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Authors to discuss new Crewe cut

A famous New Zealand cold case with links to the Wairarapa is shaping up to be a highlight of this year’s Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival.

The Crewe Murders: Inside New Zealand’s Most Infamous Cold Case tells the story of the murder of Waikato farming couple Harvey and Jeannette Crewe, and the subsequent conviction and pardon of farmer Arthur Alan Thomas.

Journalists Kirsty Johnston and James Hollings, the co-authors of the book, will speak to crime writer Steve Braunias, author of Missing Persons.

Harvey Crewe grew up in Pahiatua, in north Wairarapa, and worked on farms in the region before marrying Jeannette Demler from Pukekawa, and moving there to farm in 1966.

The couple disappeared on or about June 17, 1970. Their 18-month-old daughter Rochelle was discovered alone in the house five days later, alive. Three months later, the Crewes’ bodies were found in the nearby Waikato River.

Thomas spent nine years in prison for the murders before being pardoned after a long campaign from supporters and investigative journalists. A Royal Commission of Inquiry found police had planted evidence that led to his conviction.

The murders have inspired several books and a feature film, and in 2014 police reviewed the case, but the killer or killers have never been found.

Hollings said the new book answers some unsolved questions and contributes new insights into the historic case.

“We felt that no one had done a balanced history of the case, and there were many unanswered questions, some of which we did answer – for example, exactly why was Arthur Alan Thomas pardoned,” Hollings said.

“Kirsty and I are really excited to be here in Featherston to talk about the book.

“It is a prestigious national event and it’s a privilege to be asked to it. And we are lucky to have Steve Braunias as our host. We’re really hoping to have a good discussion with him about the true crime genre and true crime writing in general.”

Hollings also highlighted the book’s potential to prompt reflection on miscarriages of justice.

“Hopefully it will make people think about how we deal with wrongful convictions in this country because we still haven’t got it right. This case is the greatest example of a process that went very wrong, which we need to learn from.”

The Crewe Murders, at Kiwi Hall, 62 Bell Street, Featherston, Saturday, May 11, from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm.

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