Hung jury in Arthur Allan Thomas' historical indecent assault, rape trial

Nicole Bremner
Source: 1News

There's been a hung jury in Arthur Allan Thomas' trial for sexual offending.

Thomas, who was pardoned 42 years ago for the murder convictions of a Waikato couple, sat quietly in the dock as the complainant's police interview was played.

The 83-year-old sat through a two-week trial on charges of indecent assault and rape, but today, the jury said they couldn't agree on any of the five charges he faced. 

Thomas has been calm and composed throughout the trial, sitting quietly in the dock flanked by court security guards.

He did not give evidence and his defence comprised the testimony of four witnesses, including his wife Jennifer and his brother, Desmond.

From the outset, the Defence strenuously denied the allegations against Thomas and claimed they stemmed from a bitter dispute over money.

Complexity has been a feature of the two-week trial largely due to the historical nature of the offending and statutory protection for the identity of the two complainants.

Historical charges are very difficult to prove according to Waikato University Professor Al Gillespie.

“The police take it very seriously as they should,” Professor Gillespie said. “The challenge is the space of time so the forensic evidence often no longer exists.”

The complainants went to police in early 2019 and charges were laid later that year.

The passage of time that had elapsed by then meant their memory of historical global events were used to estimate the time of the offending.

“In today’s world you've got mobile phones, you've got CCTV, you've got all sorts of documentation around where you are,” Professor Gillespie said.

“The challenge is that as time passes the amount of evidence we've got disappears.”

The jury of eight men and four women began their deliberations on Thursday. 

Summing up the case, Judge John Bergseng told the jury at the Manukau District Court "you are the judges of the facts” and the onus was on the Crown to prove Thomas’ guilt “beyond reasonable doubt.”

Thomas was pardoned in 1979 and paid $950,000 in compensation for wrongful conviction for the 1970 murders of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe.

The farming couple were shot to death in their home in Waikato before their bodies were discovered in the Waikato River. Their 18-month-old daughter, Rochelle, was found distressed but otherwise unharmed.

Thomas will return to court in August for a callover. It will be up to the Crown to decide if there will be a retrial.