Crewe murders: 'They haven't moved on'

By Rob Kidd

Arthur Allan Thomas was convicted in 1970 of the murder of Jeannette and Harvey Crewe, but pardoned in 1979. Photo / NZ Herald, file
Arthur Allan Thomas was convicted in 1970 of the murder of Jeannette and Harvey Crewe, but pardoned in 1979. Photo / NZ Herald, file

A slew of shortcomings have been revealed in a review into the investigation of the Crewe murders, but members of Arthur Allan Thomas' family have dismissed it for failing to get the truth.

Members of the Thomas family gathered at Pukekawa to consider the police review into the investigation of the 1970 murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe at their farm.

Des Thomas, brother of Arthur, who was twice convicted of the murders off the Crewe's said police had not considered evidence the family had compiled which they believe pointed towards the killer and away from their own.

"We've been cheated, the facts haven't come out, they haven't moved on from 1970."

He said the report cast a shadow over the entire family as potential suspects.

"It's a whitewash."

Arthur Thomas's sister Margaret said: "There's no member of this family that was involved in this crime. We didn't want this to be police review and neither did Rochelle, it has to be reviewed by somebody independent. It has to be someone from the outside."

She said family members had never asked each other if they were responsible for the murders.

"We didn't have to do that, not one member of the Thomas family would say they knew Jeanette and Harvey Crewe personally."

She said Arthur Thomas knew Jeanette from school but has no relationship beyond that.

Police today admitted for the first time a key piece of evidence used to convict Thomas could have been fabricated by an officer.

Read the story from the Herald's Jared Savage that sparked the police review:
Crewe murders: 'Who killed Mum and Dad?' asks daughter

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 year.

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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 reasonable doubt.
He was paid $950,000 compensation.


Police at the Crewe house. Photo / Herald file

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.


Police look at a car belonging to Harvey Crewe. Photo / Herald file

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.


Arthur Allan Thomas, shortly after he was pardoned. Photo / Herald file

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.


Acting Deputy Commissioner Operations Grant Nicholls and Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock, during the Crewe murder press conference. Photo / NZ Herald

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' trailer.

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," he said.

Mr Nicholls refused to say whether police would apologise to Arthur Allan Thomas as a result of the findings.

At a press conference this afternoon he said he had called Thomas this morning but his daughter said he was out of the country.

"The door's certainly open and I'm happy to have a discussion," Nicholls said.

After persistent questioning, he would not comment on whether an apology could be forthcoming.

Though Nicholls said the 1970 police investigation did a lot of things correctly, he also conceded there were numerous drawbacks, especially considering all the evidential links to the Thomas farm.

He said friends and family of Thomas, as well as many other people had access to the property and most of those people were not investigated.

"That opportunity is now long gone," said Nicholls.

Commissioner Mike Bush makes video statement

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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.

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, thorough investigation.

"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."

The review into the case has cost $400,000 to date and amassed more than 92,000 pages of work.

Read the full police report into the Crewe investigation here:

- additional reporting APNZ staff

- APNZ

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