Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Former policeman said to have made deathbed confession

The Herald
February 4, 2004
Former policeman said to have made deathbed confession
NZPA

A former policeman made a deathbed confession saying he was warned to keep quiet about rape claims made by Louise Nicholas, the Dominion Post reported today. The newspaper said a friend of the policeman, Louise Nicholas' brother Peter Crawford, said that the week before former Rotorua policeman Trevor Clayton died last year, Mr Clayton broke down and said he wanted to ask for forgiveness from Mrs Nicholas and her family. Mrs Nicholas alleges she was violated with a police baton and pack-raped by three police officers, Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton, when all were Rotorua police in 1986. She says that Mr Rickards and Mr Shipton continued on occasions to have sex with her against her will. All three strenuously deny the allegations. Mrs Nicholas said she asked Mr Clayton, whom she knew through her family, to try to make his fellow officers stop, the Dominion Post reported. Mr Clayton was integral to the original police investigation of the case, the newspaper said. Yesterday that investigation was reopened by police, at the same time as the Government announced a commission of inquiry into the matters.

The man who assigned himself to investigate the original allegations, former head of Rotorua CIB John Dewar, said in a police document obtained by The Dominion Post that Mr Clayton told him Mrs Nicholas had complained to him about what some Rotorua policemen were doing to her. In the document, Mr Dewar is alleged to have said that Mr Clayton said there could have been criminal implications to Mrs Nicholas' complaints. He said Mr Clayton had said he was prepared to lie on oath to "protect his mates" if asked about Mrs Nicholas in court. But Mr Crawford told The Dominion Post that, as Mr Clayton lay dying, he wanted to come clean about what he knew. Mr Crawford said he became "best mates" with Mr Clayton during a 20-year friendship.

Mr Clayton had been a groomsman at his wedding. Mr Crawford said he knew his sister made allegations that police officers in Rotorua had sexually assaulted her in the mid to late 80s. Because of their divided loyalties, Mr Crawford and Mr Clayton did not discuss the allegations in great detail until a few days before Mr Clayton died. Mr Crawford said that Mr Clayton's partner telephoned him saying Mr Clayton wanted to see him. "Trevor was gravely ill. Everybody that had anything to do with Trevor knew he didn't have long to go. He had cancer ... I shot round there to visit him and we sat down and caught up on some old times and then he quite suddenly got quite emotional," he told The Dominion Post. "I felt he wanted to get something off his chest with me. He broke down and held my hand and basically he wanted to come clean with the issues regarding my sister. "He asked me for forgiveness and Mum and Dad's forgiveness and Louise's forgiveness ... like I say, he wanted to come clean on the whole deal but he told me he was gagged, that he was told to shut up and it was quite emotional for him. "It was one of the hardest things I've had to listen to ... and he never actually got that chance in the end. He passed away approximately a week later." The Dominion Post: "There was no doubt what he was telling you was that these police officers had acted unlawfully in the way they treated Louise?" Mr Crawford: "Definitely, yes ... I think, with Trevor being out of the police force, his relationship with his mates in the police force became strained over the issue. "He certainly wanted to clear, have it all out in the open and have it cleared up and he was definitely gagged. Threatened maybe. "He said, 'There's definitely been a cover-up' ... he was definitely having trouble coping with it because he knew it was illegal."

Mr Crawford said that, though it was difficult knowing that Mr Clayton had known things about his sister, he remained his friend because he had tried to make clear his conscience. "Yeah, we were, we were mates." Mrs Nicholas said she had forgiven Mr Clayton. Mr Dewar said yesterday that he had fully investigated Mrs Nicholas' complaints and welcomed any inquiry into his actions. Mr Dewar has been accused of manipulating Mrs Nicholas in order to protect his colleagues. However, in a brief statement yesterday, he denied all allegations of wrongdoing and said he had not compromised his inquiry into Mrs Nicholas' complaints. He would co-operate fully with any inquiry and looked forward to being exonerated.

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