The unsolved murder of Chris Bush weighed heavily on John Gott for 30 years. Two arrests in the cold case in August gave him closure before his death.

The original lead detective investigating the Red Fox Tavern murder died in peace after two arrests were made in the infamous cold case earlier this year.

John Gott was the officer in charge when publican Chris Bush was shot dead during an armed robbery of the Maramarua tavern just before midnight on a Saturday in October 1987.

The case has remained unsolved for nearly 30 years, but took a surprise turn when two men, aged 57 and 58, were charged with murder in August.

Gott, who was awarded the Queen's Police Medal for distinguished service, passed away this week after a long battle with cancer at the age of 77.

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The news of the two men being arrested for murder had buoyed his spirits, Gott told the Herald in September.

"Dad talked about [the arrests] bringing him closure," said his daughter Richelle Gott. "It always weighed heavily on his mind and he felt the arrests validated him. He knew who they were."

The two men charged with murder have interim suppression to protect their identity.

Richelle Gott said the family had been "blown away" by the support of her father's former colleagues during his final months, giving a special mention to John Manning and Dave Henwood.

A large group of mourners are expected to gather at the Fountains Memorial Chapel in Papakura on Friday to celebrate his life.

He retired in 1995 at the rank of Detective Senior Sergeant, after leading a number of high profile investigations such as the serial rapist Joe Thompson.

"Dad was very stoic. He absolutely loved being a cop," said Richelle Gott.

In September, the Herald revealed police re-investigating the cold case visited Gott, who was gravely ill, to let him know they were close to a breakthrough.

"It was one that always stuck in the back of my mind. We worked really hard on it, a lot of guys working long hours, spread out all over the country following different lines of inquiry," John Gott said.

"Unfortunately it was one of a few cases we weren't so lucky on at the time. But the staff gathered a lot of information, a lot of evidence, for the day when things would change."

Earlier this year, Gott knew that day might be coming when Detective Inspector Gary Lendrum let him know the Red Fox Tavern case was being reopened.

"When you've been involved in an unsolved case, and it's starting to look more positive, it gives you a little buzz that the [new investigation team] had enough trust in you to give you a little heads up."

In July, Lendrum then went public to say the police were investigating new leads and forensic material collected at the time was being re-examined.

"The men involved may have been intimidating 30 years ago," Lendrum said in a press release, "but they will now be middle-aged or older and you may now feel comfortable contacting police."

Then in late August, two men were charged with murder.

"Thirty years on, the arrests are amazing," said Gott.

Chris Bush was shot dead when two men burst into the Red Fox Tavern in October 1987. Photo/NZ Herald.
Chris Bush was shot dead when two men burst into the Red Fox Tavern in October 1987. Photo/NZ Herald.

Chris Bush had been enjoying a drink with three other staff members after closing up the pub in Maramarua when two men entered the bar in October 1987.

The two heavily disguised men, one carrying a double-barrelled shotgun and the other a baseball bat, allegedly yelled, "this is a hold-up".

As Bush stood up, he was shot and killed. One of the men then allegedly ordered a female staff member to search Bush's pockets for the key to the safe.

The robbers fled with $25,000.