Arthur Allan Thomas
Police have admitted for the first time a key piece of
evidence used to convict Arthur Allan Thomas could have been
fabricated by an officer.
The concession was one of a slew of shortcomings released
today in a review into the investigation of the 1970 murders
of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe at their Pukekawa farm.
Police also acknowledged failures from dealing with evidence
at the investigation's outset to Commissioner Mike Bush's
comments at Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton's funeral last
One of the key findings in the 330-page report was that there
was "a distinct possibility" the brass .22 cartridge case
used to implicate Thomas may have been planted and if so, it
was likely police were responsible.
Arthur Allan Thomas was found guilty of the murders in 1971
and again at a retrial in 1973. But in 1979, after he had
spent nine years in prison, he was granted a pardon on the
basis that the police case against him was not proved beyond
He was paid $950,000 compensation.
In 2010, the Crewes' only child, Rochelle, asked police to
reopen their homicide investigation in a bid to find out who
killed her parents.
Rochelle was 18 months old when they died. She was found
crying in her cot five days after they were last seen alive.
While there was no new evidence implicating any person as
being responsible for the crime, the report cleared Lenard
Demler – Rochelle's grandfather – who had been a significant
suspect when the enquiry began.
Police also said there was no credible evidence to suggest
Jeannette Crewe's sister Heather Souter or local farmer John
Eyre had anything to do with the murders.
Despite police acknowledging there might have been corruption
used to have Thomas convicted, they stood by the opinion of
Solicitor-General Paul Neazor who said in 1981 that there was
not enough evidence to support a prosecution against any
member of police.
However, David Jones QC released his review of the police
report today and he disagreed.
He said there was enough evidence to lay charges against
Hutton, the officer who headed the case.
The cartridge case in the garden was a "clear finding of
fabrication", he said.
Though today's report could not pin the blame on anyone,
police said the killer was someone who had access to items
from the farm, namely the wire found around Harvey Crewe's
body and the axle that had been previously fitted to Thomas'
Police still believed Thomas' firearm was most likely to have
fire the fatal bullets.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Grant Nicholls apologised to
Rochelle Crewe over the case, which Jones said would be
perennially unsolved unless significant evidence emerged.
"The report shows some aspects of the original investigation
were done well but there were shortfalls that led to missed
investigative opportunities which have left her with enduring
uncertainty over the death of her parents . . . I've also
apologised over the report's finding that police could have
reviewed the investigation into her parents' murder sooner,"
Commissioner Mike Bush caused controversy in April last year
when he spoke at Hutton's funeral and praised his work.
"As a result of the eulogy comments at the funeral of Mr
Bruce Hutton, I stepped aside from the review process to
avoid any possible perception of a conflict of interest . . .
The review findings add to my deep sense of regret at having
agreed to speak at the funeral," he said.
The review into the case has cost $400,000 to date and
amassed more than 92,000 pages of work.
In a video statement on the Police website, Mr Bush said the
review was undertaken to "provide answers to Rochelle Crewe
about the death of her parents 44 years ago''.
"Because of the passage of time, we unfortunately aren't able
to provide all of the answers to these enduring questions.
But thanks to the review team's work, we now have the best
understanding possible of this case.
"This has prompted us to apologise to Rochelle for the
shortfalls in the original investigation, and for the anguish
that has caused.
"The review represents a huge amount of detailed, meticulous,
"I'd like to thank Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock and
his team for their dedication and hard work. I hope the
review provides Rochelle and her family with peace of mind
for the future. I sincerely wish them well.''
In a statement, Mr Bush said: "Deputy Commissioner Grant
Nicholls has extended an apology to Rochelle on behalf of New
Zealand Police for a number of identified shortfalls in the
original investigation which led to missed investigative
opportunities and allowed for continuing public speculation
and commentary over the years.
"Police deeply regret the anguish this has caused Rochelle
and family members. The apology also encompassed the fact
that Police did not conduct an assessment and review of the
original investigation either after Mr Arthur Thomas was
granted a free pardon or after the Royal Commission of
Inquiry released its findings.
"As a result of my eulogy comments at the funeral of Mr Bruce
Hutton, I stepped aside from the review process to avoid any
possible perception of a conflict of interest. I have already
made a public apology for these comments and I reiterate that
apology today. The review findings add to my deep sense of
regret at having agreed to speak at the funeral.''
- By Rob Kidd of APNZ