The two police officers who captured escaped gunman and murderer Graeme Burton on a firebreak in the hills above Lower Hutt have been awarded the New Zealand Bravery Star for their courage.
Police Commissioner Howard Broad on Tuesday paid tribute to the officers, who don’t want to be named for security reasons.
“The Bravery Star is New Zealand’s second highest Royal Honour for acts of outstanding bravery and courage,” Broad said.
“These two fine police officers responded to a fast moving situation in which one man had been fatally shot and others injured.
Their heroic actions protected others from being shot or injured, he said.
Burton was out of prison on parole when he went on a rampage that ended with him stabbing and shooting dead Karl Kuchenbecker, a Wainuiomata father-of-two, in 2007.
Police shot Burton which resulted in one of his legs being amputated. He is now serving two life sentences with a minimum non-parole period of 26 years.
Broad said it was a measure of the officers’ true courage that having initially retreated when faced with the threat of a firearm, they returned to confront Burton.
“They have not sought recognition for this award, but I know it is a proud day for them both, and for those close to them. Few people know what it is like to be in their shoes.”
The commissioner said the award was also tinged with sadness for the family of Kuchenbecker, and the four other members of the public who were threatened by Burton on the firebreak.
The New Zealand Bravery Star, second to the New Zealand Bravery Cross, replaced the George Medal in 1999.