Claims Crewe suspect cleared

COLD CASE: Harvey and Jeanette Crewe on their wedding day.
COLD CASE: Harvey and Jeanette Crewe on their wedding day.

New information on the Crewe murders previously unavailable to the public appears to exonerate the woman accused of feeding baby Rochelle Crewe and being a party to the murder of her parents in 1970.

In documents obtained under the Official Information Act by Auckland documentary maker Bryan Bruce, local farmhand Bruce Roddick states the woman he saw outside the Crewe house in the days after the murder was "certainly not" Norma Demler, the wife of Len Demler, the father of murdered Jeanette Crewe.

Between the death and the discovery of the bodies of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe in Pukekawa, Bruce Roddick saw a "mystery woman" outside their house.

This woman has long been presumed accomplice to the killer and the person who cared for the orphaned baby Rochelle in the five days between the death and the discovery of the Crewes' fate.

And since the second trial of Arthur Allan Thomas in 1973 and for nearly 40 years since, many have speculated that this woman was Demler.

Now with the release of Roddick's previously unseen statement that says Demler "was most certainly not the person I saw on the 19 June 1970," Bruce believes her name has been cleared.

"Norma Demler is vindicated by this document and should not have to live under a cloud of suspicion," he said.

The statement was an exhibit in Thomas' second trial - he was twice convicted of murdering the Crewes, but eventually pardoned and released in 1979. However, the evidence was never produced at trial.

The statement was made after Roddick had been driven to the Demler farm to see Norma Demler on June 1, 1972, by Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton, the head of the inquiry.

The police took Roddick to see Demler after he had identified her as "possibly the same woman" he had seen two years earlier, to Richard Thomas,  the brother of Arthur Allan Thomas.

In May 1972 Roddick had been taken to spy on Demler by Richard Thomas. And from a distance of a "good hundred yards" had identified her as "similar" to the woman he had seen at the Crewe house.

This statement was released to the public through the media. As a result Demler has been the subject of a number of conspiracy theories, documentaries and articles that suspect she was the person who fed baby Rochelle.

"The police had a duty to put a stop to the spread of that misinformation, but they also had a moral obligation to Mrs Demler to release what they knew in order to prevent her being publicly vilified for something she did not do," Bruce said.

He also believes the statement is cause for a judicial review of the police investigation into the murders and should prompt the release of the police file to Rochelle Crewe.

"This latest revelation convinces me that the police continue to lack good judgement as far as the Crewe homicide case is concerned and are completely incapable of coming to an objective review of it," Bruce said.

"The time has come for a judicial review, preferably by an overseas judge," said Bruce.

"Rochelle deserves to know what happened to her parents."

Auckland Now