Rex Haig case: Hidden police report fuels concerns over officials' actions

by Mike White / 10 October, 2018

North & South has obtained a police review of the Rex Haig murder case which raises concerns about whether the Solicitor-General had information about alleged confessions before granting immunity to two key accusers. 

Previously undisclosed police documents have raised more concerns that a top Crown solicitor, now a judge, may not have provided crucial information while seeking to convict a man for murder.

Rex Haig was found guilty of murdering Mark Roderique, a crewman on his fishing boat, at Jackson Bay in 1994.

The police case relied largely on the statements of the two other crewmen, Haig’s 18-year-old nephew David Hogan, and Tony Sewell. Both testified that Haig had killed Roderique and they had been forced to help dump his body and possessions at sea. However, Haig claimed the two men lied to get a reward, and insisted Hogan was the killer.

Police and the Crown have always acknowledged that without Hogan and Sewell’s evidence, they had no case against Haig. However, neither witness would testify without being given immunity from prosecution, so, in December 1994, Invercargill Crown solicitor Alistair Garland applied to the Solicitor-General, John McGrath, for this. McGrath granted immunities to Hogan and Sewell (who already had a conviction for perjury), they gave damning evidence against Haig at his trial, and then shared a $20,000 reward offered for information leading to a conviction. But just how much the Solicitor-General was told before he granted Hogan and Sewell immunity, is a crucial question the authorities refuse to answer.

By the time Garland applied for the immunities, police had advised him that two people had made statements to them that Hogan had admitted killing Roderique. David Barr and Anton Sherlock were friends of Hogan and said that on separate occasions, Hogan told them he was the murderer. 

Many, including Haig’s lawyer Jonathan Eaton QC, consider it inconceivable Solicitor-General McGrath would have given David Hogan immunity if he knew Hogan had allegedly confessed to being the killer. But whether Crown solicitor Garland provided McGrath with the statements of Barr and Sherlock confirming this, is something the Crown and other officials have attempted to keep secret for nearly 20 years, despite repeated attempts to clarify what happened.

However, a previously unseen police review of the case in 2009, released to North & South under the Official Information Act, reveals no evidence could be found the Solicitor-General was given this crucial information.

Rex Haig’s conviction was eventually quashed in 2006 after he had spent 10 years in jail. In doing so, the Court of Appeal strongly suggested David Hogan may have been the murderer.

"In my view, the critical factor is that Mr Hogan’s evidence has now been shown to be utterly unreliable." - Justice Grant Hammond

“The reality is that the new evidence casts major doubts on the reliability of Hogan’s evidence and, as well, provides an evidential basis for the proposition that Hogan murdered the deceased,” it stated in its judgment.

Justice Grant Hammond noted: “In my view, the critical factor is that Mr Hogan’s evidence has now been shown to be utterly unreliable.”

Haig sought compensation for his wrongful conviction but was denied this in 2009, after an investigation by Robert Fisher QC concluded Haig hadn’t been truthful and remained culpable in some respect. However, Fisher, also, strongly questioned Hogan’s honesty. “The inconsistencies in Hogan’s own official and unofficial statements are legion.”

He described Hogan’s description of crucial timings at Jackson Bay as, “so extreme that it has all the hallmarks of a deliberate lie.” In stating Hogan was “wholly or partly responsible” for Roderique’s murder, Fisher noted: “My conclusion is that where Hogan’s evidence conflicts with that of an independent witness, it should be ignored,” and summed up his view of Hogan in a short sentence: “He lacks all credibility.”

A plaque for Mark Roderique at Riverton.

The police review of the case by Inspector John Winter

Following this, police launched a review of the case, to consider whether David Hogan should face charges. Conducted by Detective Inspector John Winter, it involved a comprehensive examination of all the case’s documents and a two-day interview with Hogan.

In his report, Winter stated he had cause for concern whether the critical statements of Barr and Sherlock were provided to the Solicitor-General.

Winter said he had access to files held by Crown Law; the Ministry of Justice; police; Invercargill’s Crown Solicitor; and other reports and material, and stated he had read “every available document that sheds light on the issues.”

Despite viewing all this information, Winter was unable to find evidence Barr and Sherlock’s police statements about Hogan’s alleged confessions were provided to the Solicitor-General and said no mention of them was made in the immunity application documents. He noted, “Crown Law should have been made aware of their existence as they directly affected the issue of immunity,” adding it would have been “a serious oversight” if they weren’t sent to the Solicitor-General.

Winter informed Assistant Police Commissioner Viv Rickard he may want to approach Garland and former Solicitor-General John McGrath, to further clarify what occurred, but it appears this did not happen, and the report lay buried for nine years until obtained by North & South. Rex Haig died in November 2017 aged 70, never knowing anything about the review or report, something his lawyer, Jonathan Eaton, describes as extraordinary and needs to be explained by police.

Efforts to find out whether Garland informed the Solicitor-General of the vital Barr and Sherlock statements have been rebuffed for two decades. Haig, his lawyers, private investigators, journalists and even a QC conducting a review for the Minister of Justice in 2004, have all been refused information about the issue, by McGrath or Crown Law. In a dramatic passage at Haig’s 2006 Court of Appeal hearing, Eaton demanded a single-word answer as to whether Garland had provided the Solicitor-General with the Barr and Sherlock allegations – yes or no – but the Crown lawyers refused to speak, according to Eaton.

North & South has twice approached Garland, now a District Court judge, for comment. Both times he has failed to respond directly, but passed the matter to the Chief District Court judge, Jan-Marie Doogue, who stated inquiries should be directed to Crown Law. (When asked why she was responding on behalf of Garland for something that occurred before he was a judge, and what precedent there was for this, Judge Doogue did not reply.)

Crown Law and the Solicitor-General Una Jagose have also been approached twice, but have refused to comment, other than to say the matter is legally privileged.

Former Solicitor-General Sir John McGrath consulted Crown Law, then declined to comment. Garland’s junior counsel at Haig’s trial, Mary-Jane Thomas, now Invercargill’s Crown Solicitor, also referred inquiries to Crown Law.

The man who headed the investigation into Haig, former detective sergeant Brian Hewett, told North & South he was “pretty sure” Sherlock and Barr’s statements would have been sent to the Solicitor-General, “but I don’t remember now exactly what was in the file,” adding he believed Garland was “so straight that I can’t see him not putting it in.”

Money Rex Haig made from owning a paua quota helped him buy his fishing boat, Antares. Later, he was investigated for illegally taking paua and planning to export them. Haig was eventually acquitted of these charges.

What documents did the Solicitor-General receive? 

Attorney-General David Parker did not directly answer questions from North & South about whether he wanted the issue clarified, whether the public had a right to know what occurred, or if Crown Law should reveal what documents were provided to the Solicitor-General.

“The public interest in the maintenance of the law requires the Solicitor-General to maintain confidentiality in certain matters, including those concerning the granting of immunity,” Parker said.

"If people have actively withheld information relevant to a decision such as the granting of immunity, then that’s hugely problematic." - Justice Minister Andrew Little

However, Jonathan Eaton has dismissed claims the information is privileged or confidential, pointing out that the letter Garland wrote to the Solicitor-General asking for immunities has been released – but not the supporting documents which are referred to in Garland’s letter, which would show if the Barr and Sherlock statements were disclosed to the Solicitor-General.

Even Justice Minister Andrew Little, in comments that put him at odds with Attorney-General Parker, has called for the information to be released.

“I think we’re entitled to know, at the time critical decisions like the granting of immunity are made, what information was in the hands of the decision-maker,” Little told North & South.

“People need to know the justice system is going to treat people fairly – full stop. And people know the justice system’s going to get it wrong sometimes. And that means we have to be able to go back over things that have gone wrong, or arguably gone wrong, and understand what’s happened and be open and honest with ourselves…If people have actively withheld information relevant to a decision such as the granting of immunity, then that’s hugely problematic.”

Jonathan Eaton says the fact Winter’s thorough review of the material couldn’t find any evidence Sherlock and Barr’s statements implicating David Hogan were ever given to the Solicitor-General, “only serves to confirm the position we’ve always suspected – that the statements weren’t provided.”

Rex Haig (right) with supporter Mike Kalaugher, shortly before Haig's unexpected death in November 2017. When he died, Haig, and Kalaugher were about to lodge a new application for compensation for the 10 years Haig spent in prison.

Winter report was largely dismissed

When Detective Inspector Winter completed his report, he made a number of recommendations, and noted Assistant Commissioner Rickard could consider further investigations or interviews – none of which were followed up by Rickard.

Winter also recommended a media release about his review be made and even attached a draft press release for Rickard. Instead, the report and even the fact a review had taken place was never made public.

"It all just reeks of being a bit self-serving when the police carry out their investigation, but won’t allow it to be scrutinised by anybody." - Jonathan Eaton

“I note the draft media release attached,” Rickard wrote to Winter in December 2009, “and I do not consider that we should enter into further media dialogue at this stage.”

He then asked that “the relevant parties” be notified of his decision not to pursue any legal action against Hogan.

Who these “relevant parties” were is unspecified and unknown. However, they did not include Rex Haig, or his lawyers, something Jonathan Eaton says police had an absolute obligation to do.

“It’s extraordinary Rex Haig and his legal team had no knowledge at all about it, until now. And that’s deserving of an explanation as to how and why that’s come about. It all just reeks of being a bit self-serving when the police carry out their investigation, but won’t allow it to be scrutinised by anybody, let alone the affected parties. And that means it’s going to be susceptible to the allegation of whitewash.”

At the time of Winter’s report, Haig and his lawyers were carefully considering challenging the government’s refusal to compensate him for the 10 years he’d spent in prison. In the end, completely fatigued, and dispirited by the justice system, Haig let it lie. It wasn’t until 2017 that he was energised enough to seek a review of the decision, and had prepared a new application for compensation when he died.

Eaton has no doubt that if Haig was aware in 2009 that police had carried out an investigation into David Hogan and conducted further interviews with him that “just added more and more layers of lies”, it would have given Haig enormous ammunition and momentum to pursue his compensation claim.

“If we’d known all about this, nearly 10 years ago, I think inevitably the case would have taken another, different turn.”

Winter’s report contains numerous factual errors, material omissions, and unsupported claims which Eaton is scathing of.

Among these is Winter’s assertion that the evidence of 14 witnesses, who ultimately stated Hogan had either admitted killing Roderique or said he was party to it, could not be properly tested at the Court of Appeal. Eaton says this is “complete rubbish” and “a complete misrepresentation”, adding the police and Crown could have interviewed these witnesses before or after the hearing to test their credibility, but instead simply relied on Hogan’s response to them.

Death of key witness Anton Sherlock

One of those who claimed Hogan had confessed to Roderique’s murder was, of course, Hogan’s friend Anton Sherlock. Sherlock had also informed police that Hogan threatened to kill him if he told anyone what he’d said.

Sherlock was to be a key witness at Haig’s 1995 depositions (a pre-trial hearing no longer used), testifying about Hogan’s alleged confession, but disappeared nine days beforehand. His beaten and trussed body was found on the final day of Haig’s depositions, weighted down in a river near Lumsden.

Despite previously threatening Sherlock, police claimed Hogan had nothing to do with Sherlock’s death, and apparently never interviewed him. Instead, Nigel Johnstone was convicted, despite protesting his innocence, and Winter insisted in his report there was nothing implicating Hogan in Sherlock’s murder, as Haig’s defence has suggested.

“If killing Sherlock to stop him giving evidence was the motive, then there was David Barr and at least 12 other people who were potential victims who lined up to give affidavit evidence prejudicial to Hogan,” Winter wrote. “As Barr and some of these others are now deceased, perhaps it is suggested that Hogan has had a hand in those deaths also?”

Eaton describes Winter’s rationale as, “a very flippant approach to this case, and, to my mind, it shows a lack of respect for this process. It was a stupid, embarrassing comment for him to make.”

He says the review of Hogan’s culpability, which had so strongly been called into question by the Court of Appeal, should have been done by an independent person, rather than internally by police. Any finding other than the one Winter made – not to prosecute Hogan – would have required police to acknowledge they had got the case completely wrong and a man had spent 10 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit, Eaton says.

Winter stated in his report that he had, “read every available document that sheds light on the issues and spoken to members of the Crown and police who were involved with the cases. I believe I have a strong understanding of the inquiry processes and how the Crown has approached the evidence of Hogan and the investigation of the Sherlock homicide.”

It is unclear if Winter’s discussions with police included the views of the inquiry’s head, former detective sergeant Brian Hewett, who told North & South earlier this year that Haig was, “a man that wouldn’t have a conscience. I don’t like to say, but he’s part Asian. They seem to treat life a bit differently to the rest of us, in that life seems to be, in Asian countries - is cheap.”

Winter also, somewhat bizarrely, referred to the results of “lie-detector” tests done by TVNZ on Hogan and Nigel Johnstone, despite these being so unreliable they play no part in New Zealand’s justice system.

Despite Winter’s report concluding “there were and remain significant shortcomings in the evidence of David Hogan,” he insisted the police “can have confidence in the original inquiries and that no miscarriage of justice has occurred”.

And despite also detailing Hogan’s “propensity to either embellish the truth or tell outright lies”, and noting his immunity hinged on him giving a “truthful account of events” surrounding Mark Roderique’s death, Winter said rescinding Hogan’s immunity would require a legal opinion which would be “a lengthy and costly process”. He recommended “no further work is required on these matters” and that Rickard direct “these matters be filed”.

Jonathan Eaton says the more he learns about the case and how the police dealt with it, the more his concerns deepen about what occurred.

He describes the police acceptance of Hogan’s reliability as “mind-boggling” and says it’s hardly surprising Hogan continues to blame Haig, “because if he doesn’t stick to his evidence on the core issue, he’s going to jail for life, isn’t he.”

Eaton says if police are going to seek immunities during inquiries, they need to be an absolute last resort and must be revisited if concerns are raised about the honesty of those given them.

“The police were essentially going: ‘We can’t get to Haig without immunising Hogan; we’ll immunise Hogan; we get Haig – bang, success, we wash our hands of it, no further interest in it.’ To use it so clinically as an investigative tool strikes me as quite offensive.”

What David Hogan told police in 2009

As part of his review, Detective Inspector John Winter interviewed David Hogan over two days in June 2009. The transcript of these previously publicly unknown interviews was released to North & South under the Official Information Act.

In them:

* Hogan again changes his evidence about the events that led to Mark Roderique’s death and contradicts testimony he gave at Haig’s trial.

* In sometimes confusing and disjointed responses, Hogan gives conflicting scenarios about people’s movements – including his own - before Roderique was murdered.

* Hogan describes three different weapons Haig used to kill Roderique.

* He makes numerous statements that are factually incorrect and makes claims that are contradicted by all other independent witnesses.

* Hogan previously gave evidence supporting the police and Crown theory that Haig murdered Roderique because he was worried Roderique knew too much about Haig’s plans to poach paua and would spill the beans, and claimed Haig said, “How dare you fuck up my plans,” as he bludgeoned Roderique.

However, in his 2009 interview, Hogan dismisses the police theory regarding Haig’s motive as rubbish. “That was all made up, I think. I think that’s just what you cops used to tie it up, to tie it together, to make it more eligible for the jury…it had nothing to do with the paua trial...Mark didn’t even really know about the paua trial.” (Rex Haig was accused of planning to poach paua and export them. He was found not guilty of the charges.)

When Winter again attempted to get Hogan to agree with the police theory, Hogan claims the murder occurred because Roderique told Hogan, “I’d like to fuck your daughters.” Hogan now insists Haig said, “How dare you say you’re going to fuck my daughter,” as he beat Roderique to death.

* Despite being granted immunity, receiving a $13,000 reward, and being relocated to the West Coast under witness protection, Hogan bemoans the lack of support he’s received, and alleges “New Zealand police is corrupt.”

* Of Robert Fisher QC, who investigated Haig’s compensation claim and concluded Hogan was more culpable than he had admitted, Hogan says: “As far as his comments go, he can go fuck himself.”

* Hogan tells Winter: “I’m not a violent person, mate,” but later states that if he saw Rex Haig, “I’m going straight up and smashing the c***, I don’t give a fuck. I’ll do a year, couple of years for that – it’s my satisfaction.”

 

Note: While some material concerning Detective Inspector John Winter’s 2009 report has been released to North & South, police stated they would charge between $1366 and $1822 to review the file to see if there were further documents related to the report. North & South does not agree with this charge and has refused to pay it.

Murder (we wrote) #2 on sale now

North & South's special investigations edition Murder (we wrote) is on sale now. It features the best of the magazine's in-depth crime stories, including more on the Mark Lundy case, the poison plot of Black Widow Helen Milner and what led to the tragic death of Emily Longley.

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