4 February 2018

In Memory of Pat Booth

Last week New Zealand lost an iconic New Zealander, Pat Booth. There was nothing flash about Pat, he was a down to earth low ego investigative journalist, who absolutely fought for the underdog, and had a burning desire to get to the truth of the matter, often being a complete pain in the arse to police and the justice system.

I had the great privilege to spend an afternoon with Pat in the early 1990s at his home in Tauranga with my sister Jude. He had covered the retrial of Arthur Allan Thomas, and had fought for his release believing he was an innocent man. The direct outcome was that Thomas was in fact given a royal pardon by the Crown after 9 years in jail. He had been wrongfully convicted twice by the High Court for the murder of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe. The Royal Commission of Inquiry found the police had planted evidence to convict Arthur Thomas, and without Pat Booth’s support he would have spent many more years in jail as an innocent man.
Jude and I were interested in Booth’s work, as Harvey Crew was our first cousin, and we were keen to understand his views after completing so much research. His belief was that the Crewe murders were in fact a murder-suicide case, which we did not support or agree with, but wanted to understand his rationale.

What was apparent when talking to Pat, was his incredible dedication to justice, and having the truth told. It is easy to forget after the release of a prisoner, or change in sentencing, that when a journalist or activist begins working on a case like this, the consensus can often be that the justice system has delivered the right outcome. Activists are not always welcomed. He had worked tirelessly on numerous cases holding the police to account, and I believe that our low corruption levels in New Zealand are in part due to this man’s work.

During the time of the Crew murders he was also covering the Mr Asia drug ring which had been set up a New Zealander, Terry Clark. He was the person who actually gave Clark the name Mr Asia, and others Mr Big etc. What was fascinating, was that while he was covering both cases he believed the two cases crossed over i.e. Mr Asia case and Crewe murders were linked. This scared the shit out of Booth, as he thought he had uncovered something far bigger and more sinister than he had imagined, and was concerned for the safety of his own family if he continued to pursue his investigations. After some soul searching he did in fact push on, brave bastard that he was. As it turned out they were not linked, after further enquiry.

During our conversation I naively voiced the opinion that due to the release of Thomas, the justice system had become far more competent. Booth was quick to point out that he didn’t believe that was the case at all. He went on to discuss a number of high profile cases where he thought a miscarriage of justice had occurred. He was particularly critical of the David Tamihere investigation, and would prove to be accurate in his thoughts 15 years later, when he was still investigating that case.

His belief was that the detectives often became single-minded in their pursuit of a suspect, and missed some critical evidence as a result. This was certainly the case with the Crewe murders.

Our family were never allowed to talk to the press during or after the case, so Pat was very appreciative of the chance to talk with Jude and I to get a more personal perspective of Harvey Crewe. It was evident that he was able to hold an enormous amount of knowledge in his head, while maintaining a big heart for the families involved, which we were both pleasantly surprised about.

So, Pat Booth, New Zealand is a better place due to your tireless and unselfish work, that spanned decades, annoying the shit out of officialdom by casting an eye over some shoddy work. To you sir, I say thank you.

Ian Harvey (Harv)


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