Arthur Thomas

New Zealand
Date of Crime:  June 17, 1970

Arthur Allan Thomas was convicted of the shooting murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe. The married couple were killed on or about June 17, 1970. At least one of the them was shot inside the Crewes' farmhouse in Pukekawa and both bodies were dumped in the Waikato River. Jeanette's body was found in the river two months later (Aug. 16) and her husband's body another month afterwards (Sept 16). An axle which had been used to weigh down Harvey's body was also found. The Crewes' disappearance was reported to the police by Jeanette's father and neighbor, Lenard W. Demler, on June 22, 1970. The Crewes' 18-month-old daughter Rochelle was found alive in the house and it is believed that an unknown woman had fed her between the 17th and 22nd. On June 19th, a farm laborer, Bruce Roddick, saw a fair-haired woman outside the house.

The axle which weighted Harvey's body was identified as coming from a 1928/9 Nash motor car series 420. Such an axle had once been used on a vehicle trailer owned by Thomas's father. On Oct 20, 1970 during a second search of a dump on Thomas's property, two stub-axles were found which had welds that matched similar welds on the recovered axle. On Oct. 27, when the garden at the Crewe house was searched for a third time, a bullet cartridge case was found. Marks on the case showed it had been fired from a rifle owned by Thomas. Due to the evidence, Thomas was convicted of the murders in 1971 and again in 1973.

Investigation established that in 1965 Thomas had a mechanic remove a 1928/9 Nash 420 axle from his father's trailer and replace it with a different one so that the trailer could be outfitted with standard tires. The mechanic initially remembered keeping the axle parts as part payment for his work, but then decided that he must have given the axle parts back to Thomas after he learned stub-axles were found on Thomas's property. Evidence indicated that the axle parts removed by the mechanic were in working condition while the axle parts recovered by police had been heavily used, presumably on another trailer, to the point where they were beyond repair. Thus it would appear that someone besides Thomas or his father had owned and used the axle in the 5 years prior to the murders. Because of this evidence, and because the found stub-axles appeared to have been planted on Thomas's property, it would be unsafe to draw a connection between Thomas and the axle found with Harvey Crewe's body.

Forensic work also showed that bullets found in the Crewes' bodies did not match the found cartridge, and also that the bullets did not come from cartridges that were manufactured together with the found cartridge. Additional evidence indicated that investigating officers had test fired Thomas's rifle on the Crewe's property. Thus the presumption is that the found cartridge case had been planted at the scene. Thomas was pardoned in 1979 after serving 9 years of imprisonment. A Royal Commission of Inquiry found that the cartridge case was planted by Detective Inspector Hutton and Detective Sergeant Johnston.

Three books were written about the case in the 1970s plus a 2001 book entitled The Final Chapter by Chris Birt and a 2010 book entitled Arthur Allan Thomas: The Inside Story by Ian Wishart.  [11/10]


References:  NZ Herald, NZ Listener, Royal Commission Report, Networked Knowledge, Video

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Australia/New Zealand Cases