Editorial: Funeral tribute mockery

By Anna Wallis

Arthur Thomas is not known for going out of his way to grab headlines.

So his despair - and disgust - at comments made by a very senior police officer at the funeral of former police officer Bruce Hutton should be noticed.

The 75-year-old retired Pukekawa farmer, who was wrongly convicted of the 1970 murders of Jeannette and Harvey Crewe, has dismissed a police review of the original investigation, due to be released soon, as a mockery after the funeral comments - where mourners heard the former detective inspector was known for having "integrity beyond reproach".

The review was only started after questions were raised by Rochelle Crewe, the dead couple's daughter, who was a toddler at the time of their killing.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush described Mr Hutton at the funeral with a quote from 1968, when he was promoted to the rank of inspector just before the Crewe murders. "His integrity is beyond reproach," a senior officer said at the time - an "appropriate" quote, said Mr Bush.

It is an odd comment to describe a man who is known to have planted a bullet shell to secure the conviction of Mr Thomas.

If you asked any New Zealander to name a dishonest police officer, it is pretty certain Mr Hutton would be the only one most people could remember.

It has to be acknowledged that Mr Bush was asked to speak at the funeral and such times are full of emotion and obligation. And it could be that Mr Hutton made just one mistake in his police career and this was not the way he did business throughout his 20 years in the force.

But this was an action with a massive consequence. It left an innocent man in jail for eight years. Not only did he provide crucial evidence to convict the wrong man but he never admitted what he had done, even after Mr Thomas was out of jail.

The comment made by Mr Bush at the funeral sounds incendiary. How can you argue with Mr Thomas' point that it makes a mockery of the independence of the police review?

If nothing else, this series of events cries out for the development of truly independent police scrutiny in New Zealand.

That is what Mr Thomas is asking for and the logic is self evident.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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