Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Winz shooter Tully investigated for suspicious fire

Pine Valley hut in Mt Richmond Forest Park was burnt to the ground and John Tully was one of the suspects.
Pine Valley hut in Mt Richmond Forest Park was burnt to the ground and John Tully was one of the suspects.

Russell John Tully was investigated by police in connection with a suspicious fire of a Marlborough Department of Conservation hut in the months before the Ashburton Work and Income shooting - but no evidence was found linking him to the blaze.

Tully was yesterday found guilty by a jury of being the masked gunman who stormed the Ashburton Winz centre on September 1, 2014 and shot dead receptionist Peggy Noble, 67, and case manager Susan Leigh Cleveland, 55.

Three months before the shooting rampage, DoC's Pine Valley hut in Mt Richmond Forest Park was burnt to the ground.

Trampers found the charred remains of the 48-year-old six-bunk hut on June 13, 2014.
It was reported to police, who investigated.

Tully was known to have been sleeping rough in the area at the time.

As part of police inquiries into the blaze, a "number of names were looked at", said Christchurch Police detective inspector Tom Fitzgerald.

One of those suspects was Tully, the Herald understands.

However, the Winz killer was ruled out of being connected to the fire.

"There's nothing to link Mr Tully to that fire," Mr Fitzgerald told the Herald.

Nobody had been staying at the hut at the time of the fire, it's understood.

Pine Valley Hut was a comfortable 20-minute walk from Mill Flat camping ground and was a popular stop-off for children, families and Scout groups.

The police probe won't be reviewed "unless something new comes up", Mr Fitzgerald added.

A spokeswoman for DoC referred questions about the hut fire to police.

DOC has not built a replacement hut.

Tully will be sentenced for the Winz double-murder on April 15.

- NZ Herald

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