If there's one person who knew more than he ever said, it was Detective Chief Inspector Bruce Hutton. Hutton led the police inquiry into the infamous 1970 murders of Pukekawa farmers Harvey and Jeanette Crewe - the case that wrongly sent Arthur Allan Thomas to jail twice.
A Royal Commission of Inquiry later found that Hutton and another officer planted a shell case, thus framing Thomas...but that was as far as things ever went. Now the retired policeman faces his Maker: he died last weekend at 84.
The brother of Arthur Allan Thomas says it's a travesty that Hutton never faced criminal charges. Des Thomas says police had more than 30 years to charge Hutton and they failed. His death means police are now off the hook, yet "he was the most discredited police officer in NZ history." One of Arthur Thomas's former lawyers, Peter Williams QC, calls the case "the epitome of police malpractice."
Meanwhile, police have paid tribute (!!!) to Hutton, saying he was a dedicated officer who made significant contributions to many inquiries over his 20 years' service. Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush: "It is fitting that police recognise his whole career, even though it is the Crewe investigation for which his name is most often associated."
In 2010 the police launched a review of the Crewe murder case, promising a comprehensive re-examination of the evidence, following questions raised by the Crewe's daughter, Rochelle, into the original investigation. That review, involving 90,000 pages of evidence dating back 40 years, is almost done. The next step will be for the police review to be independently checked by a senior QC.
Des Thomas says the air has not been cleared. He's met the review team to discuss Hutton's conduct and fears his death will render the review redundant. He says the NZ police force will now be known throughout history for never charging their own officers.
So many questions remain: just who DID do it? And WHY did Hutton frame Thomas? Was Arthur just easy meat, or was Hutton protecting someone?
One thing's for sure: Bruce Hutton - just like the murderer - has walked away clean...