Leading legal experts are disgusted that Arthur Allan Thomas and his family are again under scrutiny in an inquiry into the Crewe murders.
Thomas was twice convicted of the 1970 murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe at Pukekawa, south of Auckland, then pardoned after nine years in jail when a Royal Commission ruled police planted evidence against him.
In the past month police have questioned Thomas and family members, which supporters say reflects an intransigent police culture which refuses to accept it got the case wrong.
"The fabrication of evidence against Arthur Allan Thomas was the blackest day in the history of the New Zealand police force, and they should be full of remorse, and they should be trying to make amends," said Peter Williams QC, Thomas' former lawyer.
"It disgusts me if they are trying to drag his name through the mud again," he said.
New Zealand's most famous cold case was reopened in 2010 after Rochelle Crewe - the only daughter of Harvey and Jeannette - asked police to find her parents' killer.
"To turn Rochelle's application for an inquiry into a rehearing of the evidence against Thomas, if they are trying to do that, is repugnant to any citizen's sense of justice. It is absolutely despicable," Williams said.
Former policeman Ross Meurant, a junior officer in the original police investigation, says the latest police moves are an "unbelievable attempt to cover up" mistakes.
He said this was an insult to the judicial system. "It is bloody nonsense … this is time for politicians to say ‘pull your head in, the courts have decided'."
He said there was "no way" the crime could be properly investigated so long afterwards.
"When so much evidence has been destroyed and it is documented as having been destroyed by the police, then it is a charade."
Leading civil liberties lawyer Gary Gotlieb said there was a perception police were closing ranks and attempting to protect the reputation of officers in the original inquiry.
"That is the thing that really worries me, the reputations of past police they don't want to sully.
"The public want confidence in the police, but when things do go wrong it should be acknowledged, and you should have an investigation that is independent."
However, the president of the Criminal Bar Association, Tony Bouchier, said police must be able to interview Arthur Thomas again to conduct the inquiry properly.
"What we have is an unsolved murder the police have undertaken to have a look at again.
"In that regard, when there are questions to be put to people, whether they are the Allan Thomas family or not, those questions need to be put."
Thomas, along with two of his brothers, his sister and her husband, Buster Stuckey, had been re-interviewed in the past month and had to provide details of their whereabouts on the night of the killings.
Police seized rifles from Des and Richard Thomas.
A member of the family reported officers told them they still believed Arthur Thomas' rifle was the murder weapon.
Des Thomas was frustrated at the police questioning. "It's insinuation against family members and that is a disgrace.
"We don't mind being asked a few reasonable questions, but some of the questions asked are over the top."
He also said police were asking if Arthur Thomas shared any of the $1 million compensation he received after being pardoned. "The police are trying to make it look as though the family's split."
Acting Assistant Commissioner Glenn Dunbier said police would have been remiss if they did not reinterview people connected with the case as part of the new investigation.
"The review team have been keeping an open mind and have not yet reached a conclusion," Dunbier said.
But no matter what police find, Arthur Thomas can never be retried.
Law reforms in 2009 allowing defendants to be retried even if they are acquitted of murder do not apply to the Thomas case.
The 1980 Royal Commission of Inquiry found Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton and one of his detectives, Len Johnston, planted a cartridge case from Thomas' rifle at the murder scene.
The commission also found neither Thomas nor his rifle were linked to the murders.
Rochelle was just 18 months old when her parents were killed, and was found crying in her cot five days after they were last seen alive. It is thought someone had been looking after her during that time.
The investigation was nearing its final stages, but no date had been set for the release of its findings, Dunbier said.
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