Editorial: Daughter owed last bid to find Crewes' killer

Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton at the Crewe Homestead during the inquiry. File photo / NZ Herald
Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton at the Crewe Homestead during the inquiry. File photo / NZ Herald

For people of a certain generation, there was no bigger story than the murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe at Pukekawa.

Even 40 years on, they remain fascinated by the unsolved case.

But for one person, it means far more than that. Rochelle Crewe, the couple's only child, was just 18 months old when she was found crying in her cot five days after her mother and father were last seen alive.

Ever since, she has lived with the killing of her parents hanging over her.

Only now has she broken her silence to ask the police to re-investigate the murders. Her appeal should be heeded.

In the final sentence of a statement to the Police Commissioner, Rochelle Crewe sums up her plight. "Lastly, I just want to know who killed my Mum and Dad," she says.

Time is not on her side. Many of the main people involved in the tragedy have already died. She will outlive the others. If a last effort is to be made to answer her question, it must be soon.

Rochelle Crewe told the Herald she wants someone to be held accountable for her parents' murder.

Only then would there be an end to the speculation that had been allowed to "fester" since Arthur Allan Thomas was pardoned in 1979 after spending nine years in prison.

Such speculation was inevitable given the information vacuum surrounding many aspects of the killings.

A royal commission of inquiry into the case addressed some issues but left unanswered the burning question of who killed the Crewes. Into that void has dropped a number of theories, which continue to be discussed and debated today.

The commission's most explosive finding was that, in "an unspeakable outrage", Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton and Detective Sergeant Len Johnston buried a shellcase from Mr Thomas' rifle in the Crewes' garden to link him to the crime.

But the Solicitor-General at the time, Paul Neazor, QC, decided not to lay charges against the two officers because he believed there was not enough evidence to justify a prosecution.

At the very least, says Rochelle Crewe, the Solicitor-General should have given a court the opportunity to reach a decision on the same basis as the royal commission.

The bringing of charges against the pair may or may not have helped to answer the over-riding question of who killed the Crewes.

What is clear, however, is that both the police and the government of the day were more than happy to let matters slide. In the process, many lives have been blighted, but none more than that of Rochelle Crewe.

That untenable situation should be remedied.

The passage of time means a re-investigation would begin without the preconceived ideas that led the police to focus so strongly on Mr Thomas 40 years ago.

While never saying as much, the officers in charge of the inquiry clearly believed they had their man, a view that persisted in the police even after the pardon of Mr Thomas and the award of $950,000 as compensation.

They never reopened a case that saw both them and the courts subjected to scathing attacks from many quarters, including British investigative writer David Yallop, whose book Beyond Reasonable Doubt? was an important precursor to the pardon.

The Police Commissioner may respond to Rochelle Crewe by suggesting there is no new evidence to warrant a new investigation. If so, the Minister of Police should appoint an independent investigator to re-examine the evidence.

The chances of the truth being uncovered may be slim. So slim, in fact, that there is little point in pouring taxpayer dollars into the likes of another royal commission.

But Rochelle Crewe is surely owed one last effort to try to find the truth before it is too late.

- NZ Herald

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