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The Trials of Eric Mareo


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When flamboyant musician Eric Mareo was convicted twice in 1936 of murdering his actress wife, Thelma, most New Zealanders believed that justice bad been served. But a few were not so sure, including the second trial judge and the Crown's overseas medical expert. Moreover, the Crown's star witness the dancer Freda Stark, had been having an affair with the dead woman. Why did the vast majority of New Zealanders believe in Mareo's guilt when the scientific evidence was so weak and the Crown's case depended on a person who, by the standards of the day would have been called a 'sexual pervert'? In the answer to this question lies an insight into the social mores of New Zealanders during the Depression, and perhaps beyond The trials of Eric Mareo were a social drama that caught the conscience of a people

Charles Ferrall is Senior Lecturer in English at Victoria University and the author of Modernist Writing and Reactionary Politics. Rebecca Ellis is a lawyer at the Crown Law Office in Wellington.