The Case of the Missing Bloodstain

The Crewes Murder Case: Present Situation

The Crewe Case is New Zealand’s most celebrated unsolved crime. Its eminence arises principally from its influence on the reputation of our Justice System. Prior to the 1980 Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Circumstances of the Conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas, the ‘System’ was honest and true beyond question in the public mind. It all changed after the Royal Commission. Since then the System has been seen as fallible, capable of both error and dishonesty. However, despite the Commission’s report, the case is still an unsolved murder. There is an obvious reason for this. The Crewe Case is one the System will never solve because, in truth, the System has decided not to solve it. The case’s present legal status was summarised in a television interview following publication of the Commission’s report in 1980. When asked by interviewer Ian Fraser if the case would be reopened, the then Commissioner of Police, Robert Walton, replied that the Crewes Case would not be reopened until and unless new evidence were brought forward.

Recently several major players in the story asked publicly for the case to be re-opened. They were Rochelle Crewe, who was orphaned at 18 months, and Arthur Thomas, who spent ten years in prison an innocent man. They were supported by several members of the Order Of New Zealand, the country's most honoured citizens, including two former Governors General. The Prime Minister has rejected their pleas.

There it all now stands, a classic Catch 22 situation:

  • The case won’t be reopened without new evidence…
  • There won’t be any new evidence unless the case is reopened…

Underlying Robert Walton’s answer were several issues that have never been fully explored, not the least being his own role in the Thomas case. At the time he was in frequent contact with inquiry head Bruce Hutton, reportedly a ‘drinking mate’.

But the principle underlying the System’s determination to keep the case closed is not confined to this one case. It infects every attempt to overturn New Zealand’s many alleged miscarriages of justice:

Solving murders is the business of the Justice System alone. The System provided a solution to the Crewe case which will stand because the System provided it. The Royal Commission was wrong. It was biased and incompetent. It had no standing. It was not part of the System. Its members were a retired archbishop, a retired politician and a retired Australian judge, Therefore no evidence was planted. Hutton is innocent. Thomas is guilty.

Arthur Thomas himself hit on this truism in Chris Birt’s 2001 book The Final Chapter. Thomas said:

“Overseas the police, including those in Scotland Yard, get penalised when they get caught out. But New Zealand hasn’t grown up yet…”

Thomas is right. As a country we’re too young to own up. So too with the other young countries which have to deal with that adversarial system of justice which is so easily corrupted, those others of an adversarial bent in Australia and the Americas. The old country has learned, quite recently, to deal with some of the excesses invited by the silly system it spread around the world. We young ones haven’t. Immaturity and the territorial instinct are the problems. Justice trots along behind Order and Prestige where it should gallop in front.

The same syndrome is present in Ellis, Watson, Dougherty, Tamihere, Lundy, Barlow, Haig and many others where the System got ahead of the evidence and was blind to what it said. This is not necessarily to proclaim that all these are innocents convicted. While I suspect they are indeed all innocents, it wasn’t the evidence which said otherwise. It was the System.

And it all started with Thomas. Before then there was no syndrome at all because there had been no challenge to the System with enough public support to create one. Thomas changed that, but to this day it remains an argument from which the System remains aloof – unless provoked, when it weighs in on the side of pride and childish territorialism. The Case of the Missing Bloodstain addresses that. It arises from a decade-long study and analysis of all of the available documentation relating to the police inquiry, the trials and appeals and Royal Commission hearings.

The study reveals that no more evidence is needed than was available or even provided to the judicial processes thirty and forty years ago. The truth is that the System is much more culpable and more guilty than has ever been realised. It planted more evidence than has ever been suspected, much more demonstrably than the planted evidence recognised by the Royal Commission. Not just a cartridge case. It even lied to itself.


The Case of The Missing Bloodstain was published on Monday 16 April 2012.