No Crewe inquiry

November 29th, 2010 at 6:52 am by David Farrar

James Ihaka at the Herald reports:

Justice Minister has turned down calls for an independent inquiry into a 40-year-old murder mystery. …

William Rowe, a spokesman for Arthur Allan Thomas, the man wrongly accused of murdering Jeanette and Harvey Crewe, wrote to the minister’s office supporting calls for an independent inquiry.

In the email he wanted to know who, on the balance of probabilities, murdered the Crewes.

He also asked if there was evidence to bring charges against anyone involved in the investigation for the wrongful arrest and convictions of Mr Thomas based on the Thomas Royal Commission findings in 1980.

“I plead with you to do the right thing and order an inquiry,” said Mr Rowe in the email.

“Justice is the most important thing in the world and every New Zealander has the right to have faith in the system, because it belongs to them, not the police.”

In response, Mr Power said he understood the interest in seeking closure, but his hands were tied. …

“Neither I nor my ministerial colleagues can direct the police to reopen the case.”

If the request has been made 30 years ago, or even 20 years ago, then I’d say go for it. BuSt I can’t imagine in 2010, an inquiry could come to any useful conclusions. Finding out who, on the balance of probabilities, murdered the Crewes, would have been possible when key people were alive, but at least two of the suspects are dead.

So on this issue, I think the Minister has made the right decision, in fact almost the only decision possible.

The case that I do think should have had a full Commission of Inquiry is the case.

11 Responses to “No Crewe inquiry”

  1. peterwn (4,288 comments) says:

    Unfortunately a Peter Ellis inquiry would upset the feminist movement too much and the political reality is that National needs to better shore up the womens vote.

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  2. Yvette (3,027 comments) says:

    I would think you are right, David, on both accounts – it is too late for anything constructive to come out of a further investigation of the Crewe murders, and the one case that really needs a full Commission of Inquiry is the Peter Ellis case.
    See how many people, now that you have raised it, will comment to the effect that they, like me, think he is ‘Not guilty’ of what he was charged with and it remains a gross stain on the New Zealand justice system.

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  3. ross (1,435 comments) says:


    Both main parties oppose a wide-ranging inquiry into the Peter Ellis case. Labour had 9 years to establish an inquiry but settled – on the advice of officials – for a ministerial inquiry. Its failings have been well documented.

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  4. dad4justice (7,905 comments) says:

    Yawn, another cover up and cop-out. We are the whitewash capital of the world. Pity that dirty police can get away with skullduggery.

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  5. MT_Tinman (4,394 comments) says:

    What Yvette said.

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  6. Murray (8,822 comments) says:

    Good waste of our money.

    D4J seriously less caffine, even other conspiracy nuts are moving away from you on the Group W bench.

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  7. gravedodger (1,704 comments) says:

    The only realistic chance of any emergence of what actually happened at Pukekawa all those years ago will be the revelation of a confession and there is little chance of that now.
    The Crewe murders will join the long list of unresolved whodunnits of history.
    A.A.Thomas was a lucky one of several wrongly convicted and even more fortunate we had abandoned capital punishment, a situation denied the last man hanged in this country, Walter James Bolton, who went to his death protesting his innocence, and the natural arsenic levels in their well water strongly suggest serious doubt on his conviction and execution.

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  8. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    Agree on Peter Ellis. A great wrong was done to him. Yet there is a noisy and passionate handful in Christchurch who still say he and the women charged were guilty.

    Frank Haden, the journalist, interviewed Ellis in prison a couple of times, and came away with the conclusion that Ellis should not have been tried, let alone convicted. He also wrote that Ellis was left alone in prison, and that an inmate or ex-inmate had told him other prisoners believed he was innocent.

    As for a Crewe inquiry. Well, the distance of time is no reason not to have an inquiry. These things can be done if the push becomes a serious shove.

    But a couple of theories, by Pat Booth and Ian Wishart, sound decidedly odd. Booth has written, and still says, that he believes Harvey Crewe was a wife-beater. In the end she decided not to take it any more, and so shot him after he broke her jaw.

    I find it odd that a woman with a broken jaw can function ‘normally’, look after her baby, and then decide to end it for herself several days later, and arranged with her father to dispose of her body. From what I remember reading years ago, Jeanette Crewe did not seem like the kind of woman who was a killer and suicider. Harvey Crewe did not sound like a wife-basher.

    Wishart dismisses Booth’s theory. But then Wishart offers his own odd theory — and that is that the policeman, Len Johnstone, shot the Crewes.

    But what I can’t find in his book (and I’ve only scanned it in bookshops and in the library) is a reason that a policeman, who apparently did not know the Crewes, would kill them. As Manuel would say: ‘Que?’

    And following on from that, why would his boss, Inspector Brue Hutton, cover for him? Hutton might well have been under pressure to produce a guilty person, and Thomas seemed convenient, but I can’t see him going as far as protecting a fellow cop from a murder charge.

    Just my tuppence …

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  9. Chuck Bird (6,593 comments) says:

    TripeWryter, read the book

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  10. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    Chuck: would it be worth it?

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  11. Rex Widerstrom (5,113 comments) says:

    Just off the top of my head I can think of two reasons:

    1. Justice.

    There have been instances of investigations posthumously pardoning men who’d been hanged for crimes allegedly committed in, say, the 1800s. And I’ve been surprised, initially, at what a profound effect that’s had on their descendants. I found that even if those descendants had never met the accused, they’d lived with older relatives tortured by the knowledge that their father or grnadfather or uncle or whatever was innocent. I’ve seen, for instance, the great-great descendants of a man court martialed and executed weeping at his eventual exoneration, even though they never knew him as a person.

    In this case, many of the people involved are still alive.

    Until you’ve been the victim of an injustice you can’t appreciate how ever single day reminds you of that fact. An “oops, sorry” from the system that put you there is never enough. Money, while deserved, can’t rebalance injustice. Only seeing every avenue pursued to put right what was wrong can help bring peace.

    2. Lessons can be learned.

    If nothing else, the NZ public can be reminded how the police will happily pervert the course of justice to gain their desired outcome. But I suspect a thorough investigation as to how they did so could lead to the implementation of some sort of prosecutorial review body, such as the Australian Director of Public Prosecutions model or, better yet, the Scottish Procurator Fiscal model, where the office has independent investigative powers.

    Cost is not an argument against. We’re prepared as a society (eager, in some cases) to fund a massive apparatus designed to accuse, convict and imprison. When that apparatus becomes faulty, it is our duty to ensure it is fixed.

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