A week might be a long time in politics, but a month is an eternity in publishing. Since last month's editorial the new book Arthur Allan Thomas: The Inside Story has finally hit the streets to a storm of controversy.
After reading the book, Rochelle – the only daughter of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe – has come forward to call for the case to be re-opened, as have many others. Some of my colleagues in the mainstream media have, however, been too dim-witted to accurately report what I wrote, contributing to a degree of misunderstanding and misinformation floating around in regards to what Arthur Allan Thomas: The Inside Story alleges against the late Detective Sergeant Len Johnston in regard to the Crewe murders.
It is true, as Herald journalist Andrew Laxon wrote this month, that I offer a "speculative" hypothesis of exactly how the murders went down. But that "speculation" is built on a solid foundation of circumstantial and in some cases eyewitness evidence that links Johnston to the crime.
When Laxon wrote that "Wishart...claims that Johnston was nicknamed 'The Fitter' and had a reputation for threats and violence [and Wishart] admits he has no evidence to support his theory", he is demonstrably wrong, as thousands of people who have read The Inside Story now realise.
I have two separate and independent eyewitnesses, one a former police colleague of Johnston's, who told me they had each been personally threatened by Johnston – one directly in regard to the Crewe case. This is new evidence, published for the first time in the book in full. It is direct testimony, not hearsay, as to Johnston's character and actions.
It is true I don't have "hard" evidence that puts Johnston at the murder scene when the shots were fired, but Laxon is wrong to rubbish me for that. I have a darn sight more hard evidence that puts Johnston inside the Crewe house leading up to the murders, whereas police had nothing that put Thomas there and they still managed to convince two juries he was guilty.
The reality is, if anyone had the smoking gun, "I saw him standing beside the bodies" kind of evidence, this Crewe murder mystery would have been solved 40 years ago. We are all here debating the case because there is not a shred of forensic evidence linking any particular individual to the crime scene.
The entire case against Arthur Allan Thomas was built on speculation, and fabricated evidence. As I say, there was no evidence to put Thomas at the crime scene and in fact he had an alibi supported by two people showing he was 15 kilometres away. The argument that Len Demler did it was built on speculation, and no evidence either.
Pat Booth's daft claim that Jeannette Crewe did it then killed herself after shooting Harvey is entirely speculation, and in fact goes hard against the evidence – for example, the blow Pat claims was delivered by Harvey was so viciously hard that it knocked six teeth out, smashed her nose and an eye socket, and according to the pathologist cracked her skull right around like a boiled egg. The pathologist also said the injuries were consistent with the butt of a rifle being smashed into her face with extreme force.
Pat's "domestic violence" theory fails to demonstrate how a mere punch from Harvey could have caused such traumatic skull injuries. More to the point, Pat Booth's theory disintegrates on this: Jeannette was so badly wounded the head injuries alone could have killed her the same way that actress Natasha Richardson died on the skifield last year after whacking her head on the snow, and suffering an epidural hematoma – bleeding on the brain. There was no way Jeannette Crewe was bouncing around helping her father move Harvey's body, and romping with Rochelle as the "mystery woman" seen by witnesses. Further, the angle of the shot into Jeannette's head did not lend itself to suicide, without massive and extreme gymnastics on Jeannette's part, involving holding both arms backwards, and bolt upright into the air, while she lay face down on the ground – a very odd stance for a suicide shot.
I honestly can't understand why the media (TVNZ, the Herald, RadioLive, Otago Daily Times, the Dominion Post) still give a shred of credence to Pat Booth, and allow him to keep twisting the knife into Rochelle and her family with his bizarre, impossible and hurtful allegations against her mother.
In contrast, the case against Johnston that I make in The Inside Story is strong enough for a retired detective inspector, Ross Meurant, to call it "disturbingly possible" in the Herald, and Laxon's opinions need to be measured against Meurant's more informed reading of the evidence and the nuances it presents. The submissions detailing the hard evidence that does exist, the possible motive and Johnston's ample opportunity, are far stronger in fact than Crown Prosecutor David Morris was able to rustle up against Thomas. If you doubt me, read the book.
When Andrew Laxon writes "Even Wishart admits that his theory, which has been dismissed by other commentators, is "entirely speculative" and could be wrong", he quotes me out of context. For a start, the "other commentators" had not actually read The Inside Story when they "dismissed" it, and secondly nowhere in the book do I suggest the facts I've uncovered are "wrong" – the claim is an example of the Herald journalist interviewing his typewriter and missing the keyboard entirely.
Laxon is right that I admit my hypothesis of how the crime might have unfolded in the Crewe house with Johnston is "entirely speculative", but the evidence underpinning this speculation is firm, both circumstantial and direct testimony, and in this regard makes my evidence stronger than the evidence that convicted Thomas and stronger than the evidence used to blame Demler.
Ultimately, the test of whether I've made a convincing argument is over to readers of the book to judge for themselves, but I can't let Laxon's misinterpretation of my case against Johnston to go unchallenged, and the Herald refused to correct their errors – ironic when you consider the other glaring factual mistakes in Laxon's piece that I brought to their attention and which they readily corrected.
Example? Well, the Herald writer opened his synopsis of the case against Thomas by saying police had accused Thomas of perching on a window ledge to shoot Jeannette through an open window, then rushing inside to club her in the face with the gun, then shooting her again on the floor, and finally shooting her husband who evidently had snoozed through the mugging and two gunshots and was still in his armchair. Of course, astute readers will know that was never the police case against Thomas, and Jeannette was only shot once, not twice. It is commonly accepted Harvey was shot first.
If that's what passes for fact-checking at the Herald, somebody pass me a laugh-meter next time they take a supercilious crack at yours truly.
Somebody killed the Crewes. We know it wasn't Thomas, we now know it is highly unlikely to have been Len Demler. We are left with a cop who fabricated the entire case against Thomas, who knew where to get objects only the killer could have known about, who according to a former colleague had lit fires to intimidate, and who threatened to kill people who crossed him. This same cop turns out to have known Jeannette Crewe in advance of the murders, and been in her house, prior to a series of intimidatory arsons and then the murder.
Because of this book, New Zealanders now have a much clearer picture of the Crewe murders than they have ever had in the past, and Rochelle Crewe has come forward as a direct result. The public, and Rochelle, are entitled to ask the obvious questions that arise from Johnston's involvement in the investigation: did he do it? Shouldn't someone be held accountable at some level?
There are two inquiries we need to have, really. The first one is easy. In my view Bruce Hutton should be taken in for questioning, read his rights, and charged under the Crimes Act with perverting the course of justice. The evidence is already there, police could do this tomorrow without breaking a sweat, if they were honest. Of course, finding honesty inside Police National Headquarters is like finding gold in a coalmine.
The second inquiry should be held into who killed Harvey and Jeannette. It is unlikely that court action will follow as, in my view at least, the probable culprit is dead. Nonetheless, a finding based on the civil law test of balance of probabilities would give closure to the Crewe, Demler and Thomas families, and for the rest of us provide some valuable answers to a $50 million investigation made vastly more expensive than it should have been as a direct result of Hutton and Johnston's corruption.