Case 11: Harvey and Jeannette Crewe (INVESTIGATION)

PUKEKAWA. WAIKATO. 22nd of June 1970. 2.20pm. Tuakau police constable Gerald Wyllie answered a call from Owen Priest. Owen explained that Harvey and Jeannette Crewe, farmers in Pukekawa were missing. There were bloodstains in the kitchen and lounge. 

Furthermore, Rochelle; the Crewe’s 18 month old daughter was found to be without her parents in the house for five days. Although, most peculiar, it appeared Rochelle had been fed and looked after for those five days. 

Visit www.truecrimenz.com for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.

Hosted by Jessica Rust
Written and edited by Sirius Rust

Music sourced from:

Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
https://filmmusic.io/
“Awkward Meeting”, “Day of Chaos”, “Industrial Cinematic”, “Infados”, “Nightdreams”, “Smoother Move”, “With a Creation”
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but I make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

INTRODUCTION

On the 3rd of January 1970, the body of Tasmanian school teacher Jennifer Beard was found in Haast, a small town on the West Coast of the South Island. She was found washed up ashore and badly decomposed. Police never solved the mystery of what happened to Jennifer.

12th of April 1970. 12.30am. 35 year old mother of three, Betty McKay was dropped off by a friend near her brother’s house in Thornton, a small settlement 13km west of Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty. She was never seen again. Detectives never solved what happened to Betty.

On the 15th of May 1970, Rotorua teenager Olive Walker began walking to her sister’s house to babysit her nieces and nephews. Shortly after leaving, her desperate screams were heard; when the screams were investigated – Olive was gone. Her body was found later that night, 8km outside of the city. Her skull was found broken in several places, the result of a frenzied attack with a blunt object. Olive’s killer was never found.

A fourth active homicide investigation would stretch police resources to their limits.

22nd of June 1970. 2.20pm. Tuakau police constable Gerald Wyllie answered a call from Owen Priest. Owen explained that Harvey and Jeannette Crewe, farmers in Pukekawa were missing. There were bloodstains in the kitchen and lounge. 

Furthermore, Rochelle; the Crewe’s 18 month old daughter was found to be without her parents in the house for five days. Although, most peculiar, it appeared Rochelle had been fed and looked after for those five days. 

PART II: INVESTIGATION

BRUCE HUTTON

Bruce Hutton was born in Dargaville in 1942 to a family of 21 children, a small town of approx. 4,000, located 55km south-west of Whangarei. Bruce left school at 12, then at 17 Bruce Hutton joined the police force in 1956. He married soon after, having three daughters. Hutton worked hard, quickly rising through the ranks of the police force. By 1970, Bruce Hutton was the Detective Inspector, one rank above Senior Sergeant and one rank below, Superintendent; the equivalent military rank would be Captain.

Fig 1. Bruce Hutton outside the Crewe farmhouse

22nd of June 1970. 5.10pm. Detective Inspector (D.I.) Bruce Hutton arrives at the Crewe farm in Pukekawa. The crime scene was searched, fingerprinted, photographed and samples of blood were taken for analysis. 

The Crewe house had a large pool of blood in the lounge with a bloodstain indicating that a body was dragged. ‘Watered down blood’ was found on the kitchen cupboards, with bloodstains on the kitchen floor. Braintissue was found on the arm of Harvey’s favourite chair. With this information, Police had to assume the Crewes were murdered.

A search of the surrounding garden and grass area around the house was completed, nothing of relevance was found.

Bruce Hutton took statements from Len Demler and Owen Priest; Len explained about finding the blood and Rochelle, before leaving the 18 month old behind to cancel the transport company, then retrieving Priest and heading back; Hutton was immediately quizzical at some of this behaviour.

By sundown on June the 22nd, police already understood that the last time the Crewes were seen was the 17th, five days before, they had stopped answering phone calls as early as 7pm that day. Police were working on the assumption that the Crewes had been missing since then.

As Bruce Hutton was cleaning up, the Crewe’s family cat Rasty was hanging around. Witnesses had told Hutton that Rasty would curl up on Jeannette’s lap on cold winter nights while she knitted in front of the fire, possibly what Rasty was doing when the Crewes were attacked. Feeling bad for the poor little guy, Bruce took the cat home. 

Over the succeeding months as Bruce Hutton investigated the disappearance of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe; working exhausting 18 hour days – Bruce would come home and unwind with Rasty. Erin O’Neill, one of Bruce Hutton’s daughters explains: her father would come home, sit with the former Crewe family cat and talk with him about the case, “It drove mum up the wall… she thought it was a bit spooky… [he would say to Rasty] By God I wish you could talk.”

SUSPECT NUMBER 1

June 23rd 1970. Day two of the investigation. Bruce Hutton received a report from a Dr. Fox on the condition of toddler Rochelle Crewe, “On physical examination, Rochelle was of good build and well covered. The tone of her skin and muscles suggested that she had recently lost one to two pounds (half to one kilo) in weight… A child such as Rochelle, living under the conditions outlined above, might survive five days, but she would be seriously ill at the end of that time.”

Dr. Fox’s report concluded with the most likely scenario being that Rochelle was fed on the Saturday based on her physical condition; 48 hours before she was discovered. 

If Harvey and Jeannette Crewe were already murdered on the 17th, and Rochelle was fed on the 20th, did the killer or killers return to care for Rochelle? Police already had their first suspect as well, Jeannette’s father Len Demler.

Len Demler wasn’t passing the police ‘sniff’ test, his behaviour was odd. Not only his actions with Rochelle but his behaviour subsequent. Len was very defensive when police asked questions regarding his whereabouts on the relevant dates.

On top of this, Len did not participate in the searches of the area in the days following the 22nd of June. Bruce Hutton wrote in his police report, “I questioned him as to why, since the disappearance of his son-in-law and daughter, that he had shown no interest nor had he offered in any way to help the searchers… He said that on the Monday when he had discovered Mr and Mrs Crewe missing, he had gone out with the searchers for a little while, but he did not offer any explanation to make as to why he had not offered his services since then.”

Len had a reputation for being a bit of a ‘grump’ around town. Detective John Roberts wrote in his police report – quoting neighbours of Len, “They did say that Demler was extremely callous at the time his wife was dying… He was absolutely steaming drunk at times and they detested Demler… they said he is inclined to be very mean, tried to defraud income tax. They hated Demler.” Whatever it was, Len was ‘suspicious’ to detectives.

On June 24th, 4.15pm. Len Demler was questioned by Bruce Hutton for an hour and fifteen minutes in regards to his whereabouts on the dates in question. Detective’s had spoken to a witness, Bruce Roddick said that on the 19th of June, two days after the Crewes were already missing, he saw a woman and a ‘green hillman’ car on the Crewe property. This ‘mystery’ woman still to this day remains unidentified. Although, there are many theories as to who she could have been.

Detectives at the time pondered the idea that that woman could have been Len Demler’s new girlfriend, Norma. Was she the person feeding Rochelle? Something she denied to the Sunday Star Times newspaper, although she did admit to ‘sort of’ knowing the Crewes, “It was the most dreadful, dreadful thing… Who the heck did it? I don’t know. I had nothing whatsoever to do with it. I have a clear conscience. I can put my head on the pillow every night and go to sleep”.

The next day, on June 25th 1970, police conducted a search of Len Demler’s home, looking for “anything connected to the disappearance of the Crewes”. Police found a “wooden handled knife”, Len said he used it to kill sheep. Len’s cars were also searched, looking for signs of blood, police notes write, they couldn’t find, “anything that would point to the vehicle had been used to transport bodies”. 

The next day, Len Demler was called into Hutton’s office once more. D.I. Hutton began with asking Len, why was he not helping with the searches. Len answered, “You think I did this, don’t you?”. Hutton answered the question, “I think you are the person who removed Harvey Crewe’s body from the Crewe household. In fact, I’m quite certain you’ve done this”. According to Hutton’s notes from that interview, Len had no answer.

According to Bruce Hutton in late June in an operation strategy meeting, when Jeannette inherited her mother’s half of the farm; this left Len Demler financially compromised. This was a possible motive.

A few days later, Detective Sergeant Mike Charles wrote a report to D.I. Hutton, “It appears that Demler would have had no financial gain by disposing of these two. The death duties would have been adequately met by cash in Mrs Demler’s savings account plus a Morris car… Most of the action that Demler has carried out recently as far as a new Will is concerned was done on the advice from his accountant. As far as motive goes we have not found anything.”

Without any evidence other than ‘he acted weird’ and no progress on a motive; Hutton and his team ‘cooled’ their pursuit of Len Demler. Focus shifted back to finding the missing Crewes.

FINDING JEANNETTE

16th of August 1970. 9.26am. Two men were downstream of the Taukau Bridge, a bridge crossing the Waikato River, the largest river in NZ. The twosome had found a good spot for whitebaiting when they spotted something partially submerged on the riverbank, they investigated further; it was the body Jeannette Crewe wrapped in “bedspreads [and] curtain material”, these were secured with copper wire.

2.15pm. Len Demler was collected from his farm and taken to the location on the Waikato River to identify Jeannette. Bruce Hutton told investigative journalist David Yallop, “I was watching him like a damn hawk, looking for any glimmer of reaction”. Len positively identified the body as his daughter.

Dr. Cairns, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Jeannette found that she was hit across the face with a blunt instrument, “There were injuries to the tissues about the right eye but the bones beneath were not fractured. There were injuries to the skin of the bridge of the nose and the end of the nose with a fracture of the nose beneath. This group of injuries could have been caused by a single blow with a blunt instrument.”

The lungs also showed no signs of drowning, indicating Jeannette was already dead when placed in the Waikato river. Fifteen fragments of a bullet were recovered from a wound on her head. Police determined from this, Jeannette was shot in the head by a .22 rifle.  Dr. Cairns report concluded with, “In my opinion, death was due to a bullet wound of the head.”

The hunt was on to find a .22 rifle that would fit the bullet. Police started collecting rifles from all the properties within an 8km radius of the Crewe farm. Even though Arthur Allan Thomas was outside that radius, his weapons were taken for analysis. The reason for this was, Arthur Thomas was already on their ‘person of interest’ list.

SUSPECT NUMBER 2

In June of 1970 Jeannette’s sister, Heather arrived from the United States. With the passing of both Rochelle’s parents, Heather became her primary caregiver. Police had caught word from one of Jeannette’s friends that she was “pestered by a local boy (prior to 1961)”. In July, detectives conferenced with Heather about who that could be. She had an answer Arthur Allan Thomas.

On July the 2nd, Detective John Hughes visited Arthur Thomas. If you’ve listened to our three part investigation in the disappearance of Heidi Paakonen and Urban Hoglin. You may remember John Hughes, who was the Detective Inspector on that case. 

Hughes asked Arthur questions about his whereabouts on the dates in question, Arthur said was at home nursing a sick cow on the 17th of June. Arthur confirmed he had a schoolyard crush on Jeannette and he had asked her out before he met his wife, “He [Arthur THOMAS] admitted that he had telephoned her on a number of occasions stating his name and asking her to go out with him. She always refused. He also admitted having written her several letters both while she was here in New Zealand and while she was in England. He said that at no time did Jeannette show him any encouragement whatsoever and he soon gave up. Although he was given no encouragement Jeannette would still speak to him when they met in Pukekohe or Tuakau. They had been in the same class together at the Pukekawa Primary School. THOMAS said that he had been to the CREWE home while working for one of the local Agriculture Contractors when sowing manure. He had met Harvey then who appeared to him to be a decent type of bloke. He had had morning and afternoon teas in the home. This would have been as late as 3 or 4 years ago. He said that he had not been to the house since and had not seen either Harvey or Jeannette for approximately 8 or 9 months. He was unable to assist the enquiry further. His wife is Vivian [sic] Susan THOMAS and they have been married for 3 years.” 

John Hughes then investigated Arthur’s ‘green Hillman car’. He didn’t see any blood or evidence bodies were transported in the vehicle.

On the 7th of August 1970, the Trustee of Harvey Crewe’s estate, Colin Harvey informed he had uncovered something that may be important to the investigation, “… a duchess set which includes an expensive brush and mirror with [a] card. This article was in a box and never been used. We found it in the junk room where all the old furniture was stored”. The card was from a name police recognised – Arthur Allan Thomas. 

A detective visited Arthur once more on the 12th of August, he asked Arthur about the brush and comb set they had found. Arthur said he had given this to Jeannette as a gift for Christmas in 1962. Arthur explains this exchange to author Ian Wishart, “One of the police came around with a Christmas card, he made sure I didn’t touch it though – fingerprints! I just told him, ‘Yeah, that’s my card, and he said ‘alright’ and walked away.”

Now certain that at least one of the Crewes were shot, police returned to the crime scene and carried out extensive searches of the section surrounding the house. The police were looking for, “lengths of wire, bullet lead, and cartridge cases.” No cartridge cases were located.

On the 19th of August 1970, Police test-fired all fourty eight .22 rifles collected – only two could not be excluded as the murder weapon. One was a .22 rifle belonging to the Eyre family and the other was a .22 rifle belonging to, a now familiar name – Arthur Allan Thomas.

Fig 2. Arthur Allan Thomas’ .22 rifle

On September the 7th 1970, Jeannette Crewe funeral was held and she was laid to rest. Concurrently, Arthur Thomas was called into the station; he sat down and detectives opened their questioning, “Arthur, it was your rifle that was used to kill the Crewes. What do you say to that?” Arthur replied, “If you say it was my gun, it must have been, but I didn’t do it.”

FINDING HARVEY

One month to the day of finding the body of Jeannette Crewe, on the 16th of September 1970. Two police constables located a body approx. 5km downstream from the Tuakau Bridge. The body was “snagged amongst weed approx. 150 metres out from the northern bank of the river”.

The body was facedown in the water, when search and rescue teams tried to recover the body they discovered wire connected to a vehicle axle; likely used to weigh the body down. The body was eventually recovered; then at 6.30pm that evening, Len Demler viewed the body at the Auckland Mortuary at the request of D.I. Hutton. Len confirmed that this was the body of Harvey Crewe.

The pathologist report confirmed the suspicions of the police, Havery was shot also, “At the back of the head on the left side there was an entrance gunshot wound. It was in a line three inches above the bottom of the ear and posterior to it. The bullet had passed in through the parietal bone adjacent to the squamous part of the temporal bone and had caused radiating fractures extending into the parietal, temporal, sphenoid, and frontal bones.”

Police took a closer look at the axle used to weigh Harvey’s body down. On the 19th of September two detectives visited David Keruse, a member of the Vintage Car Club. Keruse identified the axle being a “1928 Nash Standard Six 420 series front axle”, part number 17600.

From this police uncovered that this particular part came from a trailer built by a man named Charles Shirtcliffe, and in 1959 he sold that trailer to Allan Thomas and resided at his farm. The farm now run by Arthur Allan Thomas.

ROADS LEADING BACK TO ARTHUR

On the 11th of October 1970, Detective Len Johnston was looking at crime scene photos of the Crewe farmhouse. He noted that the Crewe’s louvre windows looking into the lounge were open even though June 17th was a cold, rainy night. This lead to a theory that the shooter may have shot through the open window.

On the 13th of October 1970, Arthur received a visit from detective Len Johnston. Arthur explains this visit to Ian Wishart, “Yeah, he came on the axle business, questioned me about the axle and all this stuff, ‘There’s no bloody axle,’ I told him. ‘I don’t know anything about axles on this farm’… They grabbed by bullets, a whole packet of bullets.” Before Len Johnston left, he told some wire samples from the Thomas farm, turned out the samples matched the wire attached to Harvey’s body.

That evening that Detective Johnston’s theory of the shot from a .22 rifle coming through the louvre window was tested at the Crewe farmhouse. This theory was found to be feasible. The theory was as follows, according to the Crewe Homicide Review completed in 2014: 

“Rochelle had already been fed and was put to bed, after this Harvey and Jeannette prepared their evening meal of flounder, potatoes and peas. Having finished dinner, it is likely that Harvey retired to his armchair in the lounge and Jeannette to a larger sofa to his left. Both would have been in a position to look at and feel warmth from the open fire.” 

“It is likely Harvey was shot first. He posed a serious physical threat to any assailant and the evidence suggests he was sitting in his chair when shot from behind. Jeannette appears to have been in the act of knitting a jumper (for Harvey) when her husband was shot in front of her. A single .22 bullet entered the left hand side of his head, above and behind his left ear. The bullet travelled downwards and lodged slightly in front of his right ear causing almost instant death. The shot, in all probability, came from the direction of the kitchen. This could have occurred from the kitchen itself or from outside the dwelling through an open kitchen louvre window.”

Fig 3. Bruce Hutton sitting where police theorised Harvey was shot

“Having shot Harvey, the offender either gained entry to the house through the back door, or if already in the kitchen, advanced into the lounge and encountered Jeannette. It is likely that Jeannette verbally challenged the offender in some way, possibly by screaming or shouting. One of Jeannette’s slippers was located between Harvey’s chair and the back wall of the lounge to the right of the fire‐place. This may suggest that Jeannette sought to avoid physical confrontation with the offender or had moved from the couch after Harvey had been shot to the vicinity of his chair.”

“The evidence suggests that the offender struck her in the face, and possibly under her left arm‐pit. This would account for the injury to her right eye, bruising to the bridge of her nose and a bruise to her left arm‐pit, which were observed by the pathologist. It is highly likely that Jeannette’s head made contact with the front left corner of the hearth at some point, and that she was incapacitated and lay prone on the carpeted lounge floor. The offender shot Jeannette with a single .22 bullet on the right hand side of her head in a manner that replicated the injury to Harvey, but from the right hand side.   It is probable that the end of the firearm barrel was touching, or close to touching, her hair / skin, since there was evidence of tissue scorching at the point of entry. The shot would have caused immediate or almost immediate death.”

“Having killed Harvey and then Jeannette, the offender elected to remove their bodies from the scene via the front door.”  

The Thomas farm tips were searched by Len Johnston on the 15th of October for any sign of the back axles that would go with the front axle used to weigh Harvey down, Arthur even helped look, “Len Johnston and I were scraping all the bits and pieces through, and I threw some stuff trailer parts, onto the top of the grass for them.” The back axles were not found.

On the 20th of October, Len Johnston returned to the Thomas farm, he searched one of the three farm tips; Len Johnston uncovered the two back axles within minutes fitting the model police had been looking for. Detective Johnston put the back axles in his police vehicle. The detective then asked Arthur for his .22 rifle once more, “Sorry, Arthur. We’d like your gun back to do some re-testing”.

ARREST

25th of October. Arthur Thomas is called into Hutton’s office. The result of this meeting was a statement signed by Arthur:

“I am a married man 32 years of age. I reside with my wife Vivien Thomas on my father’s farm at Mercer Ferry Road, Pukekawa. The phone number is Pukekawa 838. I lease the farm from my father Allen Thomas who is living at Pt Wells, Matakana.

“I am being spoken to by Detective Inspector Hutton about the deaths of Jeannette and Hearvey Crewe in June of this year. I have been warned that I am not obliged to say anything more about this matter or to answer any further questions unless I wish to do so and that anything that I might say will be taken down and may be used in evidence. I was brought up on the farm that I am now leasing from my father. In 1966 my father agreed to leased the farm to me for $2,000 a year. I have been on the farm ever since. My marriage is quite a happy one. We do not have children but that is my fault.”

“I remember going to Pukekawa Primary School with Jeannette Crewe. We were both in the same class right through primary school. On second thought I was a class ahead of her until she caught up when I failed a year in standard one. I had quite a schoolboy crush on Jeannette at school. When I finished primary school I went and started work on the farm with my father. Jeannette carried on her education by going to Cuthert’s. After this she became a schoolteacher at Maramarua. At this time I was working in the Forestry at Maramarua.”

“I met Heather Demler one night at a dance at Pukekawa and she mentioned that Jeannette was a school teacher at Maramarua. She told me that I should look Jeannette up. On my return to Maramarua I went and looked Jeannette up. I actually visited her a couple of times but I never took her out. Not very long later I heard Jeannettte had gone overseas to England. I went round and saw Len Demler and asked him for Jeannette’s address so I could write to her. I think I wrote to her twice whilst she was away. She was away for about two years. She replied to my letters. I now hand one of the letters from her to the police. Later when Jeannette returned I took her round a Christmas present. The brush and comb set I have just look at is the one I gave her. The card has my handwriting on it. I did not take Jeannette out. She did mention at the time I gave her the present that she had a boyfriend.”

“I have been asked about my movements on the night of the ratepayers’ meeting of 17 June 1970. I remember soon after Jeannette and Harvey were missing Vivien and I discussed what we were doing that night. I recall remembering that we were home attending a sick cow. Peter Thomas was home also. The cow had been sick for some time and I think Peter helped me the previous night but I am not sure. This cow was in a sling in the tractor shed and was sick for some time. I finally had to shoot this cow with my .22 rifle. I also remember that day as I think both Vivien and I went to our dentist in Pukekohe. We arrived back home at 4pm. We attended to the cow between 5pm and 6pm. I think I intended to go to the ratepayers’ meeting but by the time we had tea it was too late to go.”

“I have been shown the axle which was found with Harvey Crewe’s body together with the two stub axles found by the police on my farm tip. After looking closely at these and also some photographs I agree that the axle and stub axles belong together. I cannot recall any of these articles being on my farm. I cannot explain how the axle got with Harvey Crewe’s body. After looking at the axles I think they must belong to the old trailer.”

“I faintly recall the old trailer and the fact that there was some blue on it. I do not know what happened to that old trailer. Seems like the axle must have been on my farm but I cannot help any further.”

“I have been asked about my .22 rifle and where it was on the night of 17 June 1970. I am almost certain that this rifle could not have been taken out of my house without me knowing. I certainly did not lend it to anyone around that time. I remember using this rifle to shoot the sick cow I have mentioned, about two weeks after Jeannette and Harvey went missing. That dead cow is now on the tip on the farm where the stub axles were found. I also used the same rifle to shoot rabbits with. Vivien does not shoot and Peter Thomas has never used this rifle to my knowledge.”

“I have been told that samples of wire found on my farm are similar to wire found on Harvey Crewe’s body. I can only say that someone must have come on to my farm and taken the wire and the axle. I have been told that the .22 bullets in Harvey and Jeannette’s body had the figure 8 stamped on them and that similar ammunition with this number has been found at my farm. I cannot explain this. I was aware however that ammunition does have numbers stamped on the bullet.”

“I have viewed the brush and comb set I gave to Jeannette. I think this present cost me about 4 to 5 pounds. This was in 1962. I know Len Demler quite well but he has never been to visit me at my farm. I have been told that a detective overheard me say to Vivien when I was planting seeds on Friday something to the effect that if the police thought I was guilty then I must be guilty. I cannot remember saying anything like this to Vivien.”

“I have been told about a pair of overalls found in the boot of my car having blood on them. I do not remember getting blood on these, I use these overalls to fix a puncture or other repairs to the car when I am in good clothes.”

“The rubbish tip on my farm is used by me when necessary. I use it regularly and take all sorts of things to it. I remember a few weeks ago, taking some stuff out of the horse stable to the farm dump. I also remember some time ago cleaning stuff out of a stable to put the Dodge truck inside. This was about two years ago. I remember seeing one of the wheel rims found by the police on my farm dump but I have not seen the axles there.”

“I did not help the police and local farmers with the search for Jeannette and Harvey Crewe but by the time I finished my daily chores by 1pm I thought it would be too late to go. I thought that unless you could get the Crewe farm by 9am you would not be able to assist. I was busy at that time of the year as my cows start calving on 10 June. I do not know how many cows I had in when the search started. I suppose I could of helped for a few hours but I was fairly busy.”

“I know I have been a suspect all along in this case. I suppose I did use to chase Jeannette along a bit and used to write to her. I have read this through and it is true and correct. I have nothing to add.”

“A. Thomas, 25 October 1970.”

On the 26th of October 1970, with the current running theory being that Harvey was shot through the louvre windows, Detective Inspector Hutton directed the area around the window needed to be searched once more.

The next day, around 10.30am, two detectives carried out a search around the window. After three hours of searching they uncovered a .22 cartridge case, “The soil was searched to a depth of about 6 inches. After between 1-2 hours of searching, i.e. some time between 11.30am and 12.30pm, Detective Charles found the shell case which was to become exhibit 350. The shell case was buried in the garden, and we accept Detective Charles’ estimate that it was buried to a depth of approximately 2-3 inches.”

Fig 4. Where the .22 cartridge case was found

On the 11th of November 1970, almost five months after discovering the Crewes missing, D.I. Bruce Hutton and Detective Johnston pulled up at the Thomas farm. Arthur was about to go out on his tractor when Hutton spoke, “Look, Arthur, a .22 shell was found near the rear door of the Crewe house by the police. Scientists say that that shell was fired by your rifle… Arthur Allan Thomas, I am arresting you for the murders of David Harvey Crewe and Jeannette Lenore Crewe, on or about June 17, 1970 at Pukekawa. You have the right to remain silent…” Arthur wasn’t silent, “Look, I told you where I was when it happened… I was bloody well home!”. According to Arthur, Hutton just shrugged, “We don’t believe you.”

TRIAL

The question was, would a jury believe Arthur’s story? Over the 16 days of the trial, they were introduced to all the evidence we have already discussed over this episode. The question that the crown needed to answer with all the evidence pointing to Arthur Allan Thomas was, what was his motive? Why did he want to murder the Crewes?

He was in love with Jeannette Crewe, obsessed. Evidenced by his own admission that he had a schoolboy crush on her, the letters sent to her and the gifts sent. The evidence supporting the motive was thin, but the shell case matching Arthur’s gun and the trailer back axles being found in his farm tip was difficult evidence to ignore.

The crown also asserted that the ‘mystery woman’, the brown haired woman seen at the Crewe house on the 19th of June was Vivien Thomas. Alleging she was the person feeding and caring for Rochelle Crewe. Arthur’s wife, Vivien and his cousin both testified that Arthur was home with them the night of the murders, therefore could not commit the crime. 

On the 2nd of March 1971, the jury retired. Two hours later the jury reappeared. Arthur Allan Thomas was found guilty of double murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Arthur explains his reaction to author Ian Wishart, “You know when I was found guilty I could remember I just absolutely, I had no words to talk, you know. My lawyers, I looked at them, I said, ‘Well what the fuck?’, I was sort of going on, I was swearing a bit and going on, but this – I shouldn’t swear but you know, ‘Why has this happened? Where are we going? What appeals have I got? The judiciary’s failed me! [My lawyer reassured me] We’ll appeal. We’ll take it to the Court of Appeal… I just turned to the side, tried to blink away the tears in my eyes and walked down into the hole in the floor.”

SOURCES

Internet Articles
Otago Daily Times, Crewe murders: Thomases ‘feel cheated’, https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/crewe-murders-thomases-feel-cheated
Newshub, Thomas family want Crewe murders reinvestigated, https://www.newshub.co.nz/nznews/thomas-family-want-crewe-murders-reinvestigated-2014080615
Folksong, Mist on the Waikato, http://folksong.org.nz/arthur_allan_thomas/index.html
Wikipedia, Arthur Allan Thomas, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Allan_Thomas
Wikipedia, Murder of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Harvey_and_Jeannette_Crewe
Stuff.co.nz, Apologise: Still no closure for Arthur Allan Thomas’ family, https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/110834905/apologise-still-no-closure-for-thomas-family
NZ Herald, Rochelle Crewe now a mother, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10682701
Stuff.co.nz, Professor surprised her expert advice in Crewe case was ignored, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/stuff-circuit/109111618/professor-surprised-her-expert-advice-in-crewe-case-was-ignored
NZ Herald, Rochelle Crewe: Report clears my family’s name, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/crewe-case/news/article.cfm?c_id=&objectid=11301680
Stuff.co.nz, Crewe cold case double murder: ‘This case is solvable’, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/stuff-circuit/109105536/crewe-cold-case-double-murder-this-case-is-solvable
NZ Herald, Campaigner disputes Crewe murders theory, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=215484
Stuff.co.nz, Crewe murder case: what happened to the mystery gun seized by police?, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/stuff-circuit/109107879/crewe-murder-case-what-happened-to-the-mystery-gun-seized-by-police
Investigate Daily, Suspect in Crewe murders made two attempts to kill, https://investigatemagazine.co.nz/2920/suspect-in-crewe-murders-made-two-attempts-to-kill/
Papers Past, The Pukekawa Murder, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/WT19201014.2.23?query=Eyre%20murder&page=5&start_date=01-01-1920&end_date=31-12-1925&snippet=true
Wikipedia, Pukekawa, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pukekawa
Smith and Partners, Death and Taxes – Estate Taxes in New Zealand, http://www.smithpartners.co.nz/library/articles/deceased-estate-administration/death-and-taxes-estate-taxes-in-new-zealand/
Healthline, What Causes Sunken Eyes?, https://www.healthline.com/health/sunken-eyes
International Police Association, The Crewe Murders, https://www.ipa.org.nz/pdfs/Crew_Murders.pdf
Stuff.co.nz, Family wants Hutton cleared, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8822930/Family-wants-Hutton-cleared
NZ Police, Crewe Homicide Investigation Review, https://www.police.govt.nz/sites/default/files/publications/crewe-review-appendix-2.pdf
NZ Police, Crewe Homicide Investigation Review, https://www.police.govt.nz/sites/default/files/publications/crewe-review-final-report.pdf

Books
David Yallop, Beyond Reasonable Doubt?, 1979
Ian Wishart, Arthur Allan Thomas: The Inside Story, 2010
Chris Birt, The Commissioner’s Men, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s