Key Points:

The fourth main trial arising from Louise Nicholas' allegations ended this week. Each jury heard only the evidence relevant to the particular charges before them. Now, the broad canvas can be painted.

Let's begin where it began. Murupara lies in a basin surrounded by the thickly wooded hills of the Kaiangaroa Forest. The forest is its reason for being, providing both work and game - on still evenings, even from town, you can hear the rutting of deer and pigs.

This community may well hold the record for hunters per capita and they need not venture far to claim a trophy for the lounge wall.

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The gun shop that did such brisk trade during the heyday of the Kaiangaroa Logging Company, or KLC as it's called here, is gone - a Winz office is about to move into the spot it once occupied in the town centre - but Murupara retains a frontier feel.

It is the back of beyond.

Waikaremoana is 88km southeast in the Urewera, Whakatane a similar distance north, Rotorua an hour away to the northwest.

Motoring in, radio reception splutters and narrows to a station dedicated to rock of the 1970s and 80s, while on the wet black stripe, a hawk dining on roadkill delays takeoff, lumbers into flight and narrowly avoids meeting its maker.

Kahikatea, Kowhai, Matai - Murupara's streets and avenues reflect its livelihood. The town centre reflects the decline in the timber industry since the 1980s.

Every third shop is vacant. Vandals have bashed through the boards intended to keep them out of the premises next to the functionally named tearooms - "coffee, tea, cakes, savories, rolls, pies" - with a lifesize mural of wild horses on its security doors.

Little Vic's Takeaways, next to the Four Square, sells "Kools tasty fried chicken". Unsworth's butchers displays in its window economical cuts - neck chops, corned brisket, sheep kidneys, pig trotters.

Taffy Herbert, 80, shows the Weekend Herald an old photograph of a train hauling timber-laden carriages that stretch to the vanishing point.

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Boom times. Half a dozen inter-city buses coming and going each day from a town that was a hive of bushmen and diesel mechanics. KLC once employed 130 mechanics keeping the trucks and machinery going.

Taffy worked in field lube bays. His handsome face shines from photos snapped long ago - dark lush hair worn in a roguish sweep, his lean body honed from a physical life.

Yet loss and regret make the hard man crumble. He lives alone in a small pensioner unit with his dicky knees, his television tuned to Trackside and his photographs: the mokopuna, the trophy heads, the man he rescued from a swollen river.

There's the picture of the pebble and concrete grave he crafted for his beautiful wahine wife, Maida. They met when she was a schoolgirl in a long-gone timber settlement near Putaruru soon after the Welshman jumped ship for life as a deer culler and woodsman, and married soon after that (she 18, he 22).

They had 9 children. The Herald came to see him about the youngest, Rhondda.

The commissioner of police visited Rhondda in 2000 to personally apologise for the failure of Murupara officers to investigate the rape complaint she made as a 16-year-old in 1982.

The accused was a friend of the town's police officers.

The commissioner's apology followed a damning report by Graham Bell, Rotorua's detective inspector at the time.

Rhondda had made a complaint that she was raped twice by a man who employed her in his shop.

Bell found that the officers involved failed to do their job in respect to Rhondda and the accused man's three teenage stepdaughters, whom he was also accused of raping.

Bell describes the Murupara police's response to Rhondda's complaint as "woefully inadequate to the point of being a gross neglect on the part of [Constable X, one of four Murupara policemen from the time whose names are suppressed by court order]."

"[The shop owner], who is described as a big neanderthal man, took advantage of his size and intimidated the victim," Bell wrote. "She suffered injuries during these attacks and still feels the effects today."

Regarding the town's senior officer of the time, Sergeant Y, Bell notes: "There is no doubt in my mind that [the offender's partner] reported the sexual abuse of her daughters to [Sgt Y] of the Murupara Police immediately after she found one of the children in bed with the offender.

"I have no doubt that [Sgt Y] went to the house and took [him] away as described ... but no further action was taken."

Rhondda later repeated her complaint to police from outside Murupara, which led to the shop owner being tried and acquitted.

The Bell report concluded that she had embellished her account over the years in an effort to get attention, and that eroded her credibility before the jury and contributed to "an obviously guilty man walking free".

However, after an investigation by a Rotorua detective, the shop owner was charged, convicted and, in 1995, sentenced to nine years' jail for the rapes of his stepdaughters.

Taffy Herbert learned years later what had happened to his youngest. "The family kept it away from me," he says, "because they knew what I would have done. I would have dealt to them.

"I know it knocked her because, to me, she seemed not to grow up. Mum and I worried about her."

As one of the instigators of Murupara's search and rescue team, Taffy had a lot to do with the local police. They'd have a few beers after a search, occasionally a barbecue. "I broke a lot of them in as far as search and rescue went. They didn't have a bloody clue."

"I knew what they were like [with young women] but I thought it was with others. I never knew about [Rhondda] until they'd moved on.

"They were the biggest bloody crooks you could meet in your life."

One of the town's policemen at that time was Bob Schollum, who had transferred from Palmerston North in 1980 with his wife (they separated in 1984) and two children.

He transferred to Rotorua two years later and it is his alleged actions there that later put him in the news.

Another local involved in search and rescue was Jim Crawford, whose family lived over the Herberts' back fence on Oregon St - Jim, Barbara, the three boys and daughter, Louise, the second youngest.

Louise later became known publicly by her married name, Louise Nicholas.

Louise Crawford, as she was back then, was 3 years old in 1970 when her family moved to Murupara after her father was appointed store supervisor for KLC.

They stayed until the mid 1980s when her father's job was a casualty of forestry's decline.

Nicholas would later make rape complaints against five policemen stationed at Murupara regarding incidents she said happened when she was between 13 and 15.

One of the five, she would later testify, had repeatedly sexually interfered with her while she boarded with him and his wife and two children while attending Rotorua Girls' High.

That particular police officer first performed a sex act on her in late 1980 or early 1981, Nicholas says, when she was 13.

There were numerous occasions, she later told a court - in the Murupara police station and at the policeman's home there and later in Rotorua.

Her mother, Barbara, gave evidence that she and Jim saw the offer for their daughter to board with the policeman's family in Rotorua as an opportunity for her to get a better education.

Louise had not wanted to go and became subdued, but her mother put that down to homesickness. Nicholas says the policeman regularly interfered with her during the two to three months she boarded at his home in 1983.

"They were frequent and it was when [his wife] was out and the children were either out with her or were in bed."

The first person Nicholas told was a teacher during her 6th form year, by then back at Rangitahi College in Murupara. The teacher had been concerned about a decline in Nicholas' work and change in her personality from a "vivacious" girl. "If you have any problems, I'm here to help," she had told her.

Nicholas opened up despite her fear. "Who was going to believe a 13-year-old kid over a policeman?

"I recall sitting in a little back room [with the teacher] bawling my eyes out and talking and talking and talking."

The teacher told Barbara Crawford, who asked the advice of a family friend, one of Murupara's police officers.

He advised her that nothing could be done as it was Nicholas' word against a policeman's.

"He suggested I didn't tell my husband and I didn't want to either," Barbara Crawford said in subsequent trials in 1993 and 1994 - " ... being a small town I hate to admit that people would be pointing the finger at my daughter and saying this and that."

The policeman whose advice she sought was "Constable X", whom Bell heavily criticised for his failure to do his duty regarding the rape of Rhondda Herbert. He was also one of the "Murupara four" who Nicholas later alleged had sexually interfered with her.

Another of those four was "Sergeant Y", vilified for his failures regarding the rapes of the shopkeeper's stepdaughters.

The failure of Constable X to do his job marked where the first chance at justice faltered.

Not that Nicholas wanted her father to know back then. She later said in evidence that she'd swallowed her supply of antihistamine pills in a suicide attempt.

"I wanted to die. I thought I was pregnant and if Dad found out he would kill me, so I decided to do it myself."

The next shot at justice came in 1993. Nicholas had lived a rocky life in the interim but now, aged 26, felt she had to face up to what had happened for the sake of her own health.

"Too many skeletons in my closet that were just making my life hell," she explained later that year in the trials against Constable A.

One day her sister-in-law confronted her. "She said, 'What's your problem?' I said, 'Yeah, I have a problem'.

"It was ruining my life. It was ruining my family's life and it just had to stop."

She had a meeting with her family that January and told them not only had she been raped by the former Murupara policeman but also by others, including three officers who had used a baton on her.

She told a local policeman, Ray Sutton, but his notebook recording the allegations disappeared after he briefed Rotorua's senior CIB officer, Inspector John Dewar.

She went to tell a Rotorua policewoman - who was pulled off the case by Dewar.

When the family moved to Rotorua and Nicholas was still a teenager, she came to the attention of now convicted pack rapist and then detective sergeant Brad Shipton.

Shipton was mates with now suspended assistant commissioner Clint Rickards, and former police sergeant and now convicted pack rapist Schollum.

The men were aged in their 20s, muscular, arrogant, and they preyed on Nicholas for sex until she met and married her husband Ross.

Dewar listened to Nicholas and she considered him sympathetic to her plight. Consequently, he was the first policeman to win her trust.

She trusted him when he told her he'd go after Constable A because she was underage when he raped her, trusted him even though he didn't act on her repeated requests to take her statement regarding the alleged baton rape at Rutland St in 1986.

What he didn't tell her was that he was a mate of Shipton and Rickards.

When Nicholas' story eventually made a blaze of publicity nine years later, Dewar said any association had been professional.

"We don't socialise or go to each other's homes," he told the media at the time. "I would challenge anyone to come forward and tell me what relationship I have with those men" .

Soon afterwards, a Rotorua woman came forward and said she'd had group sex with Shipton and Dewar.

She was recently widowed and it was a traumatic period in her life. Although she was a willing participant, she said Shipton, Rickards and Dewar had taken advantage of her vulnerability.

She repeated that in court this month.

"Mistaken identity," Dewar claimed, but the jury didn't think so.

Inspector Alastair Williams gave evidence this month, too. He said that Dewar had told him of having been given a "gift" when he had accompanied either Shipton or Rickards to a woman's home where they had group sex.

It also emerged in the media that Rickards gave a reference in support of Dewar when he successfully applied for a management job with St John ambulance in 2002.

In 1993 the case went ahead against Constable A, the only person Nicholas accused who was no longer in the police, something Judge Michael Lance, QC, said lent weight to the argument that the defendant was "a sacrificial lamb".

But Dewar astounded the judges, prosecutor and defence lawyer alike, destroying his own case in two trials by giving inadmissible evidence.

Constable A was acquitted in a third trial at which Dewar persuaded the prosecutor to call Shipton, Rickards and Schollum to give evidence even though it damaged Nicholas' credibility. She had told the court they raped her and violated her with a baton. They said they had consensual sex, sometimes group sex, but never used a baton.

Judge Evans, who presided over the second trial, went close to suggesting that Dewar deliberately sabotaged his own case, noting the experienced detective inspector gave "clearly hearsay evidence ... during the course of what I must describe as measured and carefully delivered evidence".

That he'd done the same thing in the first trial "leaves a question mark as to the motive of the officer which should no doubt be examined by the appropriate authority".

Judge Lance, who presided over the third case, described Dewar's failure to take a statement from Nicholas about her baton allegation as "utterly incredible".

"Such disclosures should have triggered alarm bells that would have permanently silenced Big Ben," he wrote in his court decision of May 5, 1995.

"Even more surprising than the failure to record is this officer's deliberate advice to the complainant not to make a statement about her allegations against these officers."

Nicholas just couldn't see it. She accepted that Dewar had done all he could and was still in his thrall when she was contacted by Detective Chief Inspector Rex Miller, who had been tasked to conduct an internal inquiry into Dewar's handling of Nicholas' allegations and, later, to conduct an inquiry for the Police Complaints Authority.

She told Miller she had made complaints about other policemen aside from Constable A to Dewar in 1993 but Dewar had documented and pursued only the one.

Miller took a statement about her dealings with Dewar and another detailing her complaint against the other officers, but any prospect of laying charges regarding the baton complaint was destroyed when Dewar - without authority and clearly improperly, considering he was the subject of one of Miller's inquiries - produced a statement signed by Nicholas which said the sex with Shipton, Schollum and Rickards was consensual.

Miller didn't believe it and Nicholas subsequently said Dewar wrote it and she signed, trusting he was doing right by her.

"It destroyed Nicholas' credibility. [Dewar] manipulated her like playdough," Miller later said.

Miller had no choice but to recommend that the baton allegation couldn't be established. He reported that Dewar's handling of Nicholas had been unprofessional.

Dewar was shifted out of Rotorua to a desk job in Auckland and the three policemen were given a dressing-down for having sex with a teenager who they almost certainly knew was a rape victim.

Then it went quiet for nine years.

During that time, Rickards' star rose. Police headquarters was keen to have a Maori police officer in high office. Rickards was promoted by commissioner Rob Robinson (now retired) despite warnings, including from Miller, who told him "it would come back and bite him on the arse".

Louise and Ross Nicholas got on with raising their three daughters (joined this year by a baby son), milking on a nearby farm and looking after some sheep and calves until, in December 2003, Dominion Post investigative reporter Phil Kitchin arrived at their brick home in Ngakuru, 30 minutes out of Rotorua, with a thick sheath of documents, including many Nicholas had never seen.

Kitchin explained why he believed she'd been duped. She told him the same story she'd always told: raped and violated with a baton by Rickards, Shipton and Schollum.

And so it began.

Another woman came forward. She said she'd been raped by Shipton, Schollum and three others in Mt Maunganui in 1989; handcuffed and violated with a police baton in a lifeguard hut.

Consensual sex, no baton, no handcuffs, the defendants said.

The jury found them guilty of rape, not guilty of the baton charge. Shipton and Schollum's names were suppressed because they were to go on trial with Rickards for allegedly raping Nicholas.

The Nicholas jury heard the men deny ever using a baton on a woman. And they heard several former police officers testify to having either heard the men brag about doing so or being present when a baton had been used in consensual sex. But they didn't get to hear the baton and handcuffs claim from the woman in the Mt Maunganui case.

A third woman gave evidence in that trial that she'd been raped, handcuffed and violated with a bottle by the same men. Detectives had tracked her through a phone number in an old police notebook of Shipton's.

It caught their attention because written next to the number was the word "milk bottle". That woman's claim were the subject of the third trial and Rickards, Shipton and Schollum were again acquitted.

Other women came forward. Detective Superintendent Nick Perry, head of Operation Austin, the team tasked to investigate the Nicholas and associated allegations, says there were up to a dozen other alleged victims.

In some instances the women were reluctant to become involved, in others a call had to be made whether there was sufficient evidence.

The claims of Tauranga woman Donna Johnson was among them. She was a rape victim and Shipton took advantage of his knowledge of that and her vulnerability to force himself on her, she says.

He had stymied her early attempt to make a report to the police and his intimidation kept her quiet until Nicholas' revelations became public.

When Nicholas' story broke, the public ducking and weaving began.

Dewar told a Sunday paper that Nicholas was "a police slut". Not that that had influenced him. He claimed he'd been officially praised for his investigation of her "baton" allegations and gave the Herald and TV3 copies of documents he said were proof of that.

However, the documents related to earlier Murupara allegations. Dewar had replaced the names of those policemen with those of Rickards, Shipton and Schollum.

It was either a horrendous mistake or a cool calculation.

When the Herald approached Dewar the next day, February 2, 2004, seeking an explanation, he hung up although he'd earlier agreed to talk.

We drove to his house near Hamilton to try again. No one answered the doorbell. The only sound from inside was the barking of a lone dog.

His explanation came more than three years later in his trial that concluded on Wednesday.

The Hamilton jury listened as Dewar claimed that an array of witnesses were mistaken, confused or lying, and sought to assure the jury that he knew best and had always acted in Nicholas' best interests. And they listened, too, as he tried to bat away his attempt to do "a snow job" on the media - as prosecutor Brent Stanaway put it - by claiming he'd simply got muddled.

The jurors didn't buy it.

The policemen who faced the jury

Brad Shipton

Accused of raping three woman and violating each with a police baton or bottle. Acquitted in the Nicholas case and in the case of a woman who alleged she was pack raped and violated with a bottle when aged 16. Convicted of abduction and pack rape of a third woman and now serving eight and a half years in jail. Eligible for parole from next May. After leaving the police became a nightclub owner and Tauranga city councillor.

Bob Schollum

Accused of raping three woman and violating each with a police baton or bottle. Acquitted in the Nicholas case and in the case of a woman who alleged she was pack raped and violated with a bottle when aged 16. Convicted of abduction and pack rape of a third woman and serving eight years in jail. Eligible for parole from March. Rose to rank of sergeant, became a car salesman after leaving police.

Clint Rickards

Acquitted on all charges in both the Nicholas case and the alleged abduction, rape and violation with a bottle of a girl aged 16. Born and raised in Rotorua and involved in petty crime as a teenager. Accepted into police college in 1979 where the yearbook records his ambition was to become police commissioner. Had risen to assistant commissioner by the time he was stood down when charged with the alleged crimes against Nicholas. He remains stood down on full pay.

John Dewar

Was a detective inspector and head of Rotorua's CIB when Nicholas complained of alleged rapes by seven police, including the baton incident alleged to have involved Shipton, Schollum and Rickards. Charged one man, who was acquitted at a third trial after earlier trials were aborted because Dewar gave inadmissible evidence. Accused of cover-up and charged with four counts of attempting to obstruct or defeat the course of justice between 1993 and 1995. Found guilty by a jury on Wednesday. To be sentenced on September 26.

Murupara Four

Nicholas accused four Murupara policemen of sex offences between 1980 and 1983. Dewar conducted the inquiry. The file was cleared as "not established" because of its historical nature and absence of independent corroborative evidence, although Dewar's regional commander noted that "this is not to say that the incidents or offences did not occur".

Constable A

Accused of indecently assaulting Nicholas and having sex with her in 1983 when she was 15 and boarding with him and his family. During the trial Nicholas said Constable A first had sex with her in a police station when she was 13. He was acquitted in a third trial after the first two were aborted when Dewar gave inadmissible evidence.

The women who stepped forward

Louise Nicholas

Claimed a total of seven police officers committed sex offences against her in Murupara and Rotorua when she was aged 13 to 18.

Complainant A

Shipton, Schollum and Peter McNamara were convicted in 2005 of abducting and gang raping the complainant in a surf tower in Mt Maunganui in 1989 when the complainant was 20. A fourth man was convicted of abduction. Complainant A said she was handcuffed and violated with a police baton and that Shipton intimidated her so that she did not make a complaint until she came forward 15 years later after Nicholas' allegations became public.

Complainant B

She was 16 and having consensual sex with Shipton, who was 26, a policeman, and married. She alleges she was kidnapped, handcuffed and indecently assaulted with a bottle between November 1983 and August 1984 in Rotorua by Shipton, Schollum and Rickards. Operation Austin detectives traced her from a phone number written next to the words "milk bottle" in a notebook of Shipton's. In February, Shipton, Schollum and Rickards were acquitted of all charges.

Rhondda Herbert-Savage

Received an apology from the police commissioner in 2000 for the failure of Murupara police to investigate a rape complaint she made in 1982 against a friend of local police officers. Two Murupara policemen criticised for failing to investigate were among those Nicholas claims were sexually assaulting her around that time. The man Herbert-Savage accused was later sentenced to nine years in jail for the rapes of three other teenagers.

Witness A

Witness in case against Dewar alleges she had group sex with Dewar and Shipton in late 1980s. Dewar, who claims to have had only a professional relationship with Shipton, Schollum and Rickards, denied having met the woman.

Donna Johnson

Abused by her grandfather. Alleges Shipton (her mother's friend) failed in his duty to properly investigate her complaint against her grandfather and exploited his position of power and her vulnerability to force her, years later, into a sex act, and intimidated her to stop her making a complaint. Publicity about Nicholas' allegations in 2004 gave her courage to speak out. Gave evidence to inquiry sparked by Nicholas' revelations and to police team investigating Nicholas and associated complaints. No charges laid.