Signing off from duty

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 12/06/2014
Richard Middleton
Anna Loren
SIGNING OFF: Inspector Richard Middleton retires from the Counties Manukau police after 33 years in the force.

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Police Inspector Richard Middleton has tracked down fraudsters, arrested murderers and helped put serial rapist Joseph Thompson behind bars.

Now, as head of prevention management for the Counties Manukau police in south Auckland, he gets a thrill out of "watching crime rates go down".

The 54-year-old retires from the police this month after 33 years in the force.

His service included four years on the front line in Auckland city before qualifying as a detective in 1988.

Middleton came to Counties Manukau's criminal investigation bureau in 1991 and quickly made a name for himself tackling some of the toughest cases the department had to offer.

His personal favourites were always the "whodunnit" homicides, he says.

"I loved unravelling them. You feel desperate for the victims and their families and there is sadness for the people who have been killed but there's a lot of excitement in putting the jigsaw together."

One of his proudest moments was tracking down the killers of Tolo Magele Pelenise Tofa, a 33-year-old who was murdered in Mangere's Williams Park in 2006.

"At 4am I stood over his body. His carotid artery had been cut and we had nothing to go on except the body," Middleton says.

"By six that night we had a couple of crooks in the can and we were ripping things up."

The seasoned cop also helped to put away Joseph Thompson, a serial rapist who terrorised South Auckland during the 1980s and 90s.

Middleton ran 24/7 surveillance on Thompson and worked "nine months of permanent night shift" in the quest to catch him.

Thompson was convicted in 1995 of 129 charges involving women aged 10 to 43 and sentenced to 30 years in jail.

The most challenging cases have involved children and included the death of 3-year-old Ngatikaura Ngati, who was brutally beaten by his mother and stepfather in Otara in 2006.

Middleton worked tirelessly for 14 weeks before they were convicted and sentenced to eight years and six months in prison.

"That case still haunts me. It almost destroyed me," he says.

"But I keep it together by thinking about the verdict, because I never lost a High Court trial.

'I had a motto with trials - 'leave nothing to chance'."

It was that desire to prevent vulnerable people from being victimised that led Middleton to his next role.

He spent four years at Police National Headquarters in Wellington working on the new strategy Prevention First - writing the rules and policies, then rolling them out around the country.

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The strategy focuses on the causes, locations and repeat victims of crime so it can be stopped before it happens.

And it's being met with results - there's been a 20 per cent reduction in crime in Counties Manukau since 2009, Middleton says.

"Before Prevention First it was just ever-increasing crime rates and police had no control over it."

He's served as head of prevention management for the district for the past few years, heading up six teams with just over 300 staff members.

He still gets out on the beat and makes arrests but he doesn't miss his days as a detective, he says.

"My favourite role is always the role I'm in," he says.

Middleton will be taking a six-month overseas holiday with his wife before assessing his next move.

- Manukau Courier

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