David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Crewe cops accused by Thomas brother

Des Thomas alleges conspiracy against sibling Arthur in police prosecution over 1970 double homicide

Mr Thomas said the hardest aspect to cope with was the lack of action by police against its own officers. Photo / File
Mr Thomas said the hardest aspect to cope with was the lack of action by police against its own officers. Photo / File

The brother of Arthur Allan Thomas has filed a formal complaint with police over the actions of detectives investigating the murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe.

Des Thomas said he wanted police to open a formal investigation into claims against officers who worked on the original inquiry. He said he was unable to escape the impact the inquiry had on his family in the 42 years that had passed since the couple were murdered at their Waikato home - a killing for which his brother Arthur was twice convicted before being pardoned. A royal commission of inquiry which followed was intensely critical of police actions.

Mr Thomas said he and his family had struggled with the effects of being linked to the case. He said the hardest aspect to cope with was the lack of action by police against its own officers.

The recent publication of the book by investigative author Chris Birt, All The Commissioner's Men, revealed information previously unknown to Mr Thomas.

It led to the creation of a 262-page file of six separate complaints about the actions of Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton, now 83, and others involved in the inquiry.

Mr Hutton and one other officer were singled out in the royal commission over a cartridge case said to have come from Mr Thomas' rifle and used to convict him of murder.

The commission, which concluded there was never any solid reason to charge Arthur Thomas, stated: "Mr Hutton and Mr (Len) Johnston planted the shell case ... in the Crewe garden and they did so to manufacture evidence that Mr Thomas' rifle had been used for the killings."

The Solicitor-General of the time, Paul Neazor, QC, told police there was not enough information to lay charges against Mr Hutton and Mr Johnston, who has since died.

Des Thomas spent four months building the file, specifying allegations against Mr Hutton based on sections of the Crimes Act, the law which police use to establish evidence and prosecutions of crime.

The claims do not directly deal with the cartridge case claims and subsequent finding by the commission.

Instead, Des Thomas has focused on steps taken by police to build the case against Arthur Thomas. One complaint cites section 115 of the Crimes Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison for anyone who "conspires to prosecute any person for any alleged offence knowing that person to be innocent".

The section of the act is contrasted against the Royal Commission's statement that "the police did not have just cause to suspect" Arthur Thomas had murdered the Crewes. "His arrest and prosecution for their murders was not justified."

Des Thomas has included affidavits supporting the claims from one of his other brothers, Richard Thomas. He said Arthur Thomas was not involved in the complaint, believing the nine years spent in prison meant life now had to be focused on the future rather than the past.

"He doesn't want anything to do with it."

The file was sent to police commissioner Peter Marshall on October 20 with a letter requesting a criminal investigation.

Mr Thomas said his complaint to police was independent of the review by Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock, which was launched in 2010 after the Crewes' daughter Rochelle asked for a fresh inquiry into the murder of her parents.

Mr Hutton said he did not want to comment. "I've got nothing to say about what Thomas has said."

The pressure on police to respond to questions over the Crewe case led to the appointment two years ago of Mr Lovelock to review the murder inquiry. Along with the request by Ms Crewe, Arthur Thomas' former wife Vivien Harrison sought an independent inquiry into the case, after years of being labelled as the "mystery woman" who fed Rochelle in the days after she was left alone in the Crewes' Waikato home after their murders.

Police chief media adviser Grant Ogilvie confirmed receipt of the file.

"This is currently being assessed."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 03 Sep 2014 08:04:14 Processing Time: 607ms