The Trials of Eric Mareo
If, as Paul Valéry Maintained, a poem is never finished only abandoned, perhaps books are never begun only resumed. We decided to write this book several years ago when, returning to Wellington from a holiday, Rebecca remembered that her father had once suggested that she consider writing an LLM thesis on the Mareo case. Although her father was too young to remember the trials, they were nevertheless a familiar part of the legal landscape in which he practised law. There was also a personal connection through the Ellis family's friendship with H.G.R. Mason, a major protagonist in this story, who was himself writing a book about the trials when he died in 1975.
After an initial foray into the files, it became apparent that R v Mareo was a poor subject for post-graduate legal study. It contained too little in the way of interest to academic lawyers, and far too much in the way of interest of a more diverting kind. The LLM was shelved.
In the five years that followed our rekindled enthusiasm for the subject, the name Freda Stark became more widely known in New Zealand. Although her involvement in Mareo's trials was very much a part of Stark's story, it seemed to us that what had been told about them in that context raised as many questions as it answered. In that way, history's recent love affair with Freda only fortified our pre-existing resolve to attempt to present the whole Eric Mareo story.
So we are grateful to Justice Tony Ellis for the initial inspiration, and to those others who helped us resume and complete the task. Sir Trevor Henry gave generously of his time and phenomenal recall on two occasions. James Hollings, Jane Stafford and Anne McCarthy read early drafts and made helpful suggestions for revisions. In particular we would like to thank Judith Dale for her scrupulous attention to weaknesses in an page 8earlier version. Brent Parker provided invaluable archival assistance, and Philip Braithwaite followed some leads for us in London, as did Charles's father, John Ferrall, in Sydney. Thanks also to Mary Moll and Allan Brownlee, Thelma Mareo's relatives, for generously sharing some family history and photos, and to Jan Crane and Michael Quinn in Australia for their information on the Pechotsch family. Redmer Yska was a continual source of enthusiasm and guidance. Ashley Heenan, Peter Walls, and Allan Thomas gave us valuable advice on musical matters. Belinda Ellis somehow managed to design the cover despite the input of two opinionated relatives. Thanks also to Roger Robinson for finding us some research money, Bill Manhire for guiding us to Fergus Barrowman and to the latter and Sue Brown for their splendid editing work.
As an academic and a lawyer we thought we were able to correct each other's weaknesses — but in ways we can't specify without slandering both our professions. Nevertheless, we must thank the domestic god or gods who allowed our own family to survive the process of writing a book about the disintegration of another.