Murder never sleeps and, sometimes, neither does Greg Turner.

Many's the time the Detective Senior Sergeant will roll over in bed at 3am, pondering some part of an investigation or scratching some notes on paper.

"Are we doing it right?," he'll silently ask. "What have we missed?"

It's no wonder the nickname "Turbo" has stuck with this old-school copper, the head of Tauranga's Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB), who celebrated 42 years in the police this month.

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"A job will come in and it's always hell for leather," Detective Sergeant Rob Lemoto, host of TV's Police Ten 7, muses.

"It's fast and it's happening but he's the one that's driving everything at once. It's Turbo because we say to him 'just take a breath so we can catch up!'"

Sometimes when Turner's brain is working overtime, he'll let out a low whistle, like a pressure cooker releasing steam. Those brave enough, Lemoto notes, give him a friendly ribbing.

"It doesn't go down very well!"

Over the years, Turner - the manager of investigations in the Western Bay of Plenty - has trained or supervised hundreds of detectives. All hold him in high regard and at least four are now part of the Police executive.

On the day we meet, he's immaculately attired, as usual, in a business suit. His mobile phone vibrates incessantly.

Frequently on call and often working outside business hours, no day is ever the same for someone who helps solve crime for a living.

Detective work is gruelling; whether it be locating and interviewing witnesses, searching the crime scene for evidence, finding surveillance footage or trawling through vast criminal databases.

On location at a job in Te Puna last year. Photo / George Novak
On location at a job in Te Puna last year. Photo / George Novak

Turner oversees 51 staff members, including 35 CIB members (12 are trainees) and 16 uniform investigators, crime scene officers and photographers.

His job is to monitor it all, updating other branches of the police, stepping in where necessary while his detectives work cases on homicide, aggravated violence, sexual offending, drug offences, crimes against society and fraud.

But what makes him so effective in his focus?

"He'll pin a photo of the victim up on the board and everyone works towards solving what occurred for that person," Detective Inspector Mark Loper, crime manager at Bay of Plenty Police headquarters in Rotorua, explains.

"He's completely victim and community-orientated and he's not only respected by his peers but by his colleagues right throughout the Bay of Plenty. When Turbo's got something to say, people listen."

Turner was awarded a QSM for services to the police and community in 2014.

"I was a bit lucky there," he modestly says, explaining the gong was more a reflection on the whole CIB team.

Others aren't so sure.

"They always say it starts at the top and the Western Bay are pretty lucky to have him at the top," Lemoto counters.

"He's proud of the accomplishments of the Western Bay CIB and he's proud of the reputation of his detectives but they have that reputation for a reason.

"It's something he's overseen and taken a great deal of time with. I don't think he knows how well-respected he is - he's also been told a number of times that he's not allowed to retire!"

Foray into the Police

TURNER was born and raised in Palmerston North, the eldest of three children, and attended Palmerston North Boys' High School. His nephews are fourth generation at the school.

His mum was a primary school teacher and his dad worked for the Manawatu Knitting Mills until his retirement.

He left school halfway through what is now Year 13 and had a year as a builder's labourer while deciding what to do. Inspiration to join the police came from school buddies Gary Smith - a former Bay of Plenty district commander - and the late Junior All Black and policeman Murray Rosenbrook.

He fitted in 18 months with the Ministry of Works before he was old enough to join the police, graduating at 20.

Turner came to Tauranga at the end of 2002, after 14 years policing in Auckland and a 12-year stint in Wellington, where he first joined the CIB in 1979.

He became a Detective Sergeant in 1991, a uniformed Senior Sergeant in 1998 and a Detective Senior in 2000.

Greg Turner celebrated 42 years in the police this month. He's pictured here in 2004. Photo/ John Borren
Greg Turner celebrated 42 years in the police this month. He's pictured here in 2004. Photo/ John Borren

He rose through the ranks during an interesting time in criminal history, when the likes of bank robbers Leslie Maurice Green and Terrance Brown dominated news headlines.

These days, bank robbers have all but disappeared off the criminal landscape, thanks to tighter security and banks holding less cash.

Technology has also made startling changes to Turner's work. Officers now have electronic devices to record evidence and access to huge DNA databases.

In his early policing days, Turner didn't have access to social media pages, surveillance cameras or cellphone intercepts.

Forty years ago, when he first joined the police, every file that came into the office would get "thrashed". Crime volumes have increased dramatically since then, however, and a lot of lower-end crime doesn't get the same attention it used to.

Turner's career has seen him investigate more than 100 murders and he tries to remember the name of every victim. He used to keep a spreadsheet of the victims but doesn't anymore.

His first homicide case stands out because it was simply "pretty daunting": Denise Holmes murdered by Desmond Knox in 2002. And the second that sticks in his memory is Scottish woman Karen Aim, beaten to death with a baseball bat in Taupō in 2008, by 14-year-old Jahche Broughton.

In the Taupō case, police inquiries were made increasingly difficult because Taupō's population had swollen by nearly 20,000 that weekend for a motorsport event. The demands of the British media were high and there was a heightened interest from the Government because of the effect on tourism.

There are always parts of a murder inquiry that can't be shared with the public or the media but Turner has always tried to be as open as possible with the victim's family because "they're going to hear it all at trial".

Greg Turner speaking at a press conference at Taupo Police station during the Karen Aim murder investigation in 2008. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Greg Turner speaking at a press conference at Taupo Police station during the Karen Aim murder investigation in 2008. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Since Christmas, there have been four murder investigations in the Western Bay of Plenty and three badly injured babies.

To cope with difficult cases, officers talk together as a group, sneak in the odd beer and have a staff and welfare referral system, with the opportunity to speak with a psychologist.

Turner avoids the psychologist, explaining that he's always got by.

"I probably come from an age group where you tend to deal with it yourself."

He pauses, drumming the desktop with his fingers, before adding: "I'm not sure if that's a good thing."

Leadership abilities have seen Turner seconded to work with police forces in Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, Tonga and Fiji. His Fijian foray in 2008 was particularly memorable - he had his visa revoked, alongside the acting High Commissioner and military attache, in the aftermath of the Frank Bainimarama-inspired coup.

Outside work, he is a giver of time. He was one of the "tight six", helping to organise the Police Charity Luncheon. The luncheon, which finished in 2014 after 20 years, raised more than $2.4 million for the community.

He is also a trustee on The Decision Reachout (Toro Mai) Trust which works to reward young people in a leadership course at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre in Tongariro National Park.

He and wife Lynette don't have children but Turner does have a soft spot for their cats that he's affectionately nicknamed Mooney and Looney.

His dedication to the job has seen him work 30 out of 42 Christmases, while Lynette spends it with her Taranaki-based family.

He half-jokes that Lynette is a "long time sufferer" but she disagrees, describing her husband as an all-round nice guy.

"He wouldn't (work Christmas) without us both agreeing to that," Lynette says.

"We're both very supportive of other people's families and the precious times together. He's always available and always has his phone on. For him, it's very much about the team."

Detective Sergeant Lemoto says the pressure of homicide investigations can have a big impact on relationships but Turner is extremely lucky to have such an understanding spouse.

"Lynette knows that if there's a homicide, she isn't going to see him for a long time. For any serious crime, we have a small window to identify those responsible and after that, it becomes a bit of a bit of a grind. That grind can see Turbo not at home and not working regular hours for weeks. He does make sacrifices for others around him and he never asks for anything in return and that to me that's the sign of a true leader."

Greg Turner talking to media at Tauranga District Court. His career has seen him investigate more than 100 murders. Photo / John Borren
Greg Turner talking to media at Tauranga District Court. His career has seen him investigate more than 100 murders. Photo / John Borren

Turner is one of three officers at the Tauranga Police Station to have clocked up 42 years service, along with Sergeant Trevor Brown and Sergeant Wayne Hunter.

In a small town, Turner says you have to be accessible and he's never had any difficulties with criminals outside of work - although he notes that's something he can't take for granted.

"Every suspect and every offender should ideally leave the police station thinking you're their best mate. You want them to tell you about their offending and you want them to plead guilty at their first appearance, because that saves months of work and the court process is the most stressful part of this job."

To counter that stress, he goes mountain biking, runs up and down Mauao and, in the summer, enjoys organised ocean swims. In his younger days, he was a keen sailor and made trips around the Pacific yacht racing.

At 62, he still comfortably completes the New Zealand Police Physical Competency Test (PCT), still enjoys the job ... and reckons he's got a few years service left yet.

"After 42 years, there is a time when everyone hits the wall and no doubt, at some stage, those effects will catch up with me," he muses.

"You do wake up worrying about your cases, worrying about your victims and worrying about your staff ... I don't think that will ever change."