Graham shot dead three policemen and fatally wounded two other men before escaping into the bush. One of New Zealand’s largest manhunts concluded when he was shot on the evening of 20 October. Graham died of his wounds the following day. Ultimately, seven men were to die as a result of his shooting spree.
Eric Stanley George Graham, known as Stan, was born and bred on the West Coast. At school he was described as slightly reserved but fairly well behaved. He was a member of the Kokatahi gun club in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Graham married Dorothy McCoy in December 1930 and shortly afterwards the couple moved to a dairy farm at Koiterangi. They had two children, a boy and a girl.
The Grahams maintained reasonably good relations with their neighbours but generally kept to themselves. By 1940 they were struggling financially. The Westland Co-operative Dairy Company had condemned cream from their farm and they lost money in a cattle-breeding venture. A neighbour noted an apparent deterioration in Graham’s mood.
In May 1941 police were directed to collect all .303 rifles from householders as part of the war effort. When Constable Ted Best called on Graham to collect his rifle, Graham first said he didn’t have it and then promised to send it to him. When the rifle failed to arrive, Best returned to the Graham farm. Graham told Best that if the police wanted his gun they would have to prosecute him to get it. As well as believing they were being persecuted by the police, the Grahams suspected their neighbours of poisoning their cows.
On 8 October 1941, Constables Edward Best, Percy Tulloch, Frederick Jordan and Sergeant William Cooper went to Graham’s Koiterangi farm. A neighbour claimed he had been subjected to threatening behaviour which included Stan pointing a rifle at him. Graham met the policemen at his front door. Exactly what happened next is unknown, but Cooper, Jordan and Tulloch were shot dead. Best was badly wounded and would later die from his wounds. George Ridley, an agricultural instructor, became Graham’s fifth victim when he arrived at the house. He was to die in March 1943 from the wounds he received that day.
Graham fled into the bush and the ensuing manhunt was overseen by the Commissioner of Police, Denis Cummings. Hundreds of police, soldiers, home guardsmen and volunteers were involved. On the evening of 9 October Graham returned to his farm. Shots were exchanged between Graham and home guardsmen Richard Coulson and Gregory Hutchison. Coulson died immediately and Hutchison the following day. Graham was wounded but eluded capture until he was shot and fatally wounded on 20 October, after 12 nights in the bush.
Image: Stanley Graham (DNZB)