The man who was pardoned of the infamous 1970 Crewe murders was back in court for the first day in his trial for historical sexual offending.
A jury of eight men and four women has been selected to decide the fate of Arthur Allan Thomas, 83, at Auckland’s Manukau District Court.
He faces four charges of indecent assault and one charge of rape, all historical in nature, but his counsel alleges none of the incidents happened, and are all a fabrication.
The allegations relate to two complainants who have automatic name suppression. They came forward to police in 2019.
They will each give oral evidence in court, among a list of 12 witnesses to be called.
One witness will give evidence from an adjoining room to “reduce stress and strain” of addressing an entire courtroom, Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins QC told the jury.
This witness independently corroborates the accounts of both complainants and was present for some of the alleged offending, the court heard.
Meanwhile, Thomas’ lawyer Marie Dyhrberg QC said the defence denies any of the offending took place, saying the allegations were a fabrication.
“These allegations are not true. [Thomas] is crystal clear on that position,” she told the courtroom.
“These allegations did not happen.”
The jury will also be shown photographs and the agreed facts.
However extensive suppression orders prevent the Herald from publishing the agreed facts and further details, such as the date and place of the alleged offending.
Judge John Bergseng acknowledged the “unusualness” of the suppression order being made but said without it, there is a real risk of the complainants’ identities being known.
Thomas has pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
He did not pursue permanent name suppression. His interim name suppression lapsed in December 2019.
He sat quietly in the dock alongside one security guard for the first day of his trial. Thomas is currently on bail.
Opening arguments from the Crown did not begin until 3pm despite the jury being empanelled at 10am.
The trial is set down for 10 days.
1970 Crewe murders
Thomas was convicted of the murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe who were shot dead in their Pukekawa farmhouse in June 1970 and dumped in the Waikato River.
He was found guilty of the killings in 1971 and again at a retrial in 1973.
But in 1979, after he had spent nine years in prison, he was granted a pardon after an investigation was ordered by then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.
A 1980 Royal Commission of Inquiry found that a cartridge case in the Crowe’s’ garden – said to have come from a rifle belonging to Thomas – was planted at the scene by detectives.
Thomas was granted a royal pardon and awarded $950,000 in compensation.
In 2010, the Crowe’s’ only child, Rochelle, asked police to reopen the homicide investigation in a bid to find her parents’ killer.
The request led to a police review of the murders, which was overseen by independent counsel David Jones QC.
It also saw Thomas and his family re-interviewed by police in 2013.
The review was released in July 2014, with Jones concluding the cartridge was false evidence “beyond reasonable doubt”.
The police officer accused of planting a cartridge case, Inspector Bruce Hutton, went to his grave denying he framed Thomas.
The Crewe murders remain unsolved, while Thomas has never received a formal apology from the government or police.
Additional reporting by Sam Hurley
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