Story: Violent crime
Page 4 – Controversial murder trials, 1940 onwards
In the period after the Second World War there were some very significant murder trials. They included the 1954 trial of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, teenagers charged with the murder of Parker’s mother; the wrongful conviction in 1971 of Waikato farmer, Arthur Allan Thomas for the murder of his neighbours; and John Barlow’s three murder trials of for the double killing of Eugene and Gene Thomas in 1994.
Parker and Hulme
Pauline Parker (16) and Juliet Hulme (15) were convicted in 1954 of the murder of Pauline’s mother Honora, who received 45 blows to the head, hands and body in Victoria Park from half a brick wrapped in a lisle stocking. The girls said that she had fallen and hurt her head. Juliet, daughter of the rector of Canterbury University College, was about to leave New Zealand with her father to stay in South Africa, as her parents were separating. Pauline’s mother was seen as an impediment to Pauline accompanying Juliet when she left.
Pauline’s diary provided an account of their relationship, plans for the murder and a future in which the girls would write novels and pursue stardom in Hollywood. A defence of insanity was rejected. The girls were given indeterminate sentences in different prisons and released after five years. A book, a play and a Peter Jackson-directed movie, Heavenly creatures, present different interpretations of the relationship between the girls, the reasons for the murder, and the trial.
Arthur Allan Thomas
In 1971 Waikato farmer Arthur Allan Thomas was convicted of the 1970 murder of his neighbours Harvey and Jeanette Crewe at Pukekawa. The Crewes’ weighted bodies with bullet wounds had been discovered in the Waikato River three months after their disappearance. Mystery surrounded the identity of the person who fed Rochelle, the Crewes’ two-year-old daughter, discovered by her grandfather in her cot five days after her parents went missing.
Thomas protested his innocence and appealed his conviction in 1971. Granted a retrial, he was convicted again in 1973. Thomas served nine years of his sentence before being pardoned. A Royal commission of inquiry held over 64 days in 1980 found him innocent of the murders, and he was awarded almost a million dollars in compensation.
John Barlow, 1994
John Barlow was tried three times for the murder of father-and-son financiers Eugene and Gene Thomas, shot in their Wellington office building in 1994. Barlow, who had a loan from the Thomases, claimed that he went to the office for a meeting, found the bodies, panicked and departed with a CZ 27 pistol registered in his name, which he had earlier loaned to Eugene Thomas. The police found the pistol, .32-calibre ammunition and a cut-up silencer at a rubbish tip where Barlow dumped them the next day. However, the pistol had a .22-calibre barrel, while a .32-calibre gun had killed the Thomases. After two trials ended in hung juries, Barlow was convicted of murder in 1995. His appeal to the Privy Council was rejected in 2009, despite the finding that ‘unscientific and untenable’ FBI forensic evidence had been presented at the third trial.1