28 Jun 2021

Arthur Allan Thomas rape trial: Jury discharged, unable to reach verdicts

3:13 pm on 28 June 2021

The jury in the trial of Arthur Allan Thomas over the rape and indecent assault of two women has been discharged after failing to reach a verdict.

Arthur Allan Thomas in court

Arthur Allan Thomas in court Photo: RNZ/ Jordan Bond

Thomas, 83, was on trial in Manukau District Court this month facing one charge of rape and four charges of indecent assault, relating to two complainants. He denied the historical accusations.

The jury, made up by eight men and four women, had been deliberating since Thursday afternoon. The case is being put off until a callover 19 August.

At court today, Judge John Bergseng said the outcome was no reflection on the jurors and it happened sometimes.

Suppression orders restrict the media from publishing more detailed accounts of the charges and legal arguments.

The prosecution case was that the two complainants and three other witnesses gave consistent and reliable accounts of indecent sexual acts while on the witness stand.

"It is far-fetched in the extreme to suggest that they were just making all that up," Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins said. "[The defence argument is] five people have come along and committed perjury."

These recollections were reliable enough to convict, he said.

The defence team, led by Marie Dyhrberg QC, rejected the evidence of the complainants as contradictory, distorted and vengeful.

"The defence is: they did not happen. These allegations are not true," Dyhrberg said.

"They wanted money," she said, and their lie took a "dangerous and wicked path, ending up in this courtroom."

Some years after the incidents the women claimed happened, the two women and their husbands sought and had a meeting with Thomas' lawyer.

Dyhrberg said the complainants' reason for the meeting was to extort Thomas for money by telling him they'd make a false complaint to the police if he didn't pay them.

Perkins said they just wanted Thomas to say sorry for what he had done - but he had refused to do so.

"On so many occasions, you have heard from the complainants that all they actually wanted was an apology - a meaningful one," Perkins put forward in his closing address.

"And an acknowledgement of what he had done. That's what they were after. Of course it's said [by the defence] they were after money. But time and again they've told you, members of the jury, 'it was an apology that we were after'."

Dhyrberg said that was just not true; the meeting was an extortion attempt, she said. Thomas did not pay and the complainants followed through with the threat, she told the jury, and it then got out of control.

"Once you start not telling the truth, it gets harder and harder to stop. Because dishonesty has its own momentum," Dyhrberg told the jury.

She said the complainants felt wronged by Thomas.

"Those feelings became too overwhelming, took on a life of their own."

Perkins emphasised the evidence given by one man, who said he was involved in some of the alleged incidents and remembered specific details which largely matched what the complainants said.

"You might think, based on everything you've heard, that it's just inconceivable that that man would come along and tell you the things he did... why on Earth would [he] do that, unless it were true?"

That man's evidence - a key Crown witness - was dismissed as unreliable by the Thomas defence team, led by lawyer Marie Dyhrberg QC.

"He [the witness] said one thing, tries to back away, doesn't leave you with anything, then doesn't know, then doesn't remember - you gotta say you can't put weight on this... he cannot be relied on," Dyhrberg said.

Thomas sat silently and attentively in the dock for the entire trial.

The 83-year-old was famously pardoned and compensated with $950,000 after twice being wrongfully convicted, and imprisoned for nine years, over the 1970 murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe.