The death of enforcer Peter Fulcher leaves only one surviving senior member of the Mr Asia syndicate: "Diamond Jim" Shepherd.
Fulcher, who died aged 72 in Whanganui last week, was a violent, brutal thug who acted as gang leader Terry Clark's attack dog in the late '70s heyday of the drug gang.
Shepherd said he had known Fulcher since they were teenagers in borstal but had not seen him since they were sent to prison for their crimes. "The only two things we had in common was an involvement in Mr Asia and surviving it.
"I have always lived by a strong criminal code and take perverse pride in saying not one person ever spent one night in a prison cell because I strayed from that code. As the sole surviving senior member of the Mr Asia syndicate, I can only repeat again, all of us involved in the group were nasty, immoral, violent and brutal . . . I hope Peter found some inner peace in his later years."
The rise and fall of the gang is one of New Zealand's most infamous crime stories. The ringleaders made millions running drugs through Singapore, living wild lifestyles in expensive houses, suit pockets crammed full of cash, drinking champagne with beautiful women and unleashing horrific violence on anyone who crossed them.
Mr Asia himself was Marty Johnstone, a former Auckland menswear salesman who set up a drug-smuggling operation in Singapore in 1975.
Clark, whose calm, polite exterior hid a murderous and psychopathic criminal mind, organised distribution after the drugs arrived in New Zealand. It earned the pair $3 million.
The syndicate then moved into smuggling heroin, which they sold on to men like Fulcher. By 1978, the heroin import bill for Auckland alone was more than $34m.
The gang started to unravel after Johnstone lost his magic touch with the drug business. He spent millions trying to bribe Indonesian generals looking for oil, then lost Clark more than $300,000 in a failed Thai drug deal.
Clark decided Johnstone had to go, so Johnstone was sent to Britain to set up another deal. Soon after arriving, he was shot in the back of the head in a motorway layby by his best friend, Andy Maher.
Maher, apparently upset by the gurgling noises Johnstone was making, stabbed him through the belly several times, cut his hands off and dumped the body in a flooded quarry.
When the body was discovered, British police linked the crime to Clark, who was eventually convicted of ordering the hit. Clark died in prison in 1983.
Fulcher served 14 years in Paremoremo, and was freed suffering from the emphysema that eventually killed him.
- © Fairfax NZ News