Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Crewe case: Jeannette Crewe spooked by theft

Harvey Crewe and Jeanette Crewe on their wedding day June 18 1966. Photo / Supplied
Harvey Crewe and Jeanette Crewe on their wedding day June 18 1966. Photo / Supplied

Jeannette Crewe would join husband Harvey on the farm as she was scared to be at home alone, a television documentary reveals tonight.

Jeannette Crewe was so frightened by an unsolved burglary and fires on the farm that she refused to stay home alone.

She would instead join her husband Harvey Crewe on the farm with daughter Rochelle in the car, according to the last letters she wrote in the weeks before the couple were murdered in June 1970. The handwritten notes and other new statements feature in a television documentary that screens tonight in which Bryan Bruce examines New Zealand's most infamous cold case.

There had been a burglary and two fires at the Pukekawa homestead in the recent years before the Crewes were murdered and the letters reveal how the mysterious acts had scared Jeannette Crewe.

In one letter, she confided that the family had been "barely existing, not living but things are gradually returning to normal" and Rochelle was enjoying a more settled routine "instead of spending most of her time in the car".

Three other statements obtained by Mr Bruce reveal that the young mother was so frightened that she would not stay home by herself and spent the day with Harvey Crewe on the farm.

Bruce told the Herald the letters and statements added weight to his belief that a possible third suspect was not properly investigated by the police.

Local farmer Arthur Allan Thomas was convicted of the killings at two trials but was pardoned in 1979, leading to speculation that Jeannette Crewe's father, Len Demler, was the prime suspect.

"I went back through all three key pieces of evidence. The three key pieces are the gun, the wire and the axle stubs," said Bruce. "Having done all that, I'm persuaded that Arthur Allan Thomas is innocent. I'm also persuaded that Len Demler is completely innocent. And I have uncovered material that points towards a third person theory."

His documentary would explain the evidence which suggests a third person had access to a rifle, one of two which the Crown's original firearms expert could not exclude as the murder weapon.

Bruce said his research suggested that Jeannette Crewe was a "grounded, solid person" whose fears about the suspicious fires and unsolved burglary seem to have been dismissed by Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton, the head of the homicide inquiry.

He did not believe Mr Demler was responsible for the burglary or fires, as the Crewes went to live with him after the fire which damaged their home.

Bruce also backed Rochelle Crewe's concerns over the internal police review which was announced after she broke her 40-year public silence in the Herald in October 2010. He said the police were "looking into their own behaviour reluctantly and only because she had shamed them into it" and supported her call for an independent inquiry.

* The Investigator Special: Who killed the Crewes? Screens on TV One at 8.30 tonight.

- NZ Herald

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