One of the most sensational and documented murder mysteries in New Zealand remains unsolved regardless of an innocent man being sent to prison for murders he did not commit . . .
Anyone who was alive during the 1970s would have known most of the details or followed with keen interest the events as they unfolded during and after the brutal murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe at Pukekawa on 17 June 1970.
The public either accepted the Crown’s case that Arthur Allan Thomas was guilty as charged or were convinced he was innocent. When the result of the 1980 Royal Commission was released the latter group felt justified that a serious miscarriage of justice had occurred.
If it was the latter group then the most common question has been and still is, “If Arthur Allan Thomas didn’t kill the Crewes then who did?”
The whole truth may never ever be fully known. Too much water has passed under the bridges on the Waikato River to be absolutely sure, beyond reasonable doubt, of who actually committed the crime.
I absolutely believe there was more than one person involved and I would stick my neck out and say at least three or four others had been at the scene before the Police arrived four days later.
At this stage I do not want to rehash the events that followed except to put forward my own theories on how this awful situation had reached the point of murder, what went wrong on that fateful day, why it was necessary for a lot of people to cover their butts, why nobody has been charged and finally, most importantly, what has happened to the family legacy and who ultimately benefited?
To my mind the guts of this sorry saga is intertwined with the unfamiliar words found in wills along with the complicated and often confusing structures of many family (or farming) trusts (especially in England) set up basically to protect one’s assets from the evils of this world.
Experts who deal with family trusts say a large percentage of family trusts in New Zealand are not worth the paper they are written on. The main fault seems to be in not understanding or not wanting to know how the trust works or not applying the many tools it has to effectively manage its administration for its beneficiaries.
In trying to understand the concept of trusts I have learnt that the minute book is unquestionably essential as it would contain a complete and accurate record of all transactions and decisions made by the trustees along with all the paperwork necessary to show that everything had been done by the book. Yeah right!
In an ideal world the minute book would also include all legal papers, deeds, wills, agreements, mortgages, correspondence, annual accounts, bank statements, investments, debts, payments, gifting records and most importantly its assets.
There’s much more but without the minute book nobody would have a clue what decisions had been made, whether the left hand knew what the right hand had been doing, who owed money, who hasn’t paid and whether anyone had ‘pulled a swifty’.
Without a paper trail nobody would be able to prove a thing and that’s where everyone has hit the proverbial brick wall with the Crewe’s case. Personally I ended up in a very dark place and instead of being in heaven getting to the bottom of things I was facing an uphill battle to find enough factual information about the trusts possibly carrying the names of Chennells or Demler or Crewe.
This double murder mystery would have been solved, again beyond reasonable doubt, many decades ago if certain trust deeds had been accessible. Maybe that would have made the task too easy but I will say that their records were definitely kept in Maisie Demler’s head as she knew all the details down to the last penny!
I still have a lot to learn about trusts and because all trusts are not created equal I will still have to take some educated guesses to fill the gaps before getting close to the real truth. However, I may not need all the detail I thought was necessary as I believe I have enough to bring the hot-headed villains to justice.
At the very least I have discovered the chain of events after the murders so be prepared for some surprises . . .