Truth of murders no closer

BRUCE HUTTON: Investigated the murders of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe.
BRUCE HUTTON: Investigated the murders of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe.

Family of Arthur Allan Thomas have branded a police review of the 1970 Crewe murders inquiry as a whitewash that fails to address what they claim is conclusive evidence that clears the Thomas name.

Jeanette and Harvey Crewe were shot dead at their farmhouse in Pukekawa, northern Waikato, in June 1970.

Their baby, Rochelle Crewe, was left alive - and four decades later it was her complaint that prompted an extensive review of the investigation.

Police have said evidence from the crime, including an axle used to weigh down Harvey Crewe's body, was linked to the Thomas farm in Pukekawa.

Arthur Allan Thomas served nine years for the murders before receiving a pardon. He was believed to be on holiday overseas when the review findings were released yesterday.

His brother, Des, and sister, Margaret Stuckey, both said they had not been able to reach him yesterday and they did not know when he would be back.

Des Thomas said the axle had been removed from the farm five years prior to the murders.

"The evidence was not only corrupt but it points to another suspect. And he's alive and well, and living all his Christmases at home."

He said this man "did have some sort of motive".

He said he sat down with Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock, who conducted the review, in 2012 and went through his evidence, collected independently, but Lovelock was not interested.

Des Thomas said he had not confronted the suspect but said it was a male who had not been finger-printed.

"There are 25 unidentified prints in the homicide file from the Crewe house and car, let's get those out and let's start finger-printing."

Des Thomas was yesterday scratching his head, questioning what the family needed to do in order to clear their name. He said the family had legitimate evidence that the axle found on Harvey Crewe's body was removed from the Thomas farm in 1965.

"What we want is an independent body, an independent investigation or somebody that's willing to look at the Thomas family evidence."

Thomas was largely convicted on the evidence of a .22 rifle cartridge said to have come from his rifle and found four months after the killings outside the Crewe house. A royal commission later said Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton and fellow detective Len Johnston planted the shell, which never contained a bullet, found in the Crewes' garden.

Des Thomas said the police review had left him "bloody disgusted".

"It's all right to say: we made mistakes then. What we need now is some police officers with some guts to sort the corruption out and get back to the facts of this evidence, and thoroughly investigate the Crewe case."

Police released their report yesterday and apologised to Rochelle Crewe for mistakes made in their original investigation. They did not apologise to Arthur Allan Thomas.

The report said there was "significant physical evidence" linking the Thomas farm with the murder but police were unable to take that any further.

Despite Arthur Allan Thomas receiving a pardon, no-one else has been charged for the murders. Des Thomas said the family had never had closure.

"We have had 45 years of manipulation I suppose you would call it, from the police. They won't look at any of the evidence we've got because they would have to address the corruption - and there's a lot of it."

The 328-page police report based on 92,000 pages of documents about the case came up with key findings: There is a "distinct possibility" that the cartridge - known as Exhibit 350 - "may be fabricated evidence and that if this is the case, that a member of the police would have been responsible". There is insufficient evidence to implicate anyone in planting Exhibit 350. There is "significant physical evidence" linking the Thomas farm with the murder but without new evidence "police are unable to advance this criminal investigation". There is no new evidence of a specific person responsible. No new information has come to light that could realistically identify the offender.

Police released the report at their Counties Manukau headquarters where Rochelle Crewe was represented by lawyer Natalie Walker.

Through Walker, she thanked Lovelock, the report's author.

She had been appraised of the investigation report and review.

"As a result she has been able to form her own view of the original 1970 investigation and all that has happened since," Walker said.

"Rochelle is disappointed that there were shortfalls in the original investigation, which led to missed investigative opportunities."

She was grateful the police had acknowledged shortfalls and apologised.

"Although Rochelle is saddened not to know who was responsible for the murders of her parents, she is pleased that the police definitely state that her aunt and her grandparents, Len and Norma Demler, were not involved in any way."

Margaret Stuckey said her family had learnt to live with the stress of the long-running case. "We're pretty disgusted.

"I think police have done this review to satisfy Rochelle and so they can point the finger back at the Thomas family."

She supported her brother's view that the review solved nothing.

"We are just going to have to carry on," Stuckey said.

"It doesn't stop here." Reporter Rachel Thomas is not related to Arthur Thomas.o

Fairfax Media