The death of Marcus Tucker was a brutal and sustained attack, says the lead detective on the case. Now, for the first time, the family has decided to shed light on who their son and brother was before that fateful night. They speak with Andrew King, of star.kiwi

Flirty, loyal, protective and a troublemaker were words family and friends used to describe the man who was brutally killed after he was wrongly accused of ripping off a drug dealer.

Marcus Luke Tucker's badly bashed and burned body was found by fishermen on Anzac Day, 2016, in a drain on a country road near Doyleston on the way to Leeston in Canterbury.

Last week, Peter John Carroll, 53, was sentenced in the High Court at Christchurch to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years for Tucker's murder.

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A post-mortem examination showed he had a fractured skull, a broken nose, eye socket and shoulder blade, as well as missing teeth.

It was later discovered the injuries were caused by a sustained and brutal attack by Carroll with a metal steering lock.

Marcus was born on May 21, 1979, at Burwood Hospital, weighing 2.9kg (6lb 9oz). He was the oldest of three Tucker children.

His mother Robyn and stepfather, Murray Tucker, who was in the military, spent a handful of years in Christchurch before they were transferred to Hobsonville, Auckland, in 1982.

"He [Marcus] was a busy boy who never stopped. He was always into lots of little mischievous things," Robyn Tucker said this week.

She recalls Marcus and a friend, when they were about 4, getting onto a nearby airfield on their trikes while the family searched for them.

A low-flying helicopter hovering over the airfield spotted them and let the family know where they were.

"He just smiled about the whole situation," Tucker said.

Matt Tucker said no one was closer to Marcus than him. Photo / Martin Hunter
Matt Tucker said no one was closer to Marcus than him. Photo / Martin Hunter

In 1983, the family moved to Waiouru, in the central North Island, where Marcus started school the following year.

Not an academic, Marcus soon showed a skilled hand with art and a keen ear for music - two passions he kept close right until the end.

In 1985, the family returned to Burnham and Marcus attended Weedons School. He played sports, made friends and was a normal kid, his mother said.

His father left the army in 1990 and the family moved to Fairlie. Marcus attended Fairlie Primary and Mackenzie College.

It was in Fairlie where the wheels started to fall off.

His brother, Matt Tucker, said Marcus had a falling-out with his parents.

It is something Robyn Tucker doesn't want to discuss.

When Marcus was about 16, he spent about eight months with a foster family in Timaru.

Marcus Luke Tucker's badly bashed and burned body was found by fishermen on Anzac Day, 2016, in a drain on a country road near Doyleston on the way to Leeston. Photo / Supplied
Marcus Luke Tucker's badly bashed and burned body was found by fishermen on Anzac Day, 2016, in a drain on a country road near Doyleston on the way to Leeston. Photo / Supplied

It was here where the trouble started.

He was involved in robbing Russian seamen and was sent to the Whakapakari facility on Great Barrier Island, a Government-funded and supervised wilderness boot camp.

Matt Tucker said it was just like his brother to go along with something like that.

"It wasn't like he would be the one who would say, 'let's go do this or that' but he would be the first one to get involved if some else had the idea.

"He would have the two parrots on his shoulder, good and bad, and he would just listen to the bad one every time."

In Timaru, Marcus gave himself the fateful name "Ruckus", a combination of his first and last names, Robyn Tucker thinks.

During the court case, the Crown alleged Carroll had believed Marcus, because of his nickname, was involved in a gunpoint robbery of a drug dealer in March, resulting in $10,000 drugs being taken.

Carroll was tasked to teach him a lesson. But the Crown said it was a case of mistaken identity.

Marcus had been using fake $100 notes to pay for methamphetamine but was not related to the March robbery.

Robyn Tucker said her son started to drink when he was about 15 or 16. But she believes he hadn't started to use harder drugs like methamphetamine.

In 1996, after his stint on Great Barrier Island, he rejoined the family, who had moved back to Christchurch and were living in Sydenham.

But the downward spiral was already happening.

Said his sister Belinda Ross: "He just started hanging out with the wrong crowd. He was looking for a connection with other, like-minded people who had things in common."

He was in and out of jail numerous times, usually for drug and dishonesty offences, including breaching hire purchase rules, cheque fraud and drink-driving while his licence was suspended.

He would use methamphetamine and synthetic drugs.

"There were times I would tell him to settle down, that caused a few arguments, sometimes in the middle of the street," said Matt.

In 2015, Marcus wrote to Matt from jail, saying he was remorseful for the times he had lashed out at Matt for telling him to slow down on the drugs.

In the weeks leading up to his death, Matt had confronted his brother about his use of synthetic cannabis, a habit he had developed in prison during 2013.

"He would get quite spaced out by it. I told him to stop taking that f*****g s**t, it's pathetic," he said.

Matt said Marcus would sometimes forget he had bought drugs after a serious head injury he sustained in Dunedin at the hands of a gang member.

Peter Carroll was found guilty.
Peter Carroll was found guilty.

Marcus was dancing with the man's girlfriend, which he took exception to and smashed him in the eye with a large rock from behind. Marcus underwent facial reconstructive surgery.

Matt last saw his brother about a week before he was battered to death at a Bishopdale property.

Matt said: "See you later bro. Watch out, there is something happening in Christchurch at the moment."

Two detectives arrived on his doorstep to give him the bad news.

He then called his parents, his mother who lives in Blenheim, and father in Christchurch.

Said Robyn Tucker: "He [Matt] called me saying 'Mum it's Marcus, Mum it's Marcus, Mum it's Marcus, and it is not good'. I said 'it's okay, I am on my way'."

The following day they went to the morgue.

At the morgue, Matt said: "I just said 'rest in peace bro, those that did this to you will live in hell'."

Until she saw his body, she did not believe he was dead, said Robyn Tucker.

"I was begging him two weeks before his murder to sort his s**t out for his kids. He just said 'yeah, yeah, yeah. It's all good, Mum'."

Marcus had three children to three women. The first, Caleb, was born on his 18th birthday.

"I told him 'you don't know what you are in for', but he was excited about his son," said Robyn Tucker.

- star.kiwi