A terminally ill former detective avoided a corruption probe because police failed to launch a criminal investigation while he was still alive, the brother of Arthur Thomas has claimed.
The allegation has been put before the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which has been asked to find out why former Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton was allowed to die without being formally investigated on a range of criminal allegations.
Mr Hutton died in April 2013 - six months after a formal criminal complaint was lodged by the brother of the man he was accused of framing.
Arthur Thomas was twice convicted of the 1970 murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe after an investigation led by Mr Hutton. Mr Thomas was eventually pardoned and a Royal Commission of Inquiry found Mr Hutton had planted the cartridge cases used to convict him.
Police never carried out a formal inquiry into the allegation against Mr Hutton, instead accepting legal advice saying there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
The Herald revealed in November 2012 a complaint was finally laid by Mr Thomas' brother Des. He made a formal request for an investigation into the planting and other allegations of corruption against the officer.
Des Thomas said today the complaint had been ignored by police and was instead rolled into the long-running police review of the case.
The review, which has entered its fourth year, was never intended to be an investigation into the murders or police behaviour.
Mr Thomas said the police should never have included his formal criminal complaint into the review. Instead, he said, they should have launched a criminal investigation.
He said the complaint was made at a time when the Thomas family knew Mr Hutton was terminally ill. He said police would also have known and believed this led to the delays.
"It is my view that the top brass within the New Zealand police knew that it was only a matter of time before Hutton died," said Mr Thomas.
He said the view was reinforced by Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush's eulogy at Mr Hutton's funeral, in which he praised the officer's integrity. The eulogy, scripted by police headquarters, stated: "It is a great tragedy and irony that a man of such character should have been subject to devastating accusations of dishonesty."
Mr Thomas said police were continuing to deny the 1979 pardon of Arthur Thomas and in doing so had heaped further injury on the family. He said the complaint was made now because the decision were the responsibility of current police commissioner Peter Marshall, who retires this year.
A spokeswoman for the IPCA confirmed today a complaint had been received and was being assessed for further action.
A spokesman for police said there was no delay by officers carrying out the Crewe review in relation to the death of Mr Hutton. The statement from police headquarters did not address Mr Thomas' claim the criminal complaint was ignored.
Instead, repeated its position that the issues raised by Mr Thomas were included in the review into the Crewe case, which was the "appropriate forum" regarding "new evidence ... that indicates actual or potential criminal liability".
The spokesman said the review was expected to be made public in the first half of this year. It was also being independently assessed by David Jones QC.
In a statement later, police said they "absolutely'' rejected assertions that police waited for the death of former Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton in relation to the Crewe review.
"This has no basis in truth. The matters raised by Mr Des Thomas in his complaint of October 2012 are being considered by the review team led by Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock.''
The three-year timeframe for the review reflected thousands of hours of staff time, 90,000 pages of documentation considered and interviews with people who may have relevant information.
"The review is being finalised at the moment and it is intended that its findings will be made public in the first half of this year. Naturally police will assist the IPCA with any aspect of its investigation into the complaint laid by Mr Thomas.''