I looked at the stuff recently produced about Cold Cases and by among others, two for whom I have respect as journalists: Carol Hirschfeld and Paula Penfeld. But when it got to the Crewe homicide, I tossed the article aside.
What the hell’s the point of trawling over ‘Who done it,’ when the real unsolved aspect of that homicide is: Why have the police or the solicitor general, failed initiated prosecutions against two detectives whom the Royal Commission into that classic case, determined had fabricated the evidence against Arthur Allan Thomas?
Short answer today is; the culprits for this unsanctioned crime against the nation, former detective inspector O/C of the case Bruce Hutton and detective Les Johnston, are dead.
Problem solved. Or is it? Is this the standard of justice New Zealanders are prepared to accept? Are Kiwis so afraid of facing reality that they walk away when the problems are difficult and dangerous?
What I reproduce below, I first produced as part of 3000 words in North & South magazine, which actually had the balls to run what is below plus several others cases I raised.
And before I go on, the significance of me mentioning here “several other cases” is that immediately after the article WHEN GOOD COPS GO BAD, the commissioner of the day and the police union chief came out of the bush like wounded bulls, bellowing among other things that what I say below about the Crewe case, either never happened or has never happened since!
Which brings me back to “several other cases” which I also traversed in the article but which my critics conveniently avoided when they launched their injudicious excessively passionate defence of the police. Because in traversing; the Ngamu case; the Tamihere; the Tuhoe raids; the Dot Com saga and the Red Devils case, I conclusively demonstrated that the penchant for police to fabricate evidence did not stop in Pukekawa.
You can read about these here.
But, back to the theme of this epistle: What is the outstanding unsolved crime which still lurks in the mists of Pukekawa?
My writing reproduced thanks to North & South magazine:
“The classic case of a big-ticket item (which the police failed to prosecute) is the failure of Commissioner Robert Walton to press charges against Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton and Detective Len Johnston for fabricating evidence and perjury following the findings of the Royal Commission inquiring into the convictions of Arthur Allan Thomas for the murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe.
Former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon had responded to growing concerns about the conduct of the original investigation, which resulted in Thomas being twice convicted of the double murders, by convening a Royal Commission. In its report, the commission said: “We conclude Mr Hutton and Mr Johnston planted the shell case, exhibit 350, in the Crewe garden and that they did so to manufacture evidence that Mr Thomas’ rifle had been used for the killing.”
On the basis of what the Royal Commission labelled an “unspeakable outrage”, the Muldoon government pardoned Thomas and paid him almost $1 million in compensation. Yet in the opinion of Commissioner Walton and subsequently Solicitor-General Paul Neazor, the same commission report (produced after the Royal Commission Subpoenaed both prosecution and defence witnesses, observed their demeanour as They were questioned, as well as evaluating ballistics and other scientific evidence) Was not sufficient to establish a case for Hutton and Johnston to answer.
Regrettably, this practice of placing the preservation of the police above preservation of the rule of law has been condoned by successive governments. John Key’s refusal to act on the plea of Rochelle Crewe for the case of her parents’ murders to be reopened is instructive. Rochelle Crewe did not expect Key to direct the police to open a new inquiry. She asked for an independent inquiry into the unsolved double murder of her parents – on the strength of new information; also that a corrupt police inquiry run by Hutton ignored or did not investigate much of the evidence. Which were almost precisely the grounds on which Muldoon took his courageous decision to anoint an independent Royal Commission of Inquiry.
In the Crewe homicide the police case rested on spurious and inane circumstantial evidence and ballistics evidence linking a cartridge case found in the Crewe’s garden with a rifle owned by Thomas and the bullet fragments found in the bodies of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe. Eventually, ballistics experts independent of the New Zealand Police and Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR) established beyond reasonable doubt that the bullet fragments did not come from the cartridge case, which the Royal Commission found had been planted by the police to fabricate evidence.
This was the coup de grace which finally destroyed the police case.
The Royal Commission, comprising former New South Wales chief judge Robert Taylor, former National Party cabinet minister Peter Gordon and the Right Reverend Allan Johnston, laid the blame for this travesty of justice firmly at the door of Hutton and Johnston.
But in my view, other evidence suggests that these men were not alone.
Author Chris Birt, who has spent 37 years studying the Crewe murders, has recently uncovered evidence which transfers some blame for what happened in the Crewe inquiry right to the top of the New Zealand Police – to the head of the national Criminal Investigation Branch, Bob Walton.
When the Crewes were murdered in June 1970, Assistant Commissioner Walton was a shoo-in to replace the ageing Gus Sharp as police commissioner. Standing in his way, however, was a number of unsolved homicides. Evidence subsequently prised from the police reveals Walton was unhappy about this situation and his discontent manifested itself in harsh edicts to the homicide squads under his command.
Birt discloses that in July 1970 Walton called on the homicide headquarters
in Rotorua from which the Olive Walker murder inquiry was being run. Walton made it clear to senior officers on that case that he wanted an arrest without delay.
The second in command of that case resisted pressure from Walton to arrest a
known criminal who was close to Walker’s family. There was good evidence that this “suspect” was not the offender, but Walton left Rotorua after telling that officer his career in the CIB was over. The next morning, this hard-working and dedicated police officer – at that time on his way up in the CIB – was handed a letter advising he was being transferred back to the uniform branch. The Walker case, unsolved to this day, was to be his last as a detective.
That same day Walton went to Auckland, to a homicide conference, and told the Officer in charge of the Crewe investigation, Bruce Hutton, in no uncertain terms that he also expected an arrest in that double murder– and sooner rather than later. When Birt interviewed Walton about these incidents, just before Walton’s death in 2009, the Retired commissioner justified his instructions by saying he was “merely seeking to motivate”.
Walton’s “motivation” would have left little room for misinterpretation in the mind of a subordinate as to what the boss wanted. Walton would have placed Hutton under pressure but may have also infused him with the confidence that any “solution” would be accepted. Hutton, of course, delivered an arrest and remained in the Criminal Investigation Branch, later taking the plum job of officer in charge of the Drug Squad, by which time I was a detective in that unit.
Years later, the actions Walton took to pressure me to change the evidence I was about to give before the Royal Commission from that evidence I’d given on oath in previous hearings was far more direct.
I’d been a member of the “scene detectives” on the Crewe homicide. Our job was to record every aspect of the crime scene in the Pukekawa house where Harvey and Jeanette were murdered while their toddler daughter Rochelle slept in her cot in an Adjacent bedroom. I was allocated the mundane task of searching a strip of garden Near the house, but which turned out to be critical.
I failed to find a cartridge case, even though I’d been meticulous, but another officer, Detective Sergeant Mike Charles, later a superintendent, did find a .22 cartridge case in a search of the same plot four months later. That cartridge case formed the basis of the ballistics evidence that the police claimed locked in Arthur Allan Thomas as the murderer.
When I was asked in court sequels about my time as a scene detective on the case and if I’d been careful and methodical in my duties when searching the grounds of the Crewe property, I could say “Yes” because it was true. Imagine then my shock when Nine years later, while serving as a senior sergeant in Auckland’s control room, Commissioner Walton and my area CIB boss, Detective Superintendent Brian Wilkinson, took me aside one morning and asked what I was going to say in my evidence when I attended the Royal Commission later that day. Of course, he already knew what I was going to say as my brief of evidence had been prepared well in advance and repeated what I’d said on oath in previous court sessions.
In response to Walton’s probing, I said that I would confirm I had been thorough and methodical, on my hands and knees at times, and that I used a sieve on occasions when searching the strips of ground that included the specific spot where Mike Charles subsequently found a cartridge case.
Walton shook his head.
In the presence of the other executive officer, who at the time was hoping to be
promoted to detective chief superintendent and dependent on the commissioner for his promotion, Walton said: “Come on! Senior detectives don’t get down on their hands and knees and sift through dirt.”
Effectively, the Commissioner of Police was telling me to lie on oath to a Royal
I was stunned – not least by the fact that the attempt by Walton to encourage, entice or intimidate me to change my evidence is an indictable crime punishable by 14 years’ imprisonment. Needless to say, I did not alter my evidence and in fact emerged from the hearing as one of the very few police witnesses who was not castigated by the Royal Commission.
It is significant that when I was part-way through my evidence, the commission accepted a report from Australia which categorically discredited the ballistics evidence of the police and the New Zealand DSIR that the bullet fragments in the bodies of the Crewes had come from the cartridge case “found” by Charles.
Until that time, Walton stood firmly behind Hutton’s case against Thomas, built as it Was on a cartridge case planted, according to the Royal Commission, by Hutton and Johnston.
That Walton wanted me to vary my evidence to create the impression I’d been Careless and missed the cartridge case during my search of the garden in June 1970, Causes me now to conclude the Commissioner knew of Hutton’s fabrication of Evidence and was doing all he could to protect the police from the truth being made known.
The extent to which Walton was prepared to go to preserve the police reputation at the expense of the rule of law was, and remains to this day, astonishing. It culminated in him trying to intimidate me, by his manner, his rank and my vulnerability at a critical stage of my career – promotion to commissioned rank imminent – to change my evidence. As it transpired, although I was one of only five per cent of the officer corps with tertiary qualifications, I was not commissioned until after Walton retired – shades of the treatment handed out to the officer second in command of the Olive Walker homicide who refused to buckle.”
Article extract ends.
Fortunately, today, the sort of crap I endured would be at the top of the list of corporate
Unfortunately, it seems to me that too many Kiwis lack the courage to challenge blatant
abuse of process, such as this case demonstrates and which till this day, the NZ police –
As Edmund Burke once said: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good
men to do nothing.
And I say to fellow Kiwis: Courage is not confined to smashing someone on a rugby pitch.
After 21 years as a cop, Meurant resigned with the commissioned rank of inspector O/C Criminal Intelligence Section & V.I.P. Security; a nationwide profile role as a Red Squad riot group commander and an earlier reputation as a ruthless detective with a tendency to enforce the rule of police.
During 9 years as a Member of Parliament and the Executive as Under Secretary, he was accused of being an arms trader; was fired from the Executive by Jim Bolger for having a perceived conflict of interests (becoming a director of a Russian bank) and started the first political party to be registered under MMP.
After 4 years in the wilderness teaching kids to ride horse and property developing, he returned to Wellington as parliamentary adviser to Rt Hon Winston Peters where allegations of conflicted interests with roles he had with three major fishing companies and a race horse baron and later in false allegations of corruption culminating in the Scampi Enquiry.
From 2005 Ross lived abroad pursuing commercial options in Zimbabwe, the Balkans, Czech Rep, Syria, Russia, Morocco, UAE, Iran & North Korea.
Today in New Zealand he is trustee and managing director of NZ forestry and property assets owned by absentee Russians & Honorary Consul for Morocco.
Ross has a B.A. in politics; a Master’s in economics and law and COPs in law. He speaks Russian, rides horses and water-skis.
He is the author of:
Two biographies: The Red Squad Story & Beat to the Beehive.
Two novels: The Syrian Connection & Sex, Power and politics.