Monday, January 25, 2016

The Crewe Murders: Part Two

STOP! This is part two, if you haven't read part one, you can do so here

                                The Police Investigation 


*Warning* This post contains material related to the murder of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe.  There are NO images of the bodies, and all the images and other material used in this blog are freely available on the NZ Police website, but in case you are sensitive to this sort of thing, reader discretion is advised

June 23 1970


Jeanette and Harvey Crewe are missing, their daughter has been found alone and crying in her crib, seemingly abandoned.  The only clues, bloodstains on the living room carpet, indicating some act of violence has occurred at unassuming, rural farmstead.  The usually quiet countryside is anything but on the morning of June 23rd, as police descend on the Crewe farm to begin their investigations in earnest. 

Aerial view of Crewe farm
Inside the house, every room is photographed, along with any points of specific interest.  Such as, the dining room table, where the remains of the Crewe's dinner still sits, as if whatever happened here interrupted the family just as they were finishing their evening meal.

Dining room with meal remains still in place
Harvey's armchair has a prominent bloodstain on the right side of the seat cushion.  Police also find blood spots underneath this chair, indicating it may have been moved after the attack, though why remains a mystery.  Certainly not to cover up the bloodstains since there are a several much larger stains left in plain sight.
Harvey Crewe's bloodstained armchair
 Pathologist Doctor Cairns examines the blood stains on the living room carpet, on Harvey's armchair and on the farmhouse's back stairs.  He takes samples  for later analysis and advises investigators to search the house and the section immediately surrounding the house for a weapon.

 Two of the team's constables are detailed with searching for this possible weapon, as well as any other important clues.  They make a grid search of the lawn and garden, but they fail to find anything deemed relevant to the investigation.  You'll want to remember this little detail, it's going to be important.

 Meanwhile, in the Crewe's wool shed, a base of operations has been set up to co-ordinate the nearly 80 people, both police and civilians, who have turned out to search the area for Jeanette and Harvey, who, it's presumed, could still be alive.  The searchers are divided up into      small parties and each one given a certain area in which to focus their search.  These searchers are later joined by police dog teams, and naval divers are also sent in to assist in searching the waterways around the area.

The Wool Shed base of operations
 Later that afternoon, Rochelle is taken to the offices of Doctor Fox, who performs an examination of her general level of health, and determine what ill effects she may be suffering due to the length of time she'd been left unattended.  Fox determines that Rochelle cannot have been alone for the entire five days since her parents went missing.  He notes that she has quite serious nappy rash due to being left unchanged for a considerable period, has lost 1-2lbs in weight and is very anxious and constantly clings to Mrs Willis, the neighbour caring for her.  Fox approaches the lead detectives and advises them of his findings, and insists that Rochelle was only left unattended for 72 hours at the most, not the five days since her parents disappearance.  You'll want to remember this detail as well, it's also going to be important later on.

Wound trajectory for Jeanette Crewe
 In the weeks following the initial discovery of the crime scene at the Crewe farm, police widen their search to include the Waikato River and much of the Franklin District.
But they do not find the bodies until the morning of August 16, when Joseph Charles Adams and John Henry Gerbowitz make their way down to the Waikato riverbank, about 10kms downstream from Tuakau bridge, to rig up their setnets for a day's whitebaiting. 

They find Jeanette Harvey's body floating in the river, wrapped in material and tied with copper wire.  The Crewe investigation team are contacted, and pathologist Doctor Cairns accompanies them to retrieve the body.  Cairns conducts a cursory examination on the scene and determines that Jeanette had been shot with a single .22 bullet to the head.
Wound trajectory for Harvey Crewe

It takes police another full month to find Harvey's body, on September 16.  Harvey is found also wrapped in material and bound with wire.  His body is weighted down, tied to a vehicle axle with the same wire binding the body.  Harvey's autopsy determines that he too, was killed with a single gunshot to the head.

The Suspects

In February 1970 May Demler, Jeanette's mother dies after a long illness.  Lenard Demler continues to live and work his 465 acre farm alone, but regularly has dinner with his daughter and Son-in-law, on the neighbouring farm.  After the murders, Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton, is convinced that Demler murdered Jeanette and Harvey, and that his motive is connected to his wife's recent death, and the allocation of her estate.  Police immediately act on these suspicions, taking Demler's car for forensic examination and bringing him in for interviews on a number of occasions.

Blood spots in Demler's car  
Initially, it seems as if Detective Hutton's suspicions are bang on.  Blood spots are found on the back seat of Demler's car, and matched to Jeanette's blood type (no DNA testing back in 1970 folks).

Then, there's Demler's odd behaviour, from the time he discovers his grandchild alone in the house, and during the search for Jeanette and Harvey.

Demler is the first one to discover the crime scene, but leaves his granddaughter, despite her distress, alone again for nearly an hour while he returns home to cancel the pick-up of a load a sheep, then drives to the home of his neighbour, Owen Priest before returning to the Crewe residence.

The next day, just about everybody in the Pukekawa area turns out to help with the search for Jeanette and Harvey.  The men join police in their search efforts, the ladies provide tea, coffee and sandwiches to keep the searchers going.  But Lenard Demler shows no interest in helping to search for his daughter and Son-in-law.  Hutton sees these behaviours as suspicious, and on the same day that police begin their search for the Crewe's and their investigation of the home, Hutton has his first official interview with Lenard Demler.

Demler is asked to relate the events which led to his finding the house in the state that it was, and he also relates the nuisance crimes that occured in the years and months before the murder; specifically, the house fire, the barn fire, and the burglary.

Lenard Demler's Ford Cortina
Demler is interviewed again, on June 24th, and asked to account for his movements from June 15th to June 22nd, the day of the murder.  Police conduct searches of his property and vehicles, but nothing of significance is found at this time, though police do find blood in the back of Demler's Ford Cortina once they have taken the car back to HQ.

On June 26,  Demler is interviewed again, and Detective Hutton tells him that he believes he is responsible for the murders.

A week later, on July 2, another suspect comes up on Detectives radar.  A friend of Jeanette's comes forward and tells the investigation team that local farmer, Arthur Allan Thomas, had once persued Jeanette romantically, prior to her marriage to Harvey Crewe.  Jeanette firmly rejected Thomas however, and he had appeared to take it quite well at the time, going on to marry his current wife, Vivian, and leasing a farm on Mercer Ferry Road.  Police also learn that a brush and comb set gifted to Jeanette by Thomas, was supposedly among the items stolen from the Crewe house when the house was burgled in July 1967.

At this point, Demler is still the investigative team's main suspect, they continue to interview him time and time again, accusing him of the murder, questioning why he left Rochelle in her crib for so long after he supposedly "discovered" the crime scene; was it because he was actually using that time to clean up evidence? They accuse him of using his car to move the bodies and point out the blood evidence they have backing up that theory.  Demler is interviewed on no less than 15 occasions, sometimes at the station, sometimes the wool shed HQ and sometimes in his own home.

  He is taken through the Crewe home twice and asked to account for the location of various items and furniture (which may have been moved from their normal positions according to witnesses).

 But while the investigators continue to focus on Demler, they are also beginning to find out more about their other suspect, Arthur Allan Thomas.  They have already interviewed Thomas briefly at his farm, taken fingerprints, and examined his car, a Hillman Super Minx, for blood or other signs that he had used it to move the bodies of the Crewe's.  They find nothing.  After Jeanette's body is found, nothing much changes, and detectives still believe that Demler is their best suspect, but the discovery of Harvey's body changes everything.

Coming up in part three....

The police case against Arthur Allan Thomas.

Accusations of evidence tampering.

Two trials and a Royal Pardon.

If you're interested in examining the evidence, witness statements, pathologists reports and the other documents for yourself, you can find them all on the New Zealand Police website as part of their 2014 review of this case

2014 Crewe Murder Review

1 comment:

  1. We have evidence to show a great injustice...evidence and statements provided to us by Des Thomas