The ARTHUR ALLAN THOMAS radio news investigation PART 1
The ARTHUR ALLAN THOMAS radio news investigation PART 2
I had heard about New Zealand’s ARTHUR ALLAN THOMAS murder case and when I spoke with British investigative author David Yallop who wrote the book, ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’, he told me I should get involved with the controversy as to whether Thomas was innocent or not.
I was reluctant because during the 9 years that Thomas had already served in prison Auckland Star newspaper journalist Pat Booth had already written thousands of words on the subject and had worked with scientist Dr. Jim Sprott to try to prove the innocence of the farmer who remained convicted of a double-murder after two trials. A docu-drama movie was also being made of the case, based on Yallop’s book.
I spoke with the Managing Director of Auckland’s Radio Hauraki, Derek Lowe, who agreed to me conducting a radio probe into the case by letting Arthur Thomas tell his own story in his own words in response. With public opinion split on whether Thomas had been framed or not, I believed that it would be useful to let Thomas explain himself because his voice had not been heard before.
Derek, one of the original Hauraki pirates who had fought many battles to win the first private radio licence in N.Z., agreed that the prison authorities would never give us permission to tape record Thomas. My experience in Australia with ‘undercover’ assignments had produced good results but there was a possibility that even though Thomas was now inside a lower security prison farm at Hautu, I could be stopped entering if the guards detected the pocket-sized recorder concealed in my jacket.
It was also vital that both Thomas himself and his family and friends that I would need to talk to, in order to prepare myself to question him, were not aware that I would record the prisoner’s answers until the end when I needed to obtain his permission to broadcast what I had recorded of our talk.
So along with my brother who accompanied me to talk to Arthur’s father at their farmhouse, I presented myself as just an Aussie journalist who was interested in chatting with Thomas about his case to gain an understanding of how he viewed the evidence. They agreed to help me.
I managed to get into to see Thomas by joining family members on one of their regular visits. That was in August 1979 and for the first time radio listeners heard Arthur Thomas answer questions about his treatment by the police and what would ultimately prove to have been ‘evidence’ deliberately planted by the police on the Thomas property to secure his conviction.
There was an amazing reaction from listeners who called the station to tell Radio Hauraki they had changed their opinion on the case because Thomas sounded credible in all that he had told me.
The wheels of justice do grind slowly but an inquiry by Robert Adams-Smith, QC, was underway and it was the finding by this inquiry that there were grounds for Thomas to be pardoned. He was released from prison on 17 December 1979. Pat Booth and I were the only journalists permitted to interview him when he arrived home that evening. I worked through the night and produced the full report for broadcast the next morning. I also provided the tape to Neil Mitchell who was then Night Editor for The Age Newspaper and they broke the story in Australia.
A Commission of inquiry nearly a year later found Thomas was unjustly persecuted, and Bruce Hutton along with another detective had planted the cartridge case ‘to manufacture evidence that Mr Thomas’ rifle had been used for the killings’. No charges were laid against the police.
Thomas actually received 950,000 N.Z. dollars as compensation. The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported that a 2014 cold case inquiry had found no new evidence. The paper also reported that Thomas (who in 2018 turned 80) is annoyed that he has received no apology from the police.
Sadly, David Yallop, whose book gave the Thomas case the widest publicity, died in August 2018.
The soundtrack to this 2-part video is the actual broadcast from 18 December 1979 on Radio Hauraki. I have cobbled together some photos of the period from various sources just to help illustrate the entire case as it is revealed.
The intro. voice-over was recorded by Fred Botica
Radio Interviews: You can listen on this page
Interviews from my radio tape archives.
ECHOES OF 2UE NIGHTWATCH!
I hosted the 2UE ‘Nightwatch’ program for 5 years (1971-1976)—the longest period of any reporter who covered Sydney each Saturday night. My determination to add news investigations and human interest stories to the program’s mainstay of police rounds coverage paid off with record audience numbers of 255,000 for a program reaching just one market. It was the peak of the program’s ratings results.
On the NightWatch rounds 1970s.
Nightwatch Investigation into Sydney’s Illegal Casinos
Excerpt from my book, ‘Hello Ego”:
I really have Nightwatch to thank most for my journey into journalistic probes. It was as early as March 1973 that the thought came to me that someone needed to expose the blatant lies of both the Premier, Bob Askin, and the Police Commissioner, Norm Allen. Both were insisting that illegal gambling dens in Sydney did not exist.
Even radio colleagues were constantly telling me of their good fortune (or otherwise) at places such as The Forbes Club in Woolloomooloo and another club housed nearby under the Bull ‘N’ Bush restaurant in William street. So I decided perhaps it was time to go ‘undercover’ to get a different kind of report for Nightwatch.
There was a newspaper delivery driver called Mick Deegan who was always supplying news tips to 2UE so I made contact with him to ask if he could get me into the gambling den. It was no problem for Mick and soon he was introducing me to his contact, a big, burly man who was somehow associated with the club. He had a deep scar on his right arm, from knife wounds he had suffered as a result of ‘a bit of trouble at the club’, a few nights before.
We met at a house at King’s Cross, with me posing as a young man from the bush, visiting the city and looking for a bit of gambling action. He seemed convinced by my little farce and he gave me a name to mention at the club entrance. Well it was too late for second thoughts. The country boy act had proved successful and now it was a matter of sustaining it to get in and record the illegal activities without being discovered. I knew from the outset that that wouldn’t be easy. There were no mini-recorders or reliable FM radio equipment available to me. All I had was a very bulky ‘Superscope’ cassette tape recorder, which I strapped to my shoulder and let it hang under my blue sports jacket.
SYDNEY ILLEGAL CASINOS
‘Newsman of the Year’ nomination for Nightwatch
This 2UE award nomination clip, voiced by John Torv, resulted in my first radio award, which I took as more of a ‘reward‘ for working every Saturday night, reporting, editing, producing and hosting the ‘Nightwatch’ program for 5 years 1971 to 1976.
Latest Les Thompson paperback on sale from AMAZON: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1973378914
Cowra girl, Sally Walker, was also a Cyber singer…..but she disappeared somewhere in California. https://www.amazon.com/dp/197337891
A new mystery novel, THE CYBER SINGERS: “The mystery becomes a question of whether she has vanished forever,” Les Thompson explains. “Detectives from Dubbo in Australia and Santa Clara in California combine their skills to trace who was the last person to see Sally when she attended a party with a group of cyber singers. The two investigators uncover many suspects but who would harm Sally and why? It’s a story for our times.”
Thompson says it’s a modern approach to the ‘who dunnit’ genre and many possibilities are sown to allow the reader to gain an insight into the principal character and then to guess the outcome ahead of the detectives.
Rare Roy Orbison songs:
DANNY BOY (Roy’s unique arrangement)
A LOVE SO BEAUTIFUL
OLD LOVE SONG
I GET SO SENTIMENTAL
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