Family wants Hutton cleared

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2013
Bruce Hutton
MALIGNED: A portrait of the maligned Crewe case policeman Bruce Hutton. Taken 1972, he was 44 years old.
Erin O'Neil
ERIN O'NEILL: Bruce Hutton’s daughter says her father’s ‘‘integrity was impeccable’’.

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The family of maligned Crewe murders investigator Bruce Hutton is calling for a review of the royal commission of inquiry into the case, in the hope of clearing his name.

The former detective chief inspector led the investigation into the murders of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe in 1970, for which Arthur Allan Thomas was convicted and jailed before being pardoned.

A royal commission in 1980 ruled that Hutton and a colleague had planted a .22 rifle cartridge at the scene to fake evidence against Thomas.

The commission described their conduct as an "unspeakable outrage".

Hutton died in late March and at his funeral, Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush delivered a eulogy that included a quote from a police report praising Hutton's integrity as "beyond reproach".

That in turn prompted the Thomas family to demand that former police officers who suppressed vital information during the case should be prosecuted.

Hutton's daughter, Erin O'Neill, of Horowhenua, said yesterday that the family had been harassed for years and it was now time "to set the record straight".

"Dad was a good man, a legend. This murder goes back to 1970. When is the Thomas family going to stop? They are like a dog with a bone, they will not let it go."

She was proud of her father.

"He had very high values and ethics, passed on to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was a hard man but a good man. His integrity was impeccable.

"He would want to get a result in a murder case, he was good at that, but not at the cost of his pride. It would give him no self-pride to do something like plant the cartridge case."

She said her father had a photo of Rochelle Crewe, the murdered couple's daughter, in their living room for many years. "He kept the picture as a reminder to him of a job well done . . . where victims were concerned there was great compassion."

O'Neill grew up with the Crewe case from the age of 13, and said the royal commission suffered from "a lot of political interference".

She said her father was asked to give evidence to the commission but in the end it was not allowed.

Now she wants to know why.

"It was disgraceful. Who saw the cartridge being planted? Where is the evidence? Because Dad was such a proud man, believed in justice, the law of the land, he believed things would come right, but they haven't, they have got worse. It is not fair on his family and grandchildren."

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Her mother and two sisters remained united in their support for him. His close colleagues had also remained loyal.

A police review, launched two years ago, of the original police investigation and subsequent court proceedings is still under way in response to questions raised by Rochelle Crewe.

Yesterday, Mr Thomas' brother, Des, said that, if the review did "not answer what we are after, we are going to push for a commission of inquiry. The police did not hand over all the evidence. We need the whole file, nothing withheld".

A police spokesman said yesterday: "The 1980 inquiry was initiated by the government of the day, which accepted its findings. Police have no interest in revisiting those findings."

A Government spokesperson said a judicial review, which was the only appropriate way to review the findings, had already been unsuccessful and it would not be appropriate to comment while the police were reviewing the case.

A 43-YEAR-OLD MYSTERY

Harvey and Jeanette Crewe were shot dead on or about June 17, 1970, at their farmhouse in Pukekawa, Waikato. Their bodies were dumped in the Waikato River.

Their disappearance was reported by Jeanette's father, Len Demler, on June 22. The Crewes' daughter, Rochelle, was discovered alive inside the farmhouse. Jeanette's body was found in the river on August 16, and Harvey's a month later.

Police, led by Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton, arrested and charged farmer Arthur Allan Thomas with murder on November 11. He was convicted in March 1971.

Thomas appealed but was convicted again after a retrial in 1973. Doubts were raised over the reliability of evidence against him.

A public campaign to have the conviction overturned was launched.

An investigation in 1979 concluded there may have been a miscarriage of justice. Mr Thomas was pardoned and freed.

A royal commission of inquiry in 1980 found Bruce Hutton and detective Len Johnston planted a rifle cartridge at the scene to implicate Mr Thomas. No police officers were charged with offences as a result.

Thomas received $950,000 compensation for his nine years in prison. Mr Hutton never apologised, maintained Thomas was the killer, and said he had no regrets for his actions.

Hutton died on March 31 this year. At his funeral, Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush quoted from a report saying Mr Hutton had "integrity beyond reproach", drawing an angry reaction from Mr Thomas.

A review of the case launched at the request of Rochelle Crewe is expected to report before the end of the year.

- The Dominion Post

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