Former top Roturua cop dies
A former head of the Rotorua Criminal Investigation Branch and ex- member of the crack British SAS regiment, retired Detective Inspector Phil Seaman, has died after a short illness.
Mr Seaman spent all but two of his 26 years' New Zealand police service in the CIB with postings in Auckland, Otahuhu and Christchurch, before being appointed to head the Rotorua CIB in 1980.
In Auckland he was a foundation member of the original Armed Offenders Squad and throughout his time in Rotorua was officer-in-charge of the district's Armed Offenders Squad.
Former colleague and close friend, retired Detective Sergeant Nick Milsum, of Rotorua, said Mr Seaman had been immensely proud of his connection with the pioneering squad.
The two first worked together in Auckland where they were the sole members of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, before serving in the Christchurch and Rotorua CIBs.
Mr Milsum described Mr Seaman as a man who led from the front, a hands-on person who would never expect any of his staff to do anything he would not do himself.
"He was very supportive of his staff. He was tough, a hard man but also very compassionate when he needed to be. The troops liked and respected him as a leader and a boss."
Another colleague, ex Senior Sergeant Dave Donaldson, now a Rotorua district councillor, said Mr Seaman had been a no-nonsense, but colourful, character.
"He was fearless - he wasn't called Spunky for nothing."
It was by that nick name that Mr Seaman was universally known by police and hardened criminals.
Mr Donaldson said Mr Seaman would be remembered for taking a direct and, at times, unorthodox approach to problem solving.
"In an armed offenders situation he was likely to pick up the megaphone and say `come out or the lead will start flying' but in slightly less polite terms than that," Mr Donaldson said.
During his time in the Rotorua CIB Mr Seaman headed a number of high-profile investigations, including the 1985 parcel bomb killing of local woman Michele Sticovich. Her close friend Paul Anderson suffered severe injuries in the blast which came when Mrs Sticovich attempted to open a handy bag packed with gelignite.
Within days of the blast Mr Seaman arrested Mrs Sticovich's former husband, David Sticovich in Kaitaia. He pleaded guilty to her murder and intentionally injuring Mrs Anderson.
Outside of the police Mr Seaman devoted much of his life to parachuting, first as a paratrooper in the British SAS then as a sporting pursuit. In 2004 he notched up his 1000th jump and was jumping until a few weeks before his death.
He parachuted into his own retirement party - one of the few occasions he missed his intended mark, forcing him to walk some distance to join the gathering at Rotorua's Commercial Travellers Club.
It was a miscalculation he did not like to dwell on but his fondness for the sport continued and after his retirement he spent a spell parachuting with the French Foreign Legion at their headquarters in Corsica.
Mr Seaman was one of Rotorua's most outspoken opponents to the 1987 closure of the city's privately-owned geothermal bores, refusing to allow the Ministry of Energy on to his property to concrete over his wellhead.
He accused the ministry of being "very high-handed", saying he would strenuously defend any charges laid against him.
"This is very much a matter of principle," he was quoted as saying at the time.
"I have exactly the same legal rights as any other citizen in this country."
When a honeymooning couple died from hydrogen sulphide poisoning in a Rotorua motel unit that same year, Mr Seaman incurred moteliers' wrath by blaming the gas for the deaths before it had been scientifically confirmed.
Mr Seaman retorted he would have been "irresponsible in the extreme" if he had not the public know what the cause of the deaths had been.
"As far as I am concerned it was the responsibility of the police to explain the situation exactly - we have a duty to the public to allay concern and fear."
Mr Seaman is survived by his wife, Bobby, a daughter and two grandsons. His only son was killed in a car crash between Rotorua and Taupo when he was 21.
Details of Mr Seaman's funeral have yet to be finalised.