1 Feb 2018

Veteran journalist always 'hunted down the truth'

1:16 pm on 1 February 2018

Veteran investigative journalist Pat Booth is being remembered as someone who always fought against injustices.

The career of Pat Booth makes for a failry full file of clippings.

The career of Pat Booth makes for a failry full file of clippings. Photo: RNZ

Booth, whose work helped free Arthur Allan Thomas and have him pardoned, died yesterday aged 88 in Auckland.

It was the moment of the verdict in the first Thomas trial that inspired Booth to relentlessly cover the case.

"The anguish, the anger, the concern. There was a cry that came out of the public gallery like ... I described it later as like a wounded animal. There was Vivian Thomas rushing up to the jury box and shouting at them.

"'What sort of people are you? He's innocent!' And Thomas standing there saying ... you know ... 'as God as my witness I didn't do this terrible deed', and asking for a lie detector test and pleading his innocence, and the turmoil and the atmosphere...

"It was quite overwhelming. It was like something I've never experienced before and will never again, I don't think."

At the time, he was assistant editor of The Auckland Star and he told RNZ's Directions programme in 1994 the case had consumed him.

His youngest daughter Sally Collings said her father always brought his work home.

"His stories were very much a focus of his attention when he was in the middle of something big and breaking. He used to tell us about who he had interviewed and what they've said and all that sort of thing."

Ms Collings said he was stubborn and had vowed to fight the injustice.

He wrote the book Trial by Ambush, which campaigned for Thomas to be pardoned.

Des Thomas, the brother of Thomas, said the family was forever grateful to Booth.

"People like Pat Booth are very important in this country because, you know, the scoundrel police wrap a case around somebody, and Pat was the one, or one of them, that got off his backside and hunted down the truth."

He remembered the night that Booth drove Thomas home when he was released from prison.

"Arthur was taken to Hamilton to an aunty's. Pat Booth went down and picked him up from there and Arthur and Pat Booth came to my place here and Pat spent most of the night typing up the story or the next day."

Booth also covered the Mr Asia drug syndicate in the 1970s.

The payback for covering that was a $30,000 contract on his head - but even that didn't deter him.

Award-winning investigative journalist Donna Chisholm worked for him when she first started at the Auckland Star.

She said he was encouraging and he had guided her through a story on racial profiling in the 1970s.

"Pat cleared out the front page and ran the story and campaigned on that story for days until the police dropped the charges."

She said Booth helped shape her career, and that of many other journalists.

"There's a lot of young journalists who have heard about Pat, and those of us who are lucky enough to have worked with him, have been influenced by him and inspired by him for all their careers."

Booth's family are planning a public funeral for him on Monday.

He is survived by his second wife Valerie, his four children and two stepchildren.