Had Demler been telling lies and why was he stalling for time during the process of reporting what he had discovered at the Crewe homestead? He certainly took his time but there was a logical reason and it had everything to do with timing. I will be putting my head on the block by quietly revealing clues to the identities of the most likely villains . . .
Meanwhile Len Demler was going to find himself in the hot seat for the next three or four months as police tried extremely hard to pin the double murder on him. Without doubt Len was everybody’s prime suspect.
At least six books have been written on this subject and so far nobody has fingered who actually fired the fatal bullets nor has anyone worked out the reasons for this horrific crime.
I have some of the answers, much of it circumstantial but enough I feel that other professionals, with the resources to follow up, can provide the standard of evidence that will stand up within the legal system which I have previously mentioned is quite different to having a justice system.
There is no need to go there just yet but to keep some flow to maintaining some sense of the timeline, I need to continue to draw from what other researchers and authors have written.
Bearing in mind that the facts, as viewed by the legal system, can still be presented various ways but ultimately a fact is a fact. Finding what I believe are facts has not been without its headaches and loss of sleep. I have actually been to hell and back wrestling with the unknown and at this stage I am very reluctant to totally give up without first offering what I know and for readers to digest.
STRANGE THINGS THAT DEMLER DID
I have chosen some extracts from Ian Wishart’s The Inside Story (from page 27) that, to me, outlines the most of the strange things Len Demler did on Monday 22 June 1970 and over the following days:
“It was just after 8 o’clock on the morning of Monday, 22 June 1970, when stock agent Joe Moore and colleague John Dagg pulled into the driveway of the Crewe farmhouse. Swinging open the front gate, they hammered on the front door awaiting a reply that never came. Dagg saw the outside light was on but didn’t try the back-door. Moore had also tried the phone before he left the office, but no one picked up. If he’d peered through a window he might have seen the bloodstains, but he didn’t. He might have heard baby Rochelle, but if he did it wasn’t mentioned later. Instead, the two men left.
“When he got back to town Moore rang Len Demler, asking if he knew where his daughter and son-in-law had got to. Demler replied in the negative. The crusty old farmer must have been getting frustrated, however, by the time Ron Wright from Tuakau Transport Ltd called, just before 1pm that day. Wright explained he had a load of sheep he was scheduled to pick up from the Crewes, but couldn’t raise them. Demler said he would go and check.
“According to police notes from 24 June, Demler found both the main gate and a smaller gate to the home’s front garden shut when he arrived about 1pm. Although he didn’t mention it, Demler would have walked past milk and newspapers lying uncollected at the main gate since the previous Thursday. He told police he walked to the rear of the house and found the outside light on, and the key in the back door’s outside lock.”
To cut a long story short, Demler entered the house and saw stains of blood on the kitchen floor and large stains of blood on the carpet in the lounge. He then says that he checked the house for any sign of Jeannette and Harvey, without success, before entering Rochelle’s bedroom where he found the 18 month old in a distressed condition.
Demler’s reaction was bizarre and in a supposed moment of panic he got his priorities totally mixed up. Wishart asked the obvious question of why Demler didn’t first rescue his granddaughter from her cot, particularly if he thought someone might still “be lurking in the house.”
Wishart continues: “The grandfather’s actions in fleeing the scene, leaving a two year old alone and distressed in a bloodstained house, don’t fit with what most of us think we would do in similar circumstances.
“Nor did Demler ring Tuakau Transport from the Crewes’ phone. He decided to drive home, without Rochelle, and ring Ron Wright from the Demler farmstead. Adding insult to injury, Wright was out of the office when Demler called to cancel the sheep pick-up, but rather than simply leave a message and immediately return to the Crewe house, Demler chose to wait for Wright to get back and return his call.”
DEMLER RETURNS TO SCENE
Len Demler didn’t cease behaving oddly after returning to the scene of the crime. On his way he called on his neighbour Owen Priest to ask if he would go to the Crewe home with him to carry out a search for Jeannette and Harvey as they were missing.
It’s worth repeating a Wishart paragraph with words from an earlier interview Yallop had had with Priest: “Initially when we entered the house Len kept saying, ‘The bugger’s killed her and done himself in. I tell you Harvey’s killed her’. It began to play on my nerves after he’d come out with this two or three times. I turned to him. ‘Look Len, we don’t know what’s happened. It could have been a third party’. He was silent after that.”
This suggests murder/suicide, a theory that some others believed but the same evasive facts forced me to look deeper for the truth.
Wishart continued with the observation that Rochelle showed no sign of being starved of food or liquid for five days, a situation I was personally able to confirm from Leslee who had admitted to me in a situation of distress, some ten years after the murders, that she had fed the baby. I admit that I don’t know for how long or on what days she fed Rochelle though.
And before everyone starts jumping on me for not making these comments known to the authorities, I can state here that I had already been classed as a “nutter”. I do have good logical reasons and it will be through this book that the answers will be given in their proper context. However, Leslee will be viewed widely as an accomplice.
The main thrust of my thoughts has been to find enough facts to eliminate Demler from the gristly scene or to implicate him in those five days leading up to his so-called “discovery” of the missing couple. I also learned that trust in the police wasn’t the wisest course of action either.
SIGNS THAT DEMLER WAS NOT THE KILLER
Many will ask if Demler spent the previous five days preparing for the inevitable discovery of the crime scene and baby Rochelle or was it a complete shock to him? According to Wishart, Demler had showed numerous signs of not being the killer.
He wrote this on page 42: “Whoever killed the Crewes had carefully disposed of the bodies, left absolutely no fingerprints in the entire house, burnt evidence, tried to clean up and looked after the baby–tasks all suggestive of prior planning and organisation. Why would this cool, calculated approach suddenly fall apart?
“If Demler was really the killer, surely he would have grabbed Rochelle from her cot, dishevelled and stinking, and driven straight to Owen Priest’s house saying ‘Call the police, I found blood all through the house, no sign of Jeannette and Harvey, and Rochelle alone in her cot!’
“If he’d done that, Demler would have been the hero, quashing all speculation about his bizarre actions on the day. The difference between the cool chutzpah of a killer and accomplice who hung around the scene of the crime for days (and to this date have gotten away with it)–and the bumbling panic of Demler, are too much of a sharp contrast. Demler’s actions instead made him an automatic suspect in the eyes of police and his neighbours–a magnet for attention that was so strong he was almost prosecuted. “
Wishart also wrote that Demler’s behaviour did not actually fit the psychological profile of the very careful killer he knew must have murdered the Crewes. His thought about Demler’s behaviour during police searches aroused suspicion but were explainable.
“If he truly knew where the bodies were, then he also knew police had no chance of finding them on the Crewe and Demler properties. Yet here he was, metres away from police search teams, unseen in the fog, awaiting their discoveries as keenly as Bruce Hutton was.
“It’s yet another piece of the growing jigsaw of evidence that suggests Len Demler wasn’t involved in the murder of his daughter. His actions don’t match the profile of the killer. They instead fit better with that of a grumpy old farmer with dodgy people skills, who wanted to know where his dead daughter was but didn’t want to be the one to find her body, and who wanted to help police but became furious about being treated as a suspect.”
PAINTED IN THE ROLE OF A VILLAIN
Then the tables were turned as Wishart explains: “All references to Demler crying as he delivered Rochelle into the care of a neighbour vanished as police instead began to paint him in the role of villain. How did Len Demler manage to rub police up the wrong way so soon after one officer said he would ‘stake my reputation’ on Demler’s innocence?
“The best answer is probably ‘personality clash’, or what police refer to as ‘failing the attitude test’. In the context of a murder inquiry, detectives instinctively hunt for behaviour that’s out of the ordinary, that’s ‘suspicious’. Demler had already fallen into that pigeon-hole with the way he’d handled the discovery of Rochelle left alone, so when he started to get his ‘back up’ over the perfectly natural requirements for the police to investigate his movements, that was like sticking a flashing light on his head whilst holding a sign, ‘Pick Me!’ as far as police were concerned.”
BEHAVIOUR SEEN AS SUSPICIOUS
It’s interesting, as a crime reporter, says Wishart, to see how behaviour comes to be seen as ‘suspicious’ and directly relevant, even though it later turns out to be utterly irrelevant.
These wry comments from Wishart are exactly what makes this case so difficult to solve and sorting the wheat from the chaff is how I feel when trying to justify my comment at the beginning of this chapter asking why Len Demler was stalling for time and why timing was so important. Perhaps Len Demler knew he couldn’t be proven to have killed and actually wanted to be the target to take the heat off others and his ploy worked perfectly.
HAVING ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE
But was Len really stalling for time? Were there other more serious issues troubling Len?
Having knowledge of what happened almost a year later when Len, as trustee to both wills of Maisie and Jeannette, was dealing with their probates that a complex situation arose that could see him lose everything he had worked for.
This situation will undoubtedly be considered a definite motive for murder. Quite frankly, having a murdered daughter would have perfectly suited his apparently devious mind but having no body would have completely fouled up his plans.
Len would not have wanted his daughter’s body to disappear as that would put him into a position where he could not process her estate and deal with any of her assets. Jeannette’s assets would therefore be frozen until a death certificate could be issued by a Coroner. With no body this would be years, and potentially a serious problem.
It was critically important to Len to do what he ultimately did but there are still a lot of unanswered questions to deal with before the finger can be pointed elsewhere.