Editor's Pick

The 100

The 100 - Watch First

Series 2, Episode 1 The 48 23 Oct 14 00:40:46

Top Shows

The Investigator


The Investigator Special - Who Killed The Crewes?

The Investigator Special on TV ONE and TVNZ Ondemand



About the Crewes case

On the night of June the 17th 1970 farming couple Jeanette and Harvey Crewe were murdered in their Pukekawa home. At two subsequent trials the juries heard how Arthur Allan Thomas, motivated by jealousy, had driven through a stormy night, shot the couple with his .22 rifle , tied up their bodies with fencing wire and dumped them in the flooded Waikato River. And both juries convicted him.

Nine years later Thomas was granted a Pardon and a Royal Commission later found that in order to gain his conviction,  two detectives , Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton and Detective Sergeant Len Johnston, had planted a shell case fired from Thomas's rifle in the Crewe garden. It's an accusation that has never been tested in court however and writer /director Bryan Bruce believes his documentary will shed new light on that event.

"When I began investigating this 42 year old case I frankly didn't think I would find anything new. After all no New Zealand case  has been trawled through by so many journalists and writers than the Crewe case" said Bruce. "But in fact I have uncovered several things that I am sure will surprise viewers who have followed the case over the years."

One such revelation involves the man the police initially suspected of the murder- Jeanette's father Len Demler.

It was only when Crown pathologist Francis Cairns recovered fragments of the .22 bullets from the bodies of Jeanette and Harvey that police turned their attention to local farmer Arthur Allan Thomas. Why? Because not only did he own one of two rifles the police collected that may have fired the fatal bullets, but two axle stubs found on Thomas farm tip were said to match the car axle beam that was used to weigh down the body of Harvey Crewe.

However , after  Thomas was granted a Pardon people began to ask - "Well if Arthur didn't do it- who did?" And ,  "Who fed Rochelle - the couples' 18 month old baby- for a couple of days after the murders?" And the  more the police hung back from re-investigating the case, the more public suspicion grew that Len Demler may have killed his daughter and son- in -law.

Demler claimed he'd discovered the bloody crime scene and baby Rochelle in her cot when he called in to see Jeanette and Harvey 5 days after the murders - a visit prompted by the fact some stock agents had rung him to say they could not raise  the couple on the phone.

Several writers have suggested that Len Demler killed the Crewes over a dispute over the ownership of the Demler farm and that Demler's second wife fed baby Rochelle and helped to clean up the murder scene. But Bruce thinks such a  theory doesn't bear close scrutiny.

"I think that's a nonsense" says Bruce. "Quite simply the known forensic evidence is against Demler being the killer. He certainly behaved oddly at the time but acting a bit strangely doesn't mean you're a murderer." 

And in course of the programme Bruce reveals why he thinks Demler didn't do it  and that a third person may have gotten away with the murder .

In October of 2010 Rochelle Crewe - a woman now in her 40s with family of her own -demanded that the police re-investigate the death of her parents. What the police offered instead was  an internal review to establish whether they might reinvestigate the case.

"Not only, in my view, is that not good enough" said Bruce " the police used the fact that they were doing an internal review to deny me access to documents that had been in the archive for over 40 years. Documents to which other journalists had been able to access."

"But that didn't stop me" Bruce explained "I've learned from experience that when the cops make it difficult for me then I'm onto something they really don't want the public to know ."

And so it proved. From documents he has been able to obtain, Bruce says he will reveal  "the shameful fact that for 42 years a chain of police commissioners  have have put the self interest of the police ahead of their duty to properly  re-investigate this case. "