In hindsight, and in general, one can now see the larger side of the pattern in the fight for control of the estates. From the hidden agendas of the shareholders to those looking after the welfare of Rochelle, came a battle of minds and ultimately cunning moves that had winners and losers . . .
Sometimes in research, chance would be a fine thing but apparently not in this case. The rules did change and what was lost only came to the surface in return to many unanswered questions.
Why did Jeannette Crewe’s will and probate and the dividing of her mother’s estate become a tangle? The timing of how each step was processed was crucially important or to be perfectly blunt, it hinged solely on making sure delays happened at the right time.
I strongly suspect these delays were well planned and were mainly in place before the murders!
Little did the public know that within the ranks of trustees and shareholders of vested interest, a rather sticky problem had to be carefully overcome.
The wills and conditions of both Maisie Demler and Jeannette Crewe were known but the million dollar question remained.
How were the listing of all the effects and property from both estates going to be presented to the probate of court and more importantly who was going to gain the most?
We know that Maisie Demler died of a brain tumour on 26 February 1970 and from Police evidence, the Crewes were last seen alive on Wednesday 17 June of the same year but it was not until two months later, on 16 August, that Jeannette’s body was found in the Waikato River.
MARIE CREWE TAKES ACTION
Prior to this Len Demler had found bloodstains in the Crewe homestead (Monday 22 June 1970) and Harvey’s mother, Marie Lal Crewe, feared for the worse and was already taking action.
Her mind was obviously, and quite rightly, centred on the well-being of her granddaughter Rochelle.
The wills, both dated 29/8/1967, of Jeannette and Harvey (below) were identical in stating that their estates be held “upon trust” for Rochelle until she reached the age of 21 years to which Marie was determined to see fulfilled.
I believe Marie was mindful of the previous four years of threats and torments to Harvey and Jeannette so to even the score, dug her toes in.
David Yallop, in his book Beyond Reasonable Doubt (page 39) observed that the history of both the Crewe and Demler families were “marked by squabbles and infighting about property and money, people cut out of wills, people contesting wills” so I was not surprised with Marie’s reaction.
Both families wanted custody of Rochelle and in the words of Yallop, Heather Demler wanted to take Rochelle to America and Marie Crewe wanted Rochelle to remain with the Crewe family.
TAKING A STAND FOR ROCHELLE
The “problems” elevated tenfold four days after Jeannette’s body was recovered with evidence of not only a bullet to the brain but also an obvious assault bordering on brutality. I don’t for one minute accept the Police conclusion that Jeannette’s six missing front teeth came out of her jaw after being wrapped the submerged for a few months in water! And the other bone injuries?
I don’t hazard a guess of the thoughts of Marie at the time or of making a stand with the caveat she filed with the Hamilton Supreme Court, dated 20 August 1970, demanding that nothing could be put before probate on both wills without prior knowledge or examination by Marie Crewe.
With one stroke of the pen Marie had crippled the trustees of both wills and to a lesser extent, the shareholders.
In the short term Marie was successful and Rochelle went to live with members of her family but after nine months the bitter toll of the legal system inflicted upon Marie Lal Crewe became very apparent.
During this period, trustee Len Demler and his daughter Heather, had filed through the court for custody of Rochelle and rightly or wrongly won by presenting a case showing the odd wine bottle indicated a not so good environment or habitat for Rochelle. It is thought this report came from outside the local precinct through another source in the west. I can’t say any more than that at present, but this highly suspicious.
There is an old saying, if one cannot fix the problem then get rid of the one causing it. Through this action, not only had Rochelle been taken away but also any future interests held by Marie.
Rochelle was now held by the guardian and trustee of all Harvey and Jeannette Crewe had supposedly left their daughter!
Very little was said by the media at the time. Some of the reports put forward by those in selected positions were not in favour of Marie Crewe in the battle of the court proceedings.
Within days of 22 April 1971 when Marie had withdrawn her caveat (see opposite), Len Demler was granted probate and transmission of the said total estate of Jeannette without objection.
Closely following was the total estate of Maisie Demler being put before probate and transmission in court in the same manner within days of the first probate being granted and made legal.
Observant readers might notice an irregularity in the way these probates presented. The woman who died first was dealt with second. Why?
I think, all it needed, and quite legally, was for the trustee to say that they were still waiting for all Maisie’s paperwork to arrive from England.
Consider this. If the Crewe bodies had not been discovered or ever found, Len would have been forced to deal with Maisie’s probate first and need I say, at great loss to himself and consequently to his daughter Heather.
NOT BEING THE SHOOTER
Len was not at the scene when the shots were fired but could have come on the scene shortly thereafter. Did he realise during all the drama happening around him that getting rid of the bodies was not in his best interests?
The last thing Len would have wanted was to hide the bodies and for this logical reason, and from his point of view of knowing he was not the one who twice pulled the trigger, he was in the likely danger of losing control.
I believe Len was outnumbered and apart from feeling that his part in the crime was not of major value, he knew that he had a clear conscience and could not be blamed for murdering his daughter legally even if he engineered it. In dealing with the fatal parts of crime all he needed to do, if he was under pressure, was to let the other people do all the talking.
In studying these things over time, I came to the conclusion that if Len made any comment on any subject in this case I was sure he knew he was on solid ground and could not be proved wrong.
Quite simply, because of his way of thinking, if he had no involvement in that particular part of the crime, there was nothing to worry about.
The only time he might have broken down and spilled the beans was when he was told that Rochelle was learning to talk. He went silent and white. This proved to me that Len’s true colours came to the surface only in the time frame he was involved in.
Len certainly knew the person who fed Rochelle so imagine the baby blurting out the name of who was feeding her. Obviously this information about Leslee would have led directly to the killers.
This, I feel, was a very dangerous area for Len, and to a certain extent, the involvement of Leslee. They had to tread carefully. Leslee was reasonably safe as she was not on anybody’s radar but Len was to become the prime suspect.
The old saying, one thing leads to another, could have been their downfall. Many parts were being played by those involved and all Len had to do was to play his part while the others did the dirty work.
Len was actually under threat of losing control of the estates that he was fighting hard to retain. The others didn’t care that he was going to ‘steal’ all the money, assets and land from his late wife, daughter Jeannette and regrettably his grandchild Rochelle, so the decision to get rid of the bodies was not Len’s to make.
Others had a different agenda so my feeling was that the bodies were already in the river before Len really realised the consequences of that decision. Len had to ‘suck it up’ as his ultimate goal was not to be sneezed at.
HOW FUTURE EVENTS UNFOLDED
Keeping a time line of events throughout my research has proved a very useful tool. It has kept my mind visually focused chronologically so that I could easily pinpoint events happening at the same time or within a specific time frame.
One of the strange facts that did emerge from keeping the timeline were the gaps as future events started to unfold. At times everything appeared to be in limbo.