Arthur Allan Thomas trial: Witness claims alleged victims tried to extort him before laying police complaint

A defence witness has told a court that Arthur Allan Thomas' alleged victims tried to extort him before complaining to police.

Thomas is standing trial on rape and sexual assault allegations against two women.

After a week of Crown evidence, the defence opened its case on Tuesday in the Manukau District Court and the position remained clear. 

"These alleged offences did not take place," defence lawyer Marie Dyhrberg told the court.

Thomas is facing four charges of historical sexual assault and one of rape, and Dyhrberg reminded the jury to only consider the evidence before them. 

"I know you won't judge this defendant by the fact that he's facing charges," she said.

Thomas is no stranger to the courtroom, after being wrongfully convicted twice of the infamous 1970 murders of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe. 

He was later pardoned after it was found police had planted evidence, and he was granted close to $1,000,000 in compensation.

Now back in the dock decades later, Thomas heard one of his former lawyers give evidence on Tuesday. 

He said he believed the compensation payment prompted the two complainants to act. 

"[They] said Arthur had all this money and ought to share it... and if he didn't they were going to complain to police about sexual abuse," Chris Reid said.

Reid said he witnessed the two alleged victims say that to Thomas in a meeting and claims it was extortion. 

Reid then wrote a letter to the complainants "simply to warn them that they had endeavoured to extort money from Arthur and they ought to take advice" - but he never complained about extortion to police. 

Thomas chose not to give evidence, and closing arguments are now due to be heard on Wednesday.