Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Framing was no act of integrity

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Bruce Hutton. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Bruce Hutton. Photo / Kenny Rodger

What on earth was Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush thinking when he sat down to write the eulogy for Bruce Hutton, the Detective Inspector who was found by a Royal Commission to have planted evidence leading to the wrongful conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas?

Thomas spent nearly 10 years in jail after he was twice convicted of murdering Jeannette and Harvey Crewe - guilty verdicts that depended largely on the evidence of a cartridge case from Thomas' rifle being found at the scene of the murders.

The Royal Commission eventually found Hutton and one of his detectives, Len Johnston, faked evidence against Thomas by planting the cartridge case and, although Hutton never accepted the finding, the New Zealand public did.

So too did the Muldoon government, which ultimately pardoned Thomas and awarded him $1 million compensation - an enormous amount at the time.

Robert Muldoon was not a prime minister who caved in easily - on any issue - so it has been generally accepted that the police not only got the wrong man, they framed the wrong man.

Which makes it all the more extraordinary that Bush chose the words he did when writing Hutton's eulogy.

Hutton was a long-serving police officer. I have absolutely no doubt that he did a tremendous amount of good during his long service and, equally, I have no doubt that his family believed him to be a good man, and a man who had been wrongly judged.

Hutton's family asked for a senior police representative to speak at his funeral and Bush duly obliged.

But his choice of words was inflammatory and provocative.

To say, as he did, that Hutton was a man whose integrity was beyond reproach is tosh, pure and simple.

He was not a man of integrity. Men of integrity do not plant evidence in murder investigations.

Hutton never accepted the commission's findings and he never expressed remorse or regret. And Bush chose to continue that tradition of defiance in his injudicious choice of words in his eulogy.

To claim that he was merely quoting from Hutton's service file is disingenuous in the extreme. And to say that he was speaking solely to the family and friends of Hutton is absurd.

Hutton, whether his family likes it or not, is a highly controversial, infamous character in New Zealand's history. His funeral was always going to make the news. Bush's eulogy need not have done, if he'd been more temperate in his choice of words.

Hell, I could have written a nice, well-meaning anodyne eulogy for the man that would have pleased the family and offended nobody - and I didn't even know him.

Bush is an intelligent man and a man who understands power politics. You don't get to be a deputy commissioner without knowing what to say, to whom you should say it and when the time is right to say it.

He knew damn well what he was doing when he chose a quote from a service file that, in effect, backed Hutton and his actions during the Crewe investigation.

Bush's quote selection caused tremendous pain to the Thomas family and the resulting furore has undoubtedly caused distress to the Hutton family. And for what purpose?

Keith Hunter, one of the many investigative journalists who has tried to get to the bottom of who killed the Crewes, thinks police are taught in police college that Arthur Allan Thomas was bad and Bruce Hutton was good.

It's the 11th commandment and part of the culture of the police. I don't know about that.

What I do know is that the media storm Bush finds himself in is of his own making and he is far too clever for it to be anything other than deliberate.

His choice of words has ensured that Arthur Allan Thomas won't live in peace and Bruce Hutton certainly won't rest in it.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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