Rodney Hide: Challenge for Crewe review cop

Arthur Allan Thomas was pardoned in 1979 after nine years in jail. Photo / NZ Herald
Arthur Allan Thomas was pardoned in 1979 after nine years in jail. Photo / NZ Herald

The best whodunit I have ever read is Keith Hunter's The Case of the Missing Blood Stain.

It's a gripping story, compellingly told. The tale twists and turns. The characters are fascinating and very real. The facts and cold logic drive you relentlessly to a shocking conclusion.

And even more amazing: this whodunit is true. It happened here, in New Zealand.

Hunter argues that the police framed Arthur Allan Thomas, knowing he was innocent of the murders of Jeannette and Harvey Crewe. He claims police knew who murdered the couple but found it easier to frame an innocent man.

Thomas was twice falsely convicted, served nine years wrongfully in prison, and was finally pardoned by Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon.

The subsequent royal commission declared that "[Detective Inspector Bruce] Hutton and [Detective Lenrick] Johnson planted the shellcase, exhibit 350, in the Crewe garden and that they did so to manufacture evidence that Mr Thomas' rifle had been used in the killings".

The police have never accepted the commission's findings. Hutton and Johnson were never charged.

Despite the royal commission, much mystery still shrouds the case. Who fed the baby? Who was the mystery woman seen at the farm? Who killed the Crewes?

The Case of the Missing Blood Stain takes us back through the evidence, appears to uncover crucial details that the royal commission seems to have missed, and pieces the evidence together to try to solve the mystery.

The book lacks only what all whodunits must provide: justice.

Baby Rochelle Crewe is now a grown woman. Two years ago, she asked the police to open a fresh inquiry into who murdered her parents. The police refused.

But they did agree to appoint Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock to review the case.

The Case of the Missing Blood Stain turns up the heat. Lovelock has a copy, and Hunter's forensic analysis sets the benchmark against which the Lovelock review must be judged.

The Case of the Missing Blood Stain also sets the analytical benchmark and follows the evidence to a very uncomfortable conclusion for the police.

In my opinion, Lovelock has had a clear steer on what his bosses want. Last month, Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush declared at Hutton's funeral that, "it is a great tragedy and irony that a man of such great character should have been subject to those accusations".

To the police, the royal commission's conclusions remain "those accusations". They aren't findings based on clear evidence, Bush seemed to be saying.

So how will Lovelock respond to the pressures on him? Which way will he jump?

The integrity of the police in the eyes of a new generation hangs on Lovelock's decision. Will he follow the police line? Or will he follow the evidence?

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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