Thursday, February 25, 2016

27 Years of Fear: New Zealand's Most Dangerous Stalker

After just six days of freedom, the man known as New Zealand's most prolific, and dangerous, stalker is back behind bars.  For 27 years Glenn Green has harassed and intimidated dozens of women by photographing them, lurking outside their homes or workplaces, sending them letters and, as technology progressed, emails and messages on social media; turning their lives into a "living nightmare" as one victim so eloquently put it.

Glenn Green in 2012

Green started his 'career' as a stalker in the 1980s, after making brief contact with a 16-year-old girl on a bus.  He learned the girl's name from her bus pass and used that to track down her address and phone number.  Green began sending her letters, and calling her house, believing that she wanted and welcomed his attentions.  He started following her, lurking outside her school and the places she liked to hang out, camera in hand, taking photographs of her.  Green made the girl's life a misery, and even after he was arrested, refused to believe that she didn't want him.  He told his probation officer that he might believe it if she said it to his face, but anyone familiar with stalking behaviour will recognise this tactic for what it is,  just another attempt to manipulate the victim into having contact with their stalker.

Green's modus operandi is frighteningly simple; he targets attractive women in their late teens or 20s, seeks out their contact details and uses some kind of ruse, and an alias if necessary, to initiate contact.  He told one victim that he was a mutual friend of a friend who'd recently passed away, using her grief to connect with her and get her mobile number.  When she rejected his attempts to pursue a relationship, he became abusive, threatened her and claimed to have connections to a violent gang to frighten her. 

Another victim suffered months of harassment after Green got hold of her mobile number and began texting her, pretending to be an old school friend.  The victim recieved more than 200 text messages from Green in less than a week.  He once again resorted to threats, telling the victim that he was the NZ president of the Aryan Brotherhood, a violent white supremacist group.  He threatened to have her assaulted by members of the gang, and told her that she should commit suicide by hanging herself.

One of Glenn Green's victims has been living with his stalking since 1994.  That's the year I finished high school, I'm 39 now, and I have a 15-year-old daughter.  Green has been stalking this woman for longer than my daughter has been alive.  That's terrifying.

Green has chalked up a long list of criminal charges in 27 years, more than 200 in total, including at least five convictions for criminal harassment, threatening to kill, impersonating police, intimidation, theft, burglary, and over 35 charges of breaching a protection order, all related to his stalking.  He also has a long list of aliases - Glenn Corleone, Gino Versace, Glenn Holden, Glenn Colcord - all of which he uses to try and circumvent the restrictions placed on him by the courts.  Police and probation officers are well aware of his tricks, but nothing seems to deter Green once he has a victim in his sights.

 When I first read that Glenn Green had been sent back to prison, I was relieved, for the women he's victimised, and for any future victims he might have targeted.  Then, after researching and reading articles about him for this post, I realised that prison hasn't stopped Glenn Green at all.  He continues to stalk women from behind bars and has even bragged to prison staff that being in prison makes it easier for him to 'meet' women, and form relationships without interference from the authorities.

Those of you who have listened to season one of the phenomenally popular podcast, Serial, will remember the robot sounding recorded message that plays when someone receives a phone call from a prisoner.  But for those of you who have never heard it...

Prison phone message

...The recording used in New Zealand prisons is somewhat different of course,  the robot voice has a kiwi accent for one, but still, you get the general idea.  Now imagine hearing that when you pick up the phone, and knowing that the person calling is the same person who's made you live in fear for months or even years.  Imagine hearing that and knowing that not even a prison sentence is going to stop that person from harassing you.  Imagine how terrifying it must be to live like that.

In 2015, Green's last court appearance prior to today, his lawyer argued that Green shouldn't be found guilty on two charges of breaching parole conditions because the women he'd been texting and sending letters to hadn't responded, therefore no relationship existed.  And if twisted legal arguments don't work, Green will try to use the justice system to facilitate meetings with his victims, by claiming he wants "restorative justice."  Fortunately, the judges who have dealt with Green thus far have figured out that he's trying to manipulate them, and his requests for restorative justice and mediation have been denied.

So, if protective orders, and prison time haven't worked, what can we do about Glenn Green?  When every possible deterrent the justice system has to offer has been ineffective, what's left?  How can we protect current, and future victims from offenders like Glenn Green?  Do we take away all of his internet, phone and mail privileges? Would the Corrections department even be able to do that, or would that be a breach of his human rights? Green must have family or friends that he is well within his rights to communicate with.  Wouldn't taking away all forms of communication would be unfair to them?  What do we do with somebody like Glenn Green?

I wish I had an answer to that question, but the fact is, I don't, and I'm not sure anyone else does either.

NZ's Worst Stalker - June 2012
Women At Risk From Stalker - June 2014
Court Orders Stalker's Phone, Address Book Destroyed - Mar 2015
NZ's Most Prolific Stalker Back Behind Bars - Feb 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Disappeared: Leo Lipp-Neighbours

Family and friends of Leo Lipp-Neighbours came together on the 20th of February 2016, to unveil a completed off-road buggy that Leo started working on back in 2010, but never had a chance to finish.  The reason he never finished it, is because shortly after he began the project back in 2010, Leo disappeared.  Six years on, he's still missing.

Leo Lipp-Neighbours

January 24th 2010

Leo Lipp-Neighbours, a 19-year-old engineering student, has spent the night drinking with friends at the Phat Club in Nelson's CBD.   After leaving the Phat club, Leo accompanies two of his mates, Ben Clark and Lewis Christie, back to their flat in Watson Street, Washington Valley.  Leo suddenly announces that he is going off to be "one with nature," which his friends take to mean that he is going out to pee in a bush or something.  But Leo doesn't head for any bushes, he gets into his car instead, and is last seen driving his distinctive orange 1987 Toyota Corolla station wagon away from the Watson Street address at around 4am.

The flatmates find no sign of Leo the next morning, calls to his phone go straight to voicemail and he doesn't return to either of his parent's homes.  On January 26th, police launch a missing persons investigation and photos of Leo and his car are distributed to the media.  By the 28th, leads are starting to come in and a possible sighting in Christchurch is investigated.

Crimestoppers poster

Those of you who are old enough to remember the disappearance of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, will probably remember the difficult task that police and searchers are faced with in conducting a missing persons search in the Marlborough Sounds region.  But for those of you who aren't familiar with that case, or the area I'm talking about, lets turn to Google Earth for some assistance...

You can see more maps and images of Marlborough here.

Viewed from above, it looks deceptively flat, but those darker green areas are all hilly, rough terrain with narrow, winding roads, many of them unsealed once you get off the main highway system.  Some of these roads have steep slopes on one side and nothing but air on the other, with switch-back turns and sharp corners where the speed limit drops to 30kms.  If you drive off the road...well, lets just say it's a bit like the ending of Thelma and Louise.  The few people who live among all those inlets and isolated beaches mostly get around by boat, not by car.

The other thing that isn't visible in this image is just how heavily forested the region is.  Those hills are covered in vegetation; rainforest as you get closer to the west coast, pine plantations for logging on the eastern side, and vast tracts of thick native bush across the Abel Tasman and Nelson Lakes National parks.  Not the easiest place in the world to search for somebody.

By the end of January, Leo's family have hired a helicopter to conduct an aerial search of some of the more inaccessible areas of the region.  They also scour the more remote roads of the area from the ground, looking for a possible crash site.  Police and volunteer searchers are now spread out across the wider Marlborough area, searching Queen Charlotte Sounds, Golden Bay, Murchison and the Lewis Pass, but to no avail.  There is no sign of Leo, or his orange car, amidst all the greenery.

At this early stage of the missing persons investigation, police don't believe there is anything suspicious about Leo's disappearance.  The general consensus is that he has probably had some kind of accident and ended up off-road somewhere, or that he's deliberately taken off.   Interviews with Leo's friends and family lead to a third, more tragic possibility, that he may have gone to take his own life.  Ben Clark and Lewis Christie, the friends Leo had been drinking with that night, tell police that he'd been in a very dark mood that evening, saying things like "what's the point?" and that life was "shit."

Family and friends spoke to journalists about this possibility, telling them that alcohol made Leo impulsive, and that he didn't always handle his drinking well.  He'd been picked up driving dangerously while drunk almost a year to the day before he disappeared, and had taken off suddenly on a few occasions while drinking at the same flat. 

But, as more time went by with no sign of Leo, the slow and steady trickle of tips from the public lead police to conclude that darker forces may have been at work.  In 2013, three years after Leo's disappearance, Detective Sergeant Mark Kaveney made a statement to the media that, as a result of leads from the public, they were now treating the disappearance as suspicious.
"I believe that we are now looking for someone who has committed a serious crime against this young man. That person must be held to account."

Detective Kavaney is right, the person or persons responsible for Leo Lipp-Neighbours disappearance does need to be held to account.  Leo's parents, the rest of his family and his friends have waited six years with no answers, no closure of any kind and we cannot even begin to imagine how difficult and how painful that must be.  They will never get those answers or that closure unless people come forward with more information.

Leo Lipp-Neighbours was 19-years-old at the time of his disappearance.  He is 185cm tall with slim build and light brown hair.   He was last seen wearing a yellow t-shirt with black and red writing on the front, blue jeans, and black leather shoes.  His car is an orange 1987 Toyota Corolla station wagon, registration number NQ7258.

If you have any information about Leo Lipp-Neighbours' disappearance, however small or unimportant you might think it is, please do the right thing and come forward.  If you don't want to go to the police for whatever reason than call Crimestoppers and leave an anonymous tip.

Nelson police -  (03) 546 3840.
Crimestoppers - 0800 555 111

Crimestoppers: Leo Lipp-Neighbours

Friday, February 19, 2016

INCESTUOUS JUSTICE: Why New Zealand's court system doesn't always serve the interests of justice

 If you've watched Making a Murderer, you probably already know that when police, prosecutors and judges are all in each others pockets, that's not good for justice.  I'm not talking about some vast conspiracy where all of those people knowingly banded together to frame Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, because I don't know if that's what happened.  I'm talking about a system where the knee-jerk reaction is to protect their own,  and cover up and deny incompetence or misconduct, and ultimately, thwart the justice process.

This can affect almost any justice system, but it's far more likely in smaller areas, because it's a closed system.   Everybody in the system knows everybody else in that system and that's a problem.  In classical mechanics a closed system is defined as....

"...a physical system that doesn't exchange any matter with its surroundings, and isn't subject to any force whose source is external to the system."

 Applied to human systems (societies, cultures, organisations etc) a closed system is one which doesn't have new people coming in and isn't subject to a higher authority.  When it comes to criminal justice, a closed system is an incestuous system, and no I don't mean that the judge is sleeping with his cousin (he might be, but I can't speak to that).   I mean that everybody in that system is affected by the actions of the others in the system, so if somebody screws up, it's going to reflect on the rest.

Obviously there's a limit to this analogy, since Manitowoc County is subject to a higher power; the Nine Levels of Hell, otherwise known as the US system of appeals courts with the Supreme Court at the top.

So, what does that have to do with New Zealand's court system? A lot actually, because New Zealand is also a closed system, a fully closed system now that we've scrapped appeals to the Privy Council in London.  Once you've appealed to the Supreme Court of NZ, that's it.  If you lose that appeal, you're done, do not pass Go, do not collect millions in compensation.  Here's a handy diagram...

You can ignore the bottom level, and those weird bits off the to sides, those have nothing to do with criminal justice, the relevant levels are the District Courts through to the Supreme Court at the top.

The appeals process takes years, even with the Privy Council's removal from the chain.  David Bain had already served 13 years of his 18 year minimum term by the time his conviction was quashed, because that's how long it took for his case work it's way up the chain.  Once a person has been convicted and sentenced, if it's a prison sentence, they can conceivably serve most, if not all, of that sentence before exhausting the appeals process.  This too, is a problem, especially for the wrongfully convicted, but that's not a problem I have any solution for unfortunately.

What I am concerned about is that closed system I mentioned earlier, and how it can derail the justice process.  Once you get past the High Courts, which are located throughout the country, this is when things start to get really insular.  There's only one Court of Appeal, it's in Wellington, walking distance from Parliament.  The Supreme Court is also in Wellington, also not far from Parliament, and since Wellington is our nation's capitol, this isn't surprising or suspicious.  But it does increase the insulation just a little bit, because the judges who sit on these courts all know each other, and they all know most of the major players in politics, business, the media, etc because that's how being small works.

I want to dispell any notion that there is some kind of conspiracy brewing here.  There isn't.  This is what you would expect to find in a small country with a small population, because that's being human works, unless you live in a cave in the Himilaya's or something.

What I am trying to say is that we have to be aware of the incestuous nature of our justice system.  We have to point out when decisions made in the "public interest" are actually being made in the interest of those at the top.  When somebody that is clearly innocent, isn't exonerated by the Court of the Appeals or the Supreme Court, because the judges that sit on those judicial bodies are more worried about making police, or the lower courts look bad, than they are about justice.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


This is the fourth and final part of my in-depth look at the Crewe murders, if you haven't already, read part 1, part 2 and part 3 first.

In 2012, author and documentary film-maker, Bryan Bruce, revealed the contents of letters written by Jeanette Crewe in the weeks before her death. These letters showed that the family was living in almost constant fear. The strange incidents that had occurred over the last two years, the unsolved burglary of the couple's home and arson attacks on both their home and haybarn, had begun to take their toll on Jeanette in particular. The young mother was too afraid to stay in the farmhouse alone, so she and the couple's baby daughter would accompany Harvey throughout the day as he carried out work around the farm, only returning to the farmhouse in the evenings.

Jeanette wrote to her sister, telling her that the family were “barely living, just existing” due to the fear they felt after the unexplained attacks on their property. But the question of who was responsible for the attacks on the Crewe property, and likely also responsible for the murders, has never been answered.
Who were the Crewe's being targeted by? It certainly wasn't Arthur Allan Thomas, he'd been exonerated and subsequant reviews of the evidence in the case has backed up that exoneration. So if Arthur Allan Thomas didn't kill the Crewe's, who did?


1. Len Demler killed his own daughter and her husband

Before the police shifted the focus of their investigation to Thomas, they'd begun building a case against Len Demler, and it was based on a change that May Demler, Jeanette's mother, had made to her will shortly before she died. In 1961, Len Demler was in serious financial trouble over unpaid taxes, which forced him to sell half of his farm to his wife May, who was independently wealthy. May's original will had left equal share of her half of the Demler farm to Jeanette and her sister Heather, with Lenard retaining the use of the farm for the remainder of his life. But Heather had married a divorced man, a marriage May had disapproved of, and which led to her cutting Heather out of her will, and out of her share of the farm.

Was this enough of a motive for Len to murder his own daughter? For police, the theory was made more plausible by Len's strange behaviour in the days following Jeanette and Harvey's disappearance. Remember that Len left his baby granddaughter alone for a further hour after finding her crying in distress in the farmhouse. He went home, called the trucking company to cancel the collection of some sheep, drove to the home of his neighbour, Owen Priest, to pick him up and only then returned to the Crewe farm.

Len Demler during the search

Investigators saw first-hand this strange reluctance of Len's to engage with what was happening, when they arrived on scene and the first searches began. While police and some locals started searching the property for any signs of Jeanette and Harvey, Len Demler went home to draft some sheep. In the following days, as the search area was extended, Len Demler would track parties of searchers from horseback but would never actually join them. Police found this behaviour unusual and downright suspicious. But they were never able to connect Len to any of the physical evidence. Len didn't own a .22 rifle and while two witnesses claimed he may have inheritied a modified shotgun which could have shot .22 bullets, police never found the weapon. They also couldn't connect him to the axle weighing down Harvey's body.

There are other problems too. To believe that Len killed the Crewe's you also have to believe that he was responsible for the burglary and the arsons. But those crimes all took place before May Demler passed away, so what was Len's motive? Furthermore, Jeanette and Harvey were having dinner with Len and May, at the Demler's farm when one of the arsons occurred. So unless Len was able to be in two places at once, he couldn't have set that fire.

Finally, Len Demler was 60 when his daughter was murdered, he had arthritis in one knee and while he would have been capable of shooting the couple, it's very unlikely that he could have moved both bodies on his own and dumped them in the Waikato River. Harvey Crewe was not a small man, he was very tall and weighed around 100kgs, and it would have been very difficult for Len to move his body, weigh it down with an axle that was also very heavy, then dump both in the river. 

2. Murder-suicide

Another popular theory is that Jeanette killed Harvey during an argument and disposed of his body, possibly with help from her father. Then, three days later, took her own life, and was dumped in the Waikato River by Len, in an attempt to cover up what she'd done. This would explain the sightings of a woman on the Crewe farm in the five days before the crime was discovered. However, when Jeanette's body was recovered, the autopsy revealed too important things that really undermine this theory.

First of all, the coroner found evidence that Jeanette had been struck with a blow to the side of her face, and was probably lying on the floor, unconcious, when she was shot. The angle of the shot to Jeanette's head is also completely wrong for a suicide, in fact it's almost impossible to hold a .22 rifle in such a way as to cause the same injuries that Jeanette had. Although, some have suggested that Len may have shot Jeanette, possibly at her request, sometime after she killed Harvey. But I find this highly implausible. Why would Len agree to help his own daughter commit suicide? Ask any parents whether they'd prefer their child to be dead or in jail, and most if not all will probably choose jail. It would explain Len's odd reluctance to join searchers however, if he already knew Jeanette and Harvey were dead, and didn't really want their bodies to be found.

3. The mysterious Farmhand

The defense attourney for Arthur Allan Thomas at his second trial came up with a unique theory of the crime. He alleged that a farmhand who worked for the Crewe's, was responsible for the burglary, the arsons and the murders. The basis for this theory being that the farmhand would have had access to Harvey's .22 rifle, that that rifle was the murder weapon, and probably disposed of in the Waikato River, just as the bodies were, which is why it's never been found. If you're waiting for me to provide a name or more details about this farmhand, I can't, because this one paragraph contains all the information I have about this mysterious suspect. The police certainly never investigated him, they were too busy convicting an innocent man.

4. Detective Len Johnston

In Ian Wishart's book on the Crewe murders, he goes into all-out conspiracy mode and points the finger at Detective Len Johnston, the man who was in charge of the investigation, and was most likely responsible for the planted evidence that helped convict Arthur Allan Thomas. Wishart claims that Johnston had a bad reputation, both in the police force and elsewhere, as a violent and intimidating man that other officers called 'The Fitter” for obvious reasons.

Wishart speculates that Johnston may have been having an affair with Jeanette, or was possibly blackmailing them over the burglary, which he investigated back in 1967. Wishart says that Johnston may have concluded the burglary was an insurance scam and used that to blackmail Harvey and Jeanette. Perhaps the Crewe's threatened to expose him, or just refused to keep paying, so Johnston killed them, using the axle which he'd found on the side of the road where it was dumped, to weigh down Harvey's body. Later, as lead detective in the murder case, Johnston plants the axle stubs in the Thomas rubbish dump to make it look as if Arthur is responsible for the murders. It's a great story, but there's not a shred of evidence to support it, just speculation and theory.

Sadly, every year that passes makes it that much more unlikely that the murders of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe will ever by solved. Rochelle has pleaded with police to reopen the case, and urgently. People age, memories fade, and some of those involved have already passed away. Len Demler died in 1992, Detective Inspector Bruce Hutton died in 2013, and Vivian Thomas, Arthur Allan Thomas's ex-wife, passed away in 2011. Arthur is convinced that his wrongful conviction is what ultimately killed his former spouse, and their marriage as well. I am skeptical that this case is responsible for Vivian's death from cancer, especially as it occurred years later, but I think Arthur's probably right on the money about it ruining his marriage.

The most tragic thing about this entire case though is that Rochelle, who has waited all these years to find out who killed her parents, may never get justice.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mid-Week Crime News 10/2/2016

It's time to take a break from the PCR hearing for Adnan Syed from Serial and take a look at the crime news from this side of the world.

New Zealand

A 32-year-old women jailed for murder as a teen is being released on parole.  Natalie Fenton was jailed at the age of 15 for her part in the stabbing of a elderly South Auckland man, and has spent half of her life behind bars.
Teen Killer gets parole

The man accused of murdering West Auckland woman, Cun Xiu Tian, has lost his bid for continued name suppression in the Auckland high court today.  He is Jaden Lee Stroobant, 19, and his trial has been scheduled for five weeks in November of this year.  A 43-year-old woman has also been charged as part of the police investigation into the death, but has been granted interim name suppression.  Stroobant has entered no plea.
West Auckland Murder Back in Court

A couple found guilty of murdering the woman's husband so they could be together have been sentenced in the Auckland High Court today.  The Crown Prosecuter summed up the murder of Davinda Singh as "brutal and callous," and in a victim impact statement, Singh's son said he will never forgive his mother for what she has done.  Amandeep Kaur and her lover, Gurjinder Singh (no relation to the victim) were co-workers who began having an affair, then plotted to kill Kaur's husband after he discovered his wife's infidelity.  Davinda Singh was stabbed 13 times, and almost decapitated in the brutal attack.  They were both sentenced to life in prison.
Murderous Affair leads to Life Sentences

Finally, from the "Only in New Zealand" file, Dunedin lines company, Delta Power, have been forced to remove dozens of pairs of shoes thrown onto power lines in the student area of the city.  According to a Delta spokesman, the notorious Hyde Street was the worst of the bunch, which surprises no one at all.  They're just lucky they didn't have to dodge burning couches and flying beer bottles to get to the shoes.
Dozens of Shoes Cleared from Dunedin Power Lines


Lifeguards on Sydney's Bronte Beach found a new use for their lifesaving skills, foiling the attempted abduction of a7-week-old baby.  The baby was sleeping on a towel next to his mother when a man grabbed the child and attempted to flee with him.  The mother struggled with the man before lifeguards stepped in.  The baby was unharmed and his mother recieved minor injuries in the struggle.
 Sydney Lifeguards Stop Baby Snatcher

Two weeks ago I reported on a story about three Australian men accused of the gang-rape of a Norwegian backpacker in Croatia.  The men paid a substantial amount of money to escape jail sentences, which has caused outrage both in Croatia and back in Australia, where the men have now returned.  Journalists investigating the three men have turned up disturbing evidence that all three were part of a hypermasculine bodybuilding subculture in which women are objectified and male entitlement is the norm.
Australian Rapists Part of Hypermasculine Bodybuilding Culture

An 11-year-old Aboriginal boy is facing murder charges in the death of a 26-year-old man who was stabbed during a brawl.  The boy is one of four charged with the crime, and is being held in a juvenile facility until his next court appearance, where he will apply for supervised bail.
11-Year-Old Faces Murder Charges

 Pacific Islands

Police in Papua New Guinea are hunting for a Chinese national accused of committing millions worth of fraud in the impoverished Pacific nation.  Zhou Qianbin and his wife,  Ge Jiao Jiao are believed to have stolen around $500'000 NZ from their employer and secretly wired it to accounts in Asia.  Ge Jiao Jiao is believed to have fled PNG for China already, but Zhou, who's passport was confiscated, is believed to still be in PNG despite failing to appear in court this week.
PNG Police Hunt Chinese National over Fraud

 Eight prisoners in New Caledonia have been sentenced to extra terms of imprisonment for their role in an escape attempt and an assault on a prison guard.  In January, 20 prisoners at the Camp Est jail tried to escape the prison, assaulting a guard in the process.  The jail terms will be added to their existing sentences.
 Prison Rioters Face New Charges

Monday, February 8, 2016

Adnan Syed Post Conviction Relief hearing: Day 4

It's been an exciting and adversarial day in the Baltimore court today as the PCR hearing for #AdnanSyed continued into it's fourth day.

First on the stand was State's witness, FBI cell expert Chad Fitzgerald, who became very antagonistic during the defense's cross of his testimony from Friday.  Fitzgerald accused defense attorney C. Justin Brown of handing him "manipulated evidence," referring to the call record and cell tower documents provided.  Brown pointed out that the document was the same document originally provided to Guttierez by the State back in '99, the clear implication being that the State gave Adnan's defense documents that had been doctored to make it that much more difficult to prove his innocence.  Brown was skillfully able to get Fitzgerald to admit that the cell information given to the defense was redacted and totally inadequate compared to the prosecution's documents, which Brown was also able to show to the court, and which  are clearly very different.

This is clear prosecutorial misconduct, and the State's own witness inadvertantly helped to prove it.  Fitzgerald certainly won't be getting any overtime bonuses for his testimony.

Next up was Dave Irwin, an expert witness for the defense, who, as an experienced defense attorney, was called on to critique the representation of Adnan's original defense attorney Christina Guttierez.  Adnan's PCR claim relies on proving ineffective assistance of counsel, or in non-lawyer speak, proving his lawyer back in '99 was derelict in her duty.  For those of you unfamiliar with the case, Christina Guttierez's career took a nose dive shortly after she represented Adnan, resulting in her being disbarred for mishandling client funds and for numerous failures in her cases.  She died only a few years later due to health problems, which Adnan's current attorney claims had a serious impact on her effectiveness in 1999 when she represented Adnan in his two murder trials.

Irwin first testified on Friday, but due to time constraints, both parties elected to postpone his cross-examination and redirect until today.  This time it was prosecutor Thiru Vegetales turn to go on the attack, unfortunately for him it didn't go quite as planned.  Irwin stuck to his guns on the fact that Guttierez had been negligent in her defense by not contacting alibi witness, Asia Chapman, who testified last week.  Thiru tried to turn the tables on Irwin by presenting him with a number of hypothetical scenarios in which an attorney might choose not to contact an alibi witness, but Irwin skillfully dismissed them all.  Irwin's testimony made it very clear that to not contact an alibi witness, even if you never intend to put them on the stand, is a clear example of ineffective assistance of counsel.  He went so far as to say that the only excuse for not contacting said witness would be if that witness lived on a space station, and even then, Guttierez should have called NASA just in case.

Pretty unequivocal really.

These hypotheticals proposed by the prosecution led to yet more hilarious hashtags on Twitter, here are a few of my favourites

After Irwin was done demolishing the State's argument that Guttierez failure to contact Asia was a "strategy," the State called their final witness.  You might remember him from Friday's funniest hashtag, yes, it's former Woodlawn Library security guard #UselessSteve.  Turns out that Steve wasn't so useless after least from a defense point of view, because even though he was the State's witness, he ended up helping to support the defense's case.  Steve, who had to be escorted to the Court by a police detective, because he apparently believes that Twitter trolls are planning to kill him, first testified that there were no security cameras in the Woodlawn Public Library back in '99, only to change his story later on when cross-examined by the defense.  Steve's testimony seems to have hurt the State more than anything, because he came across as indecisive, unsure and said he didn't even know about the Hae Min Lee murder until he was contacted by the State...last week.  That's right folks, one of the State's main witnesses in this hearing didn't know anything about anything until last week.

That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the State's case right there.

The weather started going from bad to worse after lunch, but both sides were able to finish putting their cases.  Both the defense and the State rested at the end of the afternoon session, but with confirmation that the hearing will continue tomorrow, weather permitting, to allow rebuttal witnesses.  It is very likely that one of the defense rebuttal witnesses will be Abe Waranowitz, the AT&T cell expert who testified for the State originally in '99.  Waranowitz contacted the defense team recently after learning that the State had mislead him with regards to what exactly he was testifying to, and he will most likely be called to rebutt the testimony of FBI agent Chad Fitzgerald.

Baltimore Sun article on today's proceedings
The Frisky: Day 4 Recap with funny cartoons from the in-court reporter
Undisclosed: Day 4 recap
Susan Simpson recaps Day 4

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Crewe Murders: Part 3

This is part three of an in-depth examination of the Crewe murders.  Check out Part 1 and Part 2 first.

                        The Trials of Arthur Allan Thomas


In November of 1970, after months of investigation and multiple searches of both the Crewe farm, and the properties of the two main suspects, police arrest local farmer, Arthur Allan Thomas, for the murders of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe.  The motive according to police? Jealousy, because Jeanette rejected Thomas' attentions all those years ago, prior to her marriage to Harvey Crewe, and Thomas' marriage to Vivian.

Arthur Allan Thomas maintains his innocence, but the police have a strong case against him, complete with "smoking gun," or more accurately, smoking bullet casing.  In October, while conducting yet another search of the section surrounding the Crewe house, Detective Sergeant Charles finds a .22 bullet casing in one of the garden beds.  By this time, police know that both Crewe's were killed with shots to the head from a .22 rifle.  They have confiscated more than 70 rifles from Pukekawa locals for test firing, including a .22 belonging to Arthur Allan Thomas, and another belonging to Lenard Demler.  On August 28th, the forensics expert tells investigators that he has excluded all but two of the rifles as the possible murder weapon.

The test-fire cartridge casings are compared to the casing found at the Crewe property and a match is made to .22 rifle belonging to Arthur Allan Thomas.  This cartridge case comes to be known as Exhibit 350.  But as if that wasn't damning enough, the investigation team are also able to link Thomas to the trailer axle found weighing down Harvey Crewe's body.  That trailer, and it's ownership history will go on to become a major point of contention at both of Thomas' trials.

The trailer and the .22

When police finally find Harvey Crewe's body on September 16 1970, he is wrapped in fabric tied with galvanised wire, the kind of wire used for fencing paddocks on farms throughout New Zealand.  Harvey's body is also weighted down, which is why it takes so long to be discovered, tethered with a different kind of wire, copper wire, to a rusty vehicle axle.

Officers hold up the axle found with Harvey's body 

Police immediately begin the task of tracking down the origin of the axle.   On September 18th, Detective Sergeant Jefferies appears on national TV news with axle, asking for members of the public to assist in identifying it's origins.  As a result of this broadcast, Charles Shirtcliffe comes forward and provides information about a trailer he bought in 1956, and subsequently sold to a man working at the Meremere Power Station later that same year.

In October, the NZ Herald publishes a photograph of the trailer provided by Charles Shirtcliffe, along with details of it's sale and an appeal for the power station worker to contact police.  The next day, Patricia Whyte, who recognises the picture as being a trailer she formerly owned, comes forward with details of it's purchase and sale in 1959.

Police are finally putting together a fuller picture of what happened to Jeanette and Harvey Crewe on the night of the murders.  A crime scene photo showing an open window with a clear line of sight to Harvey's armchair suggests that the killer may have shot Harvey from outside the house, through this window, before going in and subduing and shooting Jeanette.  The police stage a reconstruction of this scenario to test it's plausibility, with one of the officers playing the part of Harvey Crewe.  This reconstruction is a success, and demonstrates that the theory of Harvey being shot from outside the house is very plausible.

Reconstruction of Harvey being shot from outside
Police are still focusing on Lenard Demler as their prime suspect at this point, as demonstrated by his being bought in for multiple interviews, and being accused by officers during those inteviews in the hopes of gaining a confession.  This focus shifted significantly in mid-October of 1970, after police recieve a call from Heather Cowly, the step-daughter of Charles Shirtcliffe, who previously owned the trailer.  Cowley tells police that she remembers the trailer being sold to a Mr Thomas who lived on Mercer Ferry Road.

Police immediately visit Thomas and show him a photograph of the axle found with Harvey's body, but Thomas states that he's never seen it before.  They show him a photograph of the trailer, and Thomas agrees that it looks very similar to a trailer that his father had once owned.  Police also speak to Richard Thomas, Arthur Thomas' brother, who remembers driving the trailer to a man in Meremere named Roderick Rasmussen, who conducted repairs on the trailer.  Rasmussen even recycled parts of the old 1929 trailer to build the trailer currently owned by Arthur Thomas.

Slowly but surely, the investigation team are building a case that points, not to Lenard Demler, but to Arthur Allan Thomas.  But what's the motive? Why would Arthur Thomas, a hard working and seemingly happily married farmer, want to murder the young couple?  A review of the leads they already have takes police back to a phone tip from the early days of the investigation, before the bodies had even been found.  Back in July, police had received a tip from a friend of Jeanette's, that Arthur Thomas had once been interested in Jeanette romantically.  It's this tip that gives police the motive they are looking for.  Now they just have to prove it.

The Crown's Case


The Crown prosecutor, David Morris, contends that Arthur Allan Thomas was obsessed with Jeanette Demler, and that he had become so jealous over her marriage to Harvey, that he murdered them both.  Morris even claims that Vivian Thomas, Arthur's wife, is the woman witnesses saw on the Crewe farm in the two days after the disappearance, and that it must have been she who looked after Rochelle.  The Crown's case was as follows...

June 17th 1970, 7-9pm

Arthur Allan Thomas can no longer contain his jealousy over Jeanette's marriage to Harvey Crewe, so he drives to the Crewe farm with his .22 rifle and finds an open louvre window with a clear view to living room, and the armchair where Harvey Crewe is sitting after his evening meal.  Arthur fires through the window, shooting Harvey once in the head, killing him almost instantly.

Arthur then charges in to the house and shoots Jeanette once in the head, she falls in front of the fireplace, leaving the blood smears that are clearly visible in the crime scene photos.  Arthur drags the bodies to his car, leaving the bloody marks found by the doorstep.  He wraps the bodies in fabric, tied with galvanised wire taken from his farm, ties Harvey's body to the axle from his decomissioned trailer, and dumps both bodies in the Waikato River.  

The jury is convinced by the overwhelming physical evidence and expert testimony; the bullet casing from Arthur's .22, the axle and the galvanised wire, both traced back to Arthur Allan Thomas.  They find Thomas guilty, and sentenced him to life imprisonment.  On appeal in 1972, Arthur Allan Thomas' conviction is quashed by the Privy Council and a new trial is ordered.  But he is convicted again, by a second jury, based on the same theory of the crime, and most of the same evidence.  Case closed.

There's just one problem.  It was all a lie.

In October of 1970, Detective Sargeant Charles breaks the case wide open when he finds that bullet cartridge on the Crewe farm, that is later matched to Arthur Allan Thomas' .22 rifle.  Lead investigators claim the reason it wasn't found earlier is because that particular section of garden had not been searched previously, and that it was noted during a conference of the investigation team that same month.  Enter Constable Ross Meurant.  He remembers the Crewe case very well, because it was his very first homocide inquiry, and he wanted to do things "by the book."  Meurant had searched that section of garden back in August, and even dug up a small shrub so he could sieve the dirt looking for evidence.  Meurant maintains that had there been a bullet cartridge in that garden back in August, when he searched that area, he would have found it.  Which means that someone must have placed it there after the initial search, for an unsuspecting D.S Charles to find.

D.S Charles points out where the bullet cartridge was found

Then there's the trailer axle, and the matching axle stubs that went with it.  The axle had been traced back to a trailer once owned by Arthur Thomas Senior, and later used for parts by Rod Rassmussen.  The Thomas family testified in court that Rassmussen had cut the axle stubs off the axle bar, but had not returned those parts to the Thomas's once he was finished building the new trailer.  However, Rassmussen asserts that he did return the axle stubs, and that they were thrown into the Thomas farm's rubbish dump.  Those axle stubs were later found in that rubbish dumping area by lead investigator, Detective Len Johnson.

Six young men came forward to testify that they had towed an old car from the Thomas farm five years earlier, along with an old axle, which they later dumped on the far side of Pukekawa along with other unwanted junk from the old vehicle.  

Things weren't looking good for the Crown or the NZ Police, and they only got worse after veteran journalist Pat Booth wrote a series of scathing articles.  Sarah Keonig was not the first journalist to uncover a glaring case of wrongful conviction.  Pat Booth was able to prove that although both bullet cartridges had the stamp on the bottom, the stamps didn't match, meaning they hadn't come from the same production line at the same time.  The cartridge from the Crewe farm came from somewhere else, and had been planted.

Comparison of bullet stamps showed no match 

Did I mention that Arthur Thomas had an alibi for the night of June 17th 1970? Well, he did.  Thomas's wife Vivian and his cousin, Peter Thomas, both testified that Arthur had stayed home all night, nursing a sick cow instead of attending a ratepayers meeting in Pukekawa that was scheduled for that evening.

Public anger and outrage was growing, as was the evidence that the police investigators had manufactured the case against Arthur Allan Thomas.  In 1980, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon recommended to the NZ Governor General that Thomas receive a full pardon.  The Governer General agreed, and Arthur Allan Thomas was pardoned and released after 9 years behind bars.

Coming up in part 4, the final episode of the Crewe Murders.....

Why was Jeanette Crewe to scared to stay in her house alone in the weeks before her murder?

Who really killed the Crewes? Alternate theories

Friday, February 5, 2016

Adnan Syed's Post-Conviction Relief Hearing: Day 3



One of the biggest things to come out of day 3 of Adnan's PCR hearing, at least on social media, was the #UselessSteve hashtag.  This morning, the court heard testimony from defense witness Michele Hamiel, who was manager of the Woodlawn Public Library back in 1999.  Her testimony, cross and redirect didn't take very long, but in that short time, Ms Hamiel managed to crack up the entire courtroom, and for bonus points, completely discredit the guy that the State had planned to call next, one of their "super secret bombshell" witnesses, former Library security guard, Steve.

According to Ms Hamiel, back in 1999 the students of Woodlawn used to refer to the library security guards as "2.5" because, if cops are "5.0" than Woodlawn security guards are half that LOL.   Remember that Woodlawn Public library is practically on the campus of the high school, which is why the students have opinions about the security guards.  But that's not all, Woodlawn students apparently saved a special place in their hearts for security guard Steve, or as they liked to call him, Useless Steve.  He was the Paul Blart, Mall Cop of library security. It's unclear exactly what his testimony would have been, but the general consensus from those observing this trial firsthand is that the State will most likely not call Steven at this point, because they're already a laughing stock and don't want to make it worse.

*Disclaimer* I can never remember the last name of the bloke who is playing the part of the prosecuter at Adnan's PCR hearing, so I'm just going to use random words starting with v instead.  Like "vagasil" or "velociraptor." 

Next up was David Irwin, an incredibly skillful and experienced defense attorney, who testified for the defense as to Christian Gutierrez' failures in this case.  He helped to expand on the defense's overall theme, that basic work that should have been done in Adnan's defense was not done, such as contacting alibi witnesses like Asia, following up on possible security footage of Adnan and Asia in the library, and a bunch of other stuff.  Thiru Vaporator tried to claim that this wasn't proof of incompetence on Gutierrez' part, but was in fact part of an overall strategy, which even the legally ignorant like me realises is complete and utter bullshit.  But, by all accounts, Irwin ripped Prosecuter Vavavavoom to shreds and he got his widdle lawyer panties in a twist, again.

Next to take the stand, to counter Gerald Grant's testimony on the cell tower evidence, was FBI cell tower expert, Chad Fitzgerald, who underwent one hell of a rough cross thanks to Adnan's lawyer, C. Justin Brown who is a certified badass! Thanks to this little exchange, we got our second hilarious hashtag of the day #DudeWheresMyHelicopter

The court has now adjourned, and the hearing will resume on Monday (early Tuesday morning if you're in Aus or NZ like me).  Sorry I don't have links to the Undisclosed podcast's Day 3 update, or Sarah Keonig's #SerialUpdate, but I will add them to this post as soon as they become available, so check back soon.

Undisclosed:Day 3 Recap
Serial: Day 3 Recap
The Frisky: Day 3

And finally, I leave you with proof that even when you're in prison, your little bro will still give you arseholes! XD

Video of Adnan leaving court

Adnan Syed's Post-conviction relief hearing: Day 1 and 2

              Post-conviction relief and what it means

**I realise the summary and links for Day 1 should have gone up much earlier than this, but because I am in New Zealand, with BIG timezone differences, I am asleep for some of what's going on, doing life stuff at other crucial times, and yeah....So sorry about that.

For those of you who don't understand what post-conviction relief is, it's basically the argument that a lawyer has been corrupt or incompetent and that's why the defendant lost the case, therefire the court should grant some form of post-conviction relief, essentially, a new trial. So Adnan's lawyer needs to prove that Christina Guttierez, Adnan's original trial attorney back in 2000/2001, was incompetent, and that the mistakes she made were actually mistakes and not just "strategy."  Because lawyers get -A LOT- of leeway on these things.  Proving a post-conviction relief case is apparently always quite difficult, but because Guttierez's mistakes are so glaringly obvious to anyone with a brain and a basic knowledge of the US justice system, and because she was disbarred for unethical conduct shortly before her death from multiple health issues in 2004, Adnan has a better case than most people who take this type of appeal to court.

Day 1:

Day one began with Adnan's amazing lawyer, C. Justin Brown, bringing up his first two witnesses, two lawyers who worked with Christina Gutierrez from the mid to late 90s and witnessed her obvious decline in the years leading up to her disbarment.  They testified to her spiral from very successful defense lawyer to someone who was in constant pain, mishandling client funds, passing cases off and having inexperienced law student interns carry out crucial tasks which should have been handled by an experienced trial attorney, or a long-term law clerk.

Next was Asia McClain's testimoney, she's a former student at Woodlawn high school, and knew both Adnan and Hae.  Back in 1999, after Adnan was arrested for Hae's murder, Asia wrote him in jail to tell him that she remembered being with him in the Woodlawn Public Library next to the school at the exact time that the State alledges he was murdering Hae Min Lee.  Adnan told Christina Gutierrez about Asia's letters, but Gutierrez never followed it up, never even called Asia.  This, according to Adnan's legal team, amounts to a serious case of 'dropping the damn ball,' and yes, that is the technical term for it.

Asia was very strong in the stand, she stuck to her guns on what she remembered, despite being accused of lying on behalf of her friend Adnan.  Except, that Asia and Adnan weren't friends, they were aquaintances who knew each other, but weren't good friends who hung out regularly or anything.  Which begs the question, why would someone who wasn't really a friend go to all this trouble 17 years later and risk a charge of perjury and contempt of court to lie for someone they didn't know all that well?  You can make that call for yourself.

As expected the prosecution attacked Asia from all sides.  They questioned her memory of events from 17 years ago, and also accused her (in an indirect manner) of lying on Adnan's behalf.  Which probably wasn't the greatest tactic by the prosecuter because she's 5 months pregnant and very sympathetic as a witness.  But by all accounts, Asia did an amazing job on the stand.
Cross-examination of Asia by the prosecutor continues on Day 2.

Serial Update: PCR hearing Day 1
Undisclosed Podcast: PCR hearing Day 1
The Frisky: Breakdown of Day 1

Day 2:

*Disclaimer* I can never remember the last name of the bloke who is playing the part of the prosecuter at Adnan's PCR hearing, so I'm just going to use random words starting with v instead.  Like "vagasil" or "velociraptor." 

Asia returned to the stand for cross-examination by prosecuter Thiru Vajayjay, who seems to have backed away from the "you're lying for a friend" side of things, probably because Asia comes across so well and so sympathetically that it was making him look like a total douchebag.  Instead, Thiru focused on the number of snow days in January of '99, because the weather played a big part in Hae's disappearance and people's experiences and memories of that day and the days that followed.  Essentially Thiru tried to prove that Asia was somehow mistaken in her memory of being with Adnan in the library.  She stood her ground though, so he still came off looking like a douchebag.

The final part of day 2 was the witness testimony from Gerald Grant, an expert on historical cell phone evidence.  Cell phone evidence which was a HUGE part of why Adnan was convicted back in 2000.  But, for those of you who haven't heard, that evidence has seriously come into question since then.  So much so that the AT&T Cell expert who testified for the State back in 2000, has now provided an affidavit for the defense, and been interviewed extensively by the current expert witness, Gerald Grant, prior to his testimony.

There was heavy focus on the cover letter from AT&T that was sent to the State with the cell phone records, and which made very clear that the records given cannot be used to interpret cell phone location.  Which is exactly the way the prosecution went on to use them, despite being told they can't be used for that.  It's also important to note that in recent years the accuracy of determining location using cell tower pings has been seriously questioned because the conditions are too variable for reliability.

Thiru Vinagrette ended his day on a low note by getting very, very angry at the cell expert for not giving him the answers he wanted.  Totally lost his cool and looked like a dick.  It will be interesting to hear what Thiru's FBI cell "expert" has to say on Day 3.

 Serial Update: PCR hearing Day 2
Undisclosed Podcast: PCR hearing Day 2
The Frisky: Breakdown of Day 2 (part 1) 
The Frisky: Breakdown of Day 2 (part 2) 

Come back later today for a summary of day 3 with relevant links

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Adnan Syed Hearing

Hi everybody,

I just wanted to let you know that all current ongoing blog projects; the Crewe Murders and the Mid-Week Crime Wrap, will be going on hold for a few days so I can closely follow the hearing into Adnan Syed's appeal for post-conviction relief.  I will not be reporting on the case as such, simply because there's much better, more experienced journalists and bloggers all doing that exact same thing and many of them are people who are actually sitting in on this hearing.  I am just a crime blogger from New Zealand, I can't do justice to a case so far away, but I can make sure to post all the most reliable links to articles, blogs and podcasts on this developing story, and that's exactly what I'll be doing.

Sarah Koenig, who started all of this, is reporting from the hearing and you can hear her daily updates on iTunes, Stitcher, or on the Serial Season One website.
Bobb Ruff from the Truth and Justice podcast, who has done an amazing job of uncovering new evidence in this case, is also at this hearing and will be giving live updates via periscope @serialdynasty and Twitter @TruthJusticePod.

If you've stumbled on to this blog accidently, and you have no idea who Adnan Syed is, cos you've been living in hermetic seclusion or something, and you want to know what I'm talking about, you'll have to start where I started, with the Serial Podcast.  You'll see three buttons with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 on them, ignore those and go to episodes just below that part.  Those buttons are links to Serial's creator Sarah Koenig's daily reports from Adnan's hearing, you won't understand what on earth she's blathering on about if you haven't listened to Serial first. 

#FreeAdnan #Serial #JusticeForHaeMinLee