Harvey and Jeannette Crewe

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Harvey and Jeannette Crewe
Photograph of the grave of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe, Tuakau Cemetery, Waikato, New Zealand. October 2013. Note Jeannette's name is misspelt as Jeanette.

David Harvey Crewe (20 October 1941 – c.17 June 1970), known as Harvey, and Jeannette Lenore Crewe (6 February 1940 – c.17 June 1970) were a New Zealand farming couple (married 18 June 1966 in Auckland) who were shot to death around 17 June 1970. A local farmer, Arthur Allan Thomas (born 2 January 1938), was twice convicted of their murders but was granted a Royal Pardon on 17 December 1979.


Husband and wife Harvey and Jeannette Crewe were shot to death around 17 June 1970 in their farmhouse at Pukekawa, Lower Waikato and their bodies were dumped in the Waikato River. Jeannette's body was found, wrapped in a duvet bound with copper wire,[1] in the river at a place known as "Devil's Elbow" on 16 August and her husband's body was retrieved upriver on 16 September. An axle, which had apparently been used to weigh down Harvey's body, was also found.

Investigation and trials[edit]

The Crewes' disappearance was reported to the police on 22 June by Jeannette's father, Lenard W. Demler (died 4 November 1992) and his neighbour. The Crewes' 18-month-old daughter Rochelle was alive in the house and it was suspected that an unknown woman had fed her between the 17th and 22nd. Len Demler became the leading suspect in the police inquiry.

After the bodies were found and the calibre of the murder weapon was established, police collected and test-fired barely 3% of similar rifles belonging to residents in the Pukekawa district. Of those tested, all but two rifles were eliminated as possible murder weapons. One of these two rifles belonged to Arthur Thomas and he became a suspect. On 27 October 1970, the garden at the Crewe house was searched for a third time and a cartridge case was found. The case carried marks which showed it had been fired from Thomas's rifle. In November, Thomas was arrested and was found guilty of their murder in a jury trial in 1971. On appeal, a new trial was ordered and a second jury found him guilty in 1973.


A campaign, led in part by Pat Booth of the Auckland Star, attempted to overturn the conviction. The campaign alleged that police evidence against Thomas had been fabricated. Forensic work by Dr Jim Sprott showed that the cartridge case had been planted at the scene, and that its method of construction identified it as being from a batch that could not have contained the recovered murder bullets.[2] A Royal Commission of Inquiry was formed to review the case and reported to the Governor-General in November 1980.[3] The Commissioners found that the cartridge case relied on to convict Thomas, Exhibit 350, had been created by firing a bullet taken from the Thomas farm using his seized gun and the cartridge case had been planted by Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton and Detective Sergeant Lenrick Johnston outside the Crewe house. The Inquiry found there was misconduct by Hutton and Johnston in the prosecution of Thomas and that the arrest and prosecution of Thomas had been unjustified. Thomas was pardoned by the Governor-General in 1979, on the recommendation of then Prime Minister of New Zealand Robert Muldoon, after serving nine years in prison. He was paid NZ$950,000 compensation for his time in jail and loss of the use of the farm.[4] Despite the Royal Commission describing the conduct of Bruce Hutton and Lenrick Johnston as an "unspeakable outrage", the New Zealand police never laid charges against any police officer involved in the investigation and prosecution of Thomas. Lenrick Johnston died in 1978. Bruce Hutton died in 2013.

David Yallop wrote the book Beyond Reasonable Doubt about the case. The case was made into the docu-drama feature film Beyond Reasonable Doubt in 1980.

Status of case and alternative theories[edit]

No one else has been arrested for killing the Crewes and the case remains unsolved. A number of theories have been put forward. Pat Booth has speculated that Harvey Crewe assaulted his wife who then shot him, dumped his body with help from her father and several days later shot herself, with her father also disposing of her body. Another theory is that Demler killed both the victims. Chris Birt covered this extensively in his book, The Final Chapter, in 2001. Arthur Thomas's brother, Des Thomas, believes that yet another local man was the murderer.

In 2010, Ian Wishart published the book Arthur Allan Thomas. Wishart agrees with Birt in rejecting the murder-suicide theory but, contrary to Booth, Yallop, and Birt, he does not believe Jeannette’s father Len Demler had anything to do with the murders or removing the bodies after their deaths. Instead, Wishart proposes two new suspects: the son of a prominent New Zealand family who worked in the area (Wishart does not directly name him) or one of the policemen who planted evidence to convict Thomas.

A 2014 police review of the murder files confirmed that Thomas was the sole suspect, all other suspects having been eliminated.[5][6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals" by Professor Elizabeth A Murray
  2. ^ "Crewe murders: Police admit cartridge planted". stuff.co.nz. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  3. ^ "Report of the Royal Commission to Inquire into the Circumstances of the Convictions of Arthur Allan Thomas for the Murders of David Harvey Crewe and Jeanette Lenore Crewe, 1980" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  4. ^ Report of the Royal Commission to Inquire into the Circumstances of the Convictions of Arthur Allan Thomas for the Murders of David Harvey Crewe and Jeanette Lenore Crewe, 1980 (PDF), p. 120, retrieved 2010-10-15 
  5. ^ Moran, Dylan (30 July 2014). "Arthur Allan Thomas May Not Get Police Apology". 3 News. 
  6. ^ "Crewe case evidence may have been fabricated: report". ODT. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  7. ^ "Crewe Review". NZ Police. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Swain, Evan (1971). The Crewe Murders. Auckland. 
  • Bell, Terry (1972). Bitter Hill: Arthur Thomas—the case for a retrial. Auckland: Avante-Garde Publishing. 
  • Booth, Pat (1975). Trial by Ambush: the fate of Arthur Thomas. Wellington: South Pacific Press. 
  • Bailey, Earl (1976). Quash the Verdicts—The Thomas Affair. Auckland. 
  • Sprott, Jim; Pat Booth (1976). A.B.C. of Injustice. Wellington. 
  • Yallop, David A. (1978). Beyond Reasonable Doubt. Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-23667-1. 
  • Birt, Chris (2001). The Final Chapter. Penguin. 
  • Wishart, Ian (September 2010). Arthur Allan Thomas: The Inside Story. Auckland: Howling At The Moon Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9582401-7-8. 
  • Hunter, Keith (April 2012). The Case Of The Missing Bloodstain : Inside an incompetent and corrupt police inquiry: the truth of the Crewe murders. Auckland: Hunter Productions Ltd. ISBN 978-0-473-19646-2. 

External links[edit]