Crewe case saddens Meurant

Last updated 05:00 17/06/2012
Crewe lounge
The lounge of Jeannette and Harvey Crewe

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Former policeman Ross Meurant says a new book about the unsolved murders of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe in Pukekawa in 1970 has finally convinced him the killer must have been Jeanette's father, Len Demler.

He also says Chris Birt's book All the Commissioner's Men reveals the "reprehensible" attitude of police towards the man wrongfully imprisoned for the murder, Arthur Allan Thomas.

Meurant says it is clear police kept on searching for new information to incriminate Thomas even after he had been pardoned in 1979, yet made "no real effort" to find the actual killer.

Meurant, who was a junior officer during the original police investigation, says he has long accepted a royal commission finding that two policemen, Bruce Hutton and Len Johnston, planted a gun cartridge framing Thomas. But until now he had been sceptical about the theory that Demler, who died in 1992, was the killer.

"I found it inconceivable that a father could have shot his own son-in-law then smashed his daughter in the face with the butt of a firearm before shooting her – which is the sequence of how the killings occurred," said Meurant.

However, Birt's book had changed his mind. In particular, it contained two pieces of information that supported the theory Demler was the killer, yet were never disclosed to defence lawyers or the juries at Thomas's trial and retrial, and were known only to a small number of the officers involved in the investigation.

One was that fresh milk was found in the Crewe house when police were first called five days after the killings, meaning it must have been taken there three days after the murders.

The second was the fact that Demler – who had been a prime suspect early in the investigation before the focus turned to Thomas – had access to a gun capable of firing a .22 bullet. It was a "combination" firearm that could fire birdshot from one barrel and bullets from the other, and had once belonged to Demler's in-laws.

The fact Demler could have used such a gun was important, because Thomas was found guilty largely because of fabricated evidence suggesting the bullets that killed the Crewes had been fired from his .22 rifle.

"It has taken 42 years for some of this material evidence to come out," Meurant said.

"I, for one, regret that it has taken so long, and that it has been a journalist and not the police who has shed light on this sorry chapter in police history."

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He says he finds it "disconcerting" that not all members of the homicide squad were privy to that information, and that the Crown never put the information to the Thomas trial judges or juries.

"One can't help but believe that it was a deliberate suppression of crucial evidence."

Last weekend Birt launched, a site devoted to his research into the case, and invited anyone with fresh information to come forward, especially if they were reluctant to deal directly with police.

On Friday Birt said he had already received 80 emails via the site.

The Crewe case is also being internally reviewed by a five-man police team led by Auckland Detective Superintendent Andrew Lovelock. In last week's Sunday Star-Times, Lovelock said he, too, would welcome any fresh information from the public.

On Friday, a police spokesman said the team had been contacted by "a number of people".

The spokesman said that, along with considering more than 90,000 pages of documents and evidence, the review team had read the numerous books written about the Crewe murders, and would be reading All the Commissioner's Men.

- Sunday Star Times

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