A Good Man Does Something

Another instalment of my autobiography before I revert to my normal blogs

In the first few weeks after arriving in New Zealand, before starting my new job, I listened to the radio in John’s little home, trying to get the hang of this new society. I heard one item which seemed to rivet the whole crime-free nation… about a farmer and his wife, Harvey and Jeannette Crewe who had disappeared, and now their bodies had been found in the Waikato river.

Some time later, I learned with everyone else, that another farmer had been arrested for their murders. I never read crime pages, so knew no more. In the meant- time I was settling into my new life and my new job, and eventually, new relationship. I learned later that the Assistant Editor had said to himself at the end of my surprisingly long job interview – “Watch it Booth,”

But he hadn’t, and we became – I thought – good friends on the strength of his frequent trips to my typewriter bearing cables from all over the world that he thought would interest me. Everyone else was apparently aware of the situation, but I counted him among my other visitors.

But when at the end of my first year in the job, I heard that he was leaving to go and try to resurrect a rather boring Catholic newspaper, I felt a sudden sense of  abandonment, and realised that I’d come to rely on his support and friendship. When I told him how I felt, the friendship moved to another level, except that I also told him that if he didn’t feel he could tell his wife about meeting me, then it wasn’t ok.

I had no intention of breaking up a marriage, even though I knew it had limped on since a drama five years before I arrived in the country. My words, plus domestic dramas, the stress of his newspaper, and collision with the Bishop and Catholic church, caused him to end up in the heart unit of Auckland hospital. During the next ten days, as he struggled with life, I realised I loved him, and that he might die and I’d never even held hands with him.

When he came out of hospital we came to an agreement. He’d decided to separate from his wife and we would eventually marry. So we did. He resigned from the Catholic newspaper and the Auckland Star took him back with open arms. At the same time, the news item I’d heard on the radio two years before suddenly assumed significance. Arthur Thomas, the farmer convicted of the double murder had many supporters who were convinced that he was innocent.

They had formed what was called The Arthur Thomas Re-Trial Committee, and had managed to get the case re-heard by several judges, and finally won a second trial for Arthur Thomas. On the strength of the evidence, Pat Booth was convinced that he would be found not- guilty, and released. He decided to get Thomas’s story and negotiate for it himself, so attended some days at the Supreme Court.

He began to feel troubled by the atmosphere in the court – prosecution versus Thomas supporters. The day the verdict was due, he was going home, and decided if he saw a parking space, he’d stop and go in.

There was. He did. He arrived as the jury delivered their verdict of Guilty. The uproar that broke out, rage, despair, wails, screams, shouts, tears, Vivien Thomas, his wife, running down the court to face the jury crying “What sort of people are you? he’s innocent,” and Arthur Thomas’s mother’s anguished cry “There is no justice here” shocked him profoundly. He came home very upset, and said he would have to investigate what was behind all this.

As he’d watched and listened in the last few days of the trial he’d become convinced that this was no impartial justice involving police, lawyers and judges, but an un-equal struggle between the power of the State and an individual with one hand tied behind his back. He’d watched the way the family were victimised, their seats in the public gallery taken from them and a burly policeman sitting in the seat where Arthur’s mother sat so she could see him.

Arthur was bullied and harassed in cross questioning – instructed to answer yes or no when neither response was correct, and when to answer that way would be to fall into a carefully prepared trap which Thomas could see for himself, but got no protection from his pleasant but bumbling lawyer.

So began seven years of study, investigation, travel all over the world, interviews, police harassment, hostility from many sections of society especially the police and the legal profession, and even phone-tapping.

The police soon realised that Patrick was investigating their work, and strange things began to happen. The first was my beautiful leather brief case being stolen from my parked car… the thieves obviously thought it was Patrick’s, having discovered where we lived. The next thing was waking in the night, and seeing a tall man in a grey suit with a stocking over his head at the foot of our bed, as he reached into where Patrick’s suit jacket was hanging in the wardrobe. I sat up and cried out: “there’s a man in the room” and he bolted, blundering into my daughter’s bedroom on the way to the front door.

Patrick raced after him, but the man disappeared into the Domain. I was just ringing the police, when he returned. Don’t bother he said – that WAS the police. In the mean-time, Patrick had contacted the forensic scientist for the defence,  Dr Jim Sprott, who had had his theory about the bullets that killed the Crewe husband and wife, shot down in court.

Patrick had the cartridge cases that were supposed to be  from bullets which had killed the couple blown up in the newspaper darkroom. The photos showed that the cartridge cases had different markings stamped on the base. This was crucial, because these markings showed the date the cartridge cases had been made, and they didn’t match the year when the No 8 bullets found in the bodies had been made. This proved that it was impossible for the cartridge cases and the bullets ever to have been together . This discrepancy was at the heart of the case.

The cartridge cases had been found in the murdered couple’s garden three months after it had been strip-searched, and so it was something of a ‘miracle’ when the police found them. By ‘finding’ them they were able to match them to the marks made by Arthur Thomas’ rifle, the person they’d already decided was the guilty man.

He lived happily on his farm with his wife Vivien, ten miles away. In his youth he had had a crush on Jeanette Crewe, and the police had decided that over ten years later, maddened by jealousy of her husband of several years, he’d travelled across country on a bitter rainy winter’s night, and shot them both through the window. He then returned to his wife’s warm bed ! His alibi was that he was in his cow-shed tending to a sick cow, and his wife’s testimony was discounted.

Patrick’s investigations showed that many small but incriminating details had been tweaked, altered or omitted between the first and second trials by both police and crown prosecutor in order to secure a guilty verdict. The collaboration between Patrick and Jim Sprott whose professional reputation was at stake, was an intricate detective story in itself.

It took them to the ICI ammunition factory in Melbourne where, by tracing ten- year- old manufacturing records, they demonstrated to the company the distinctive wear marks of the stamps on the bottom of the cartridge cases which could chart the dates of their manufacture. ICI became fascinated by the course of the story, as were many others.

Patrick had already written a damning book in a few weeks, but his publisher’s legal counsel advised against publishing the manuscript. So in a couple of days he reduced the incriminating story to ten newspaper articles which were then taken up and published all over the country. They caused an uproar. No-one had ever queried or criticised the legal profession or the police in this peaceful law-abiding country, and many people  were now shocked and disquieted.

The legal profession and the judges were up in arms, protecting their profession, but the attorney general ordered the case to go to the Court of Appeal while Patrick and Jim were in Australia. It looked like a victory and I rang to tell him. Then it was disclosed that the police had removed the vital cartridge cases from the Police Museum and buried them outside Auckland in a rubbish tip of several hundred acres. Strangely they were never called to account for this obstructive action.

By now we had moved to the country, and we discovered that both our phones, and Jim Sprott’s were being tapped. When a technician checked our lines for repair and found a double jumper on them at the exchange, we knew we had been spied on. We felt we were under constant surveillance. Witnesses who Patrick interviewed were also visited by the police afterwards and told their evidence was not needed and therefore they did not have to go to the Court of Appeal.

Every visit Patrick made to CAC, the ammunition manufacturers in Auckland, was followed by a visit from the police, attempting to silence them, while obstacles were continually put in Patrick’s way, even when they went to Australia. And  twenty-six thousand cartridges from all over the country were sent to him and Jim Sprott for them to verify their theory by inspecting the bases of the cartridges cases. Even I became an expert, and could look at the bottom and identify them – Big C, Little C, depending on the date of manufacture.

The case dominated our family life for the next eight years. Even the children were caught up in fall-out at school, where other children parroted their parent’s responses to Patrick’s ‘trouble- making’ work’, while at a Royal garden party, a judge cut us dead, turned his back and walked away when we were introduced as we chatted on the lawns of Government House.

Most disheartening of all was to discover that the Crown Law Office had framed the questions to be answered at the new Court of Appeal in such a way that Patrick and the Re-Trial Committee and lawyers had no way of making their points. It looked as though the Establishment were once again conspiring to make sure that Arthur Thomas would continue serving his unjust life sentence.

To be continued

 Food for Threadbare Gourmets

 Still wanting nice hot puddings during our winter chill, I decided on that wonderful easy self-saucing chocolate pudding. Beat three -quarters of a cup of castor sugar with a hundred gms of butter, and then add the yolks of three eggs one at a time. Add three level tablespoons of SR flour and two hundred gms of melted chocolate. Gently stir in two cups of milk. Beat three egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into a buttered two litre pie dish and cook in the centre of the oven at 180 degrees for forty- five minutes.

It rises like a soufle, and underneath the dark chocolate top is a soft sauce. Good with cream and poached pears too, if you feel like pushing the boat out!

 Food for Thought

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.               Edmund Burke*

I’d always thought that Burke said these words…. but apparently not according to one of my readers.  However, Burke does imply the same thing in some of his writing …

 

 

 

 

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33 Comments

Filed under colonial life, cookery/recipes, history, Media and interviews, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised, Uncategorized

33 responses to “A Good Man Does Something

  1. You can’t leave us in mid-air then write about puddings! Another great piece of writing and what a story of injustice. I can’t wait until next week to hear what happened next!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. An important piece of NZ history and a reminder that we must always be vigilant about justice.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. eremophila

    It’s quite riveting!

    Like

  4. I’m always incredulous when the police and legal systems are bent and intentionally seek a particular outcome. But then I’ve often been surprised when people who supposedly love me, think the worst of me. Humans are complex creatures. A very riveting story, Valerie.

    Like

    • Ardyys, I resonated to all your comments – the problem in this case was that the man at the top had instructed the police to find the murderer, so they found a person! After that their reputations were on the line, as well as the profession of law, and everyone, including the judges all backed each other up.
      I know what you mean about those you thought loved you, thinking the worst of you… families are not only complex but hurtful !
      So glad you find the story interesting..xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can hardly wait until the next installment. This reads like a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle serial. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah-a, dear Rebecca, I shall try not to disappoint you !
    Love, Valerie

    Like

  7. Teetering on the cliff edge here, waiting to hear what happens. Valerie, bless lovely Patrick and you for standing by him. People so often stay silent and pretend not to have seen, or heard, because when you stick your head above the parapet, you will undoubtedly get shot at! Huge hugs and much love flowing to you both. xXx ❤

    Like

    • Dear Jane, it was a long and winding path … you are so right about getting shot at !!!!
      Patrick has died – he was eighty eight, much older than me and I now live in the forest with a new partner…
      Much love… lovely to know you enjoyed kitchen table…XXXX

      Like

      • I am so sorry, my love. I know this is slightly off piste, but it just goes to show that I needed to know the full story before I could comment lovingly. Huge hugs flowing to you both in the forest, with much love. ❤ xXx

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      • Dearest Jane, nothing you could say would ever be off piste, as everything you say always comes from a loving heart. I love the words you send me across the world … one day I’ll tell you the miraculous story of my new love and I !!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ohh Valerie, now that is a story I would love to hear. Wouldn’t it be magic to share it across a kitchen table? Huge hugs and much ❤ xXxxx

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  8. I’m looking forward to knowing the outcome Valerie – it must have been extremely stressful to be involved in at the time, though it sounds very exciting standing on the outside, I’m hoping justice will prevail.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am sitting on the edge of my seat!!! I can hardly wait for the next installment! I’m so glad you and your family and Patrick made it out alive from this terrifying mess!

    HUGS!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. New Zealand always ranks highly on the corruption index list. That means it is relatively less corrupt than other countries not, alas, that there is no corruption. Your story cleary shows high-level corruption int the past and is a reminder of the the need to be vigilant against it still.

    Thank you for again sharing another fascinating chapter in your life’s story. Like previous commentators I await the next installment with great interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ele, so good to hear from you…yes, I always read those corruption index lists with great interest, and much satisfaction about this country…
      And yes, we do need to be vigilant still.. things like the Tamihere case ( I read the highly suspect notes of his trial when Patrick was asked to take it up, but was past it by then)…, Peter Ellis, the Sounds trials all continue to bother me…
      And thank you for your encouragement about my opus – very much appreciated !!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dearest Valerie,

    This story would make a terrific crime novel. I hate thinking of that poor man serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. These days, through DNA testing, there have been quite a few exonerated. Sadly, it’s often too little too late. I met a man who wrote a book entitled Journey Toward Justice who served years for a murder he didn’t commit. He and another man were imprisoned…neither were guilty. Unfortunately the other man drank himself to death after his release.
    How violated you must’ve felt to find your phone had been tapped. It makes me wonder about the peaceful part of NZ. Riveting story. Looking forward to the next chapter.
    Hot,dry and humid here but they’re threatening us with rain this week. I’m hopeful. I just spent a week in North Carolina visiting my one and only sibling. They’re getting all the rain we’re not getting here. Hope you’ll stop by and read about the visit. I think it was significant for both my brother and me.
    As always, love to you and himself. Tell him I’m looking forward to photos of the fruits of his labours and miss reading his voice.

    Shalom and hugs,

    Rochelle

    Like

    • hello Rochelle, do hope you’ve had some rain by now… if only we could share our winter rain with you..
      The Thomas case for the most part was one really nasty police chief who dominated his team…and found a perfect partner in crime in the sadistic crown prosecutor- English I hate to admit….
      So yes, we are a peaceful country, and very near the top of the corruption free indexes… but no place, society or person is perfect !!!
      Much love XXXXXXXXX

      Like

  12. Exciting! And brought to life so beautifully as usual, Valerie. One of the things which comes across in your biography posts are the overlapping social circles involved, which have a huge impact on individual lives. Many social mores and expectations working for or against…the kind of living which I’ve never experienced really and therefore makes fascinating reading!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Dear Lynne, what a fascinating comment, so typical of your thoughtful insights… I had never seen my opus from that perspective, and it is so interesting to see other peoples impressions and insights… thank you good friend… lovely as ever to hear from you…

    Liked by 1 person

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