“All the Commissioner’s Men” by Chris Birt is a book about the cold cases of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe who feature on my blog. They have this prominent place not in the least because they are tied to the wrongful conviction of Arthur Allen Thomas or, to the call from their only child Rochelle Crewe to finally get an independent review of her parents’ murder cases. It goes beyond that.
The central word I think is “betrayal.”
Everyone who mattered was betrayed. Arthur Allen Thomas and then-wife Vivien Harrison were betrayed by police framing them and a trial that destroyed their marriage. Rochelle Crewe was betrayed by someone close to her parents who killed them, took their time to dispose of their bodies and at the same time, took care of her. Jeanette and Harvey Crewe were betrayed by someone they most likely knew, who had a strong motive to kill this couple, and who tried to wash away some of their blood. But aside from these people, justice was betrayed. And, faith in law enforcement was betrayed.
In the book by Chris Birt, you can read and see on the photographs how law enforcement gave notes to witnesses to instruct them what to say in court. When the judge and the jury dined together, law enforcement was present as well. The defense was not. When the trial started and the jury pool was announced, law enforcement had about three weeks to canvass the list and make notes whereas the defense was given this list merely 10 business hours before the trial started. Lab technicians who should be independent and let the evidence speak for itself functioned as extension cords for law enforcement. Photographs of how Harvey’s body was recovered were never published in its true sequence. To see the true sequence in Birt’s book makes you angry and speechless. Officers who tried to stick to the truth were demoted. Witnesses who tried to tell the true story were harassed. And while all the planning was going on to frame Arthur Allen Thomas, the true killer got away.
The book will not tell you with 100% certainty who that killer was but in the appendixes is the verbatim text of a police conference of October 19, 1970, that lists pros and cons regarding Thomas as a suspect and pros and cons against Len Demler as a suspect. That text is worth reading. It gives you insight in how these murders were executed, how the bodies were removed from the farm, what equipment was used and, it gives you insight in the mind of the killer.
Chris Birt has written an excellent book about the Crewe Murders. ”All the Commissioner’s Men” is not an easy read though. The sentences are sometimes quite long. The full names and police rankings constantly make you flip back to the beginning to see who is who. The text would have benefited from using bullet points, short summaries, and of course, by adding a timeline.
Highly recommended reading!