April 21 is a day etched in the memories of Flaxmere residents Graeme and Sandra Hunt.

On that quiet Sunday in 1996, they had been at home with their two daughters when they heard a loud bang - the sound of Constable Glenn McKibbin being shot while on duty outside their Yarmouth Rd home.

Mr Hunt had raced outside followed by his daughters, aged 12 and 10, and Mrs Hunt phoned emergency services.

As Mr Hunt kneeled over the fatally wounded constable a car pulled up and Mr Hunt thought the driver asked if they needed help.

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"The next thing I heard was a gunshot."

After shooting Mr McKibbin, Terrence Thompson, 43, had driven his station-wagon along the road before turning around and returning to the scene.

Thompson stopped next to Mr Hunt and his two daughters, propped a Ruger on his open car door and attempted to shoot Mr McKibbin again.

"I saw him taking aim again," Mr Hunt said. "I yelled at the kids to get inside and they took off. I scrambled around the back of the police car and heard another shot."

Later, the Hunts realised the bullets were embedded in the car's police insignia, centimetres from where Mr Hunt had been. After Thompson fled the scene, Mr Hunt returned to Mr McKibbin and spoke to the unconscious constable until the ambulance arrived 25 minutes later. He said he liked to think Mr McKibbin heard him.

"I said to his dad at the funeral, 'all I could do was talk to him and let him know that he was not alone'.

"It's a feeling of helplessness. You can't do a bloody thing, you just hope like hell that he can hear you."

While Thompson had fled, the ordeal was not over for the Hunts.

"Because he was on the loose for [nine] weeks we had constant police supervision," Mr Hunt said. "When I went to shut the gate [at night] I just looked at the spot and there'd be a prickle on my neck.

"He could have shot all three of us out there."

Mrs Hunt said until Thompson was killed, they were constantly looking over their shoulders.

"We were thinking 'would he come back? Was he after us?'."

She was employed by TV3 and had been working when Thompson was killed by the armed offenders squad in a Havelock North orchard.

"I rang Graeme, saying 'I think they've got him'," she said. "June the 24th was a delightful day."

When he heard, Mr Hunt said he had been relieved, as it saved their daughters from going through a trial.

In 1999, he received the New Zealand Bravery Decoration for "acts of exceptional bravery in situations of danger".

A certificate of appreciation from the Hastings police also hangs on the wall of the Hunts' Flaxmere home, which they said they had never thought about moving from.

"It could happen anywhere," Mr Hunt said.