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40 years of cataloguing crime

Bob Hooker is retiring from the police. PHOTO/FILE

Hanging up the vest: Police Senior Constable Bob Hooker retires

After 43 years with New Zealand Police, senior constable Bob Hooker is hanging up his vest for greener pastures.

The forensics expert would be taking on a new role as a groundskeeper at Rathkeale College.


Hooker joined the police service as a 20-year-old on March 15, 1977.

At the time, he was studying physiotherapy at Otago University and happened to give a friend a ride to the Dunedin Police Station.

While sitting in the waiting room, he saw a poster encouraging readers to join the service. So, Hooker asked for the paperwork.

It wasn’t entirely out of the blue; his older brother Jonathan was working as a police officer at the time, having been encouraged to join by their godfather, himself an English bobby turned New Zealand Police officer.

He remembers the date he joined the service precisely.

While it wasn’t overly special, he acknowledged the date to himself each year.

“You remember your birthday; it’s like my birthday for police.”

Things had changed “dramatically” over the past four decades, and “90 per cent of it was for the better”, Hooker said.

One of the most unforgettable memories in his career had been spending a month in Phuket identifying bodies after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which killed about 250,000 people.

“As dramatic as it was, it just gave me pride that I was part of a team returning those bodies to families.”

Many of the bodies needing identification were incomplete, so the team had to rely on scars, implants, and tattoos.

“I vividly remember one,” Hooker said, “And whether it was one of those ones that a mother or father said ‘why did you do that to your pretty ankle?’, I don’t know.

“We, as New Zealanders, had never had such mass decomposition of bodies as they had over there.”

Although he had seen some horrific things which he could “never unsee”, Hooker has loved his work.

He had kept mementos from some of the bleaker scenes – a photograph of a sunset, a piece of paua, a stone – to remind himself there was still beauty in the world.

Bob attended his last police pay parade at Queen Elizabeth Park on Friday, where he was awarded the 42 Year Long Service and Good Conduct clasp.

His last day working with police would be on New Year’s Eve.

Having been taken under wing by many of his seniors, he had done the same for his juniors in later years.

Area Commander Scott Miller said Hooker would be missed at the Masterton Police Station.

“Bob has been a go-to for both junior and senior members of staff.”

Seeing the younger officers receive their awards had cemented to Hooker that he was leaving the service in capable hands.

“It really heartens me,” he said, “By me moving on it allows others to move up.”

Both Bob and Jonathan Hooker had studied at Rathkeale College, as had their children.

Bob was looking forward to a new adventure and was nowhere near ready for a full retirement just yet.

“I want to get out and do things,” he said.

“I love gardening. Gardening has been one of my therapies outside of police.”

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