Heat goes back on cold case

JONATHON HOWE - CHIEF OF STAFF
Last updated 12:00 01/07/2014
Brett Hall
MISSING: Brett Hall.

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OPINION: Police dislike the term "cold case" being attached to investigations that go unresolved for long periods of time.

Some see the words as having an air of negativity, which comes with connotations of failure and a lack of effort and interest in a case.

Police are quick to point out that cases are never closed or filed.

While it makes sense for resources to be put into more immediate investigations, if new or compelling evidence was to arise then officers would be reallocated to investigate it.

Regardless of the preferred nomenclature, the case of former Palmerston North man Brett Hall is certainly one that had fallen off the public's radar.

Hall, who was 47 at the time of his disappearance, was last seen alive by a builder on his 16-square-kilometre lifestyle block, near Whanganui, on May 29, 2011.

Dozens of searchers scoured the area to find his body, and a 20-strong team of officers worked on the homicide case for months.

Inevitably, the lack of breakthroughs saw the investigation fall out of the spotlight, other than sporadic public appeals for information from his family

So there were plenty of raised eyebrows when police announced a man had been arrested and charged with Hall's murder.

Of course it's early days in the legal process and the accused has the right, as we all do, to have his day in court.

But it must have been a massive relief for Hall's family and friends to see some movement in the case, more than three years after he was last seen alive.

The Pike family of Palmerston North will know exactly how the Halls are feeling. Nicholas Pike, who was 22, was killed by Stephen Hudson on the Desert Road in 2002 but his family had to wait until 2008 for an arrest to be made.

In their case the arrest proved successful, with Hudson being found guilty the next year.

Pike's father Greg once told the Standard how he gave up hope of ever seeing his son's killer brought to justice, but the police never did.

Results like this show us that the work of detectives rarely resembles the high drama seen on television. It's not all gun-toting crackdowns with showy arrests that end in quick resolutions.

Often the best results come courtesy of investigators who diligently and meticulously build cases with the end result of a prosecution ever in their sights.

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- Manawatu Standard

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