at 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. The Act was seen as draconian but it paved the way for undercover operations and exempted from prosecution those officers involved in this work for the Crown.
In 1979, Mr Walton established a specialist disaster victim identification team following the Granville train disaster in New South Wales.
The Mt Erebus disaster occurred only a matter of weeks later and the team was sent to Antarctica.
Mr Walton was also commissioner at the time of the Thomas royal commission into the north Waikato murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe in 1970.
Mr Walton saw active service during the World War 2 and was still a colonel in the territorial force when commissioner, a unique combination of offices.
Mr Broad said Mr Walton's funeral would be a police service, probably early next week, in Wellington. Mr Walton was survived by his wife Marjorie and daughter Jan.