The Press

Neighbourh­ood hero’s story told

- DANI MCDONALD

When Detective Don Allan returned to Taranaki in the mid1990s, gang-crime was rampant.

Neighbourh­oods were silenced by their threats. Murders took place without charges and Black Power had taken hold of New Plymouth.

But there was one attack, one witness and one murder that unravelled the stifling silence in the city. Chris Crean’s story will air on TVNZ1 as part of the Sunday Theatre season this weekend at 8:30pm.

Resolve, directed by Philly de Lacey, captures the story of one man’s courage, his murder, and the change in New Zealand’s witness laws that was prompted by his actions. Crean was the 27-yearold religious father who stood up to Black Power after a horrific attack took place outside his family home. It was a story that de Lacey felt needed to be told.

‘‘I have a real passion for telling what I believe to be true and important New Zealand stories and things that have had an impact on our past,’’ de Lacey says.

She and her researcher­s worked alongside Crean’s wife Tania to produce a telling story of a man who stood up to one of New Zealand’s most powerful gangs.

Crean, played by Pana HemaTaylor, had moved into his new home in Marfell with his wife and his two children.

While mowing his lawns, three Black Power members came running down his street towards two Mongrel Mob members who were visiting a friend with their partner and kids.

Crean was witness to a tomahawk attack outside his own house, while his children and wife were out in the backyard.

Despite others also witnessing the crime, Crean was the only one who spoke up. He did so, because he wanted his children to play freely on the streets.

Ultimately, the father-of-four paid for that simple desire with his life.

Allan, played by Stephen Lovatt in the drama, was six months into his new role as a detective senior sergeant when Crean came to provide a statement at the police station. ‘‘He decided that [Marfel] was his neighbourh­ood and he wasn’t going to be dominated by anyone,’’ Allan recalls.

But this was a community silenced by fear.

‘‘This whole neighbourh­ood had been terrorised for a long period of time,’’ he says.

‘‘Previous cases had not been solved because no-one was prepared to come forward, so we’re dealing with that background environmen­t, Crean would know of that history.’’

Crean went through the process to provide evidence to police against gang violence and intimidati­on.

In court, he identified three Black Power members, yet despite advice from the police, he wouldn’t take witness protection.

Allan recalls a genuine man who was keen to tell his story.

‘‘When you have someone like that, when you hear those words being said, ‘No, no, no this is my neighbourh­ood’ (you understand where they are coming from),’’ he says.

‘‘If he got protection, then that neighbourh­ood would never be his because he would have to live that life of having to be relocated wherever – perhaps for the rest of his life, or perhaps for a long long time, because we don’t know what the outcome is going to be like until after the court case.

‘‘He wasn’t prepared to go through that because this was his life – he saw this as what he was facing and he was prepared to do so and he stuck to his story.’’

Following Crean’s statement, gang members visited his home three times.

Three times, they backed out. The fourth time, on October 6, 1996, Crean was shot dead.

His actions became a watershed moment in New Zealand legal history, leading to changes in the Rules of Evidence ensuring that witnesses could be afforded protection from the criminals against whom they testified.

Allan and three other members of the police were given commendati­ons for their work.

‘‘The community got their own neighbourh­ood back, that’s what everyone wanted. Crean was a catalyst for that and that’s why we put him up for an award,’’ Allan says.

‘‘Literally after this, half of the Black Power was ripped out of [the neighbourh­ood]. It really took the heart and soul out of Black Power, it disseminat­ed. But nothing is forever and if you don’t keep on top of these things there’s every likelihood it will come back.

‘‘I’m glad at the end we got the outcome that happened, because Chris Crean would have given up his life with no outcome – I’m glad we were able to address that.’’

Brownie Mane, Robert Shane Maru, Symon George Manihera, and Dennis Luke were charged with his murder – the first time four people were convicted of the murder of one person.

De Lacey hopes the film reminds New Zealanders of ‘‘a really wonderful person in our history who’s actually changed the way we can all appear in court as witnesses of crime’’.

‘‘I hope people will be emotionall­y captured by it. I hope that they will feel for Chris and his whanau and I hope they will feel anger at what took place and I hope they understand the actions that he took,’’ she says.

Posthumous­ly, Chris Crean was awarded the New Zealand Bravery Decoration. ❚ Resolve airs Sunday, 8.30pm, TVNZ1 as part of the Sunday Theatre season.

 ??  ?? Chris Crean’s brave stance lead to changes in the Rules of Evidence, ensuring that witnesses could be afforded protection
Chris Crean’s brave stance lead to changes in the Rules of Evidence, ensuring that witnesses could be afforded protection

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