Events In History


The death penalty

  • Page 1 – Capital punishment in New Zealand

    On 18 February 1957 Walter Bolton mounted the gallows – known as 'the meccano set' – and was hanged for the murder of his wife Beatrice. He was the last New Zealander to be executed for murder.

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  • Page 2 – The first execution

    On 7 March 1842 Maketu Wharetotara, the 17-year-old son of the Ngāpuhi chief Ruhe of Waimate, became the first person to be legally executed in New Zealand.

  • Page 4 – The last execution

    Walter Bolton was the last person to be executed in New Zealand when he was convicted of poisoning his wife, Beatrice. He was hanged for her murder at Mount Eden prison. The

  • Page 5 – List of executions

    Between Maketu's execution in 1842 and Walter Bolton in 1957, there were a further 82 executions.

Maungatapu murders, 1866

  • Page 1 – The Maungatapu murders

    The 'Burgess gang' murdered and thieved their way around the South Island during the 1860s. Their most notorious crime was five killings over two days in June 1866, on the

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  • Page 2 – The Burgess gang

    Richard Burgess, the gang's ringleader, originally known as Richard Hill, had been transported from London to Melbourne for theft at the age of 16, arriving in 1847

  • Page 3 – The crimes

    For a few short months the Burgess gang embarked upon a crime spree along the west coast of the South Island that would culminate in the murder of five men on the Maungatapu

  • Page 4 – Sullivan's betrayal

    Joseph Sullivan claimed to have acted solely as a lookout for the gang, and informed the police about the killing of James Battle, incriminating the others

  • Page 5 – The trial

    Depositions against the gang began on 2 August 1866 and attracted great excitement. It was only now that it was revealed that Sullivan had informed on the others.

  • Page 6 – The executions

    Members of the Nelson Volunteers surrounded the gaol on the morning of the execution to ensure 'good order was maintained' by the public.

  • Page 7 – Aftermath

    When Joseph Sullivan returned to Hokitika to give evidence about the robbery of the Hokitika police camp and the murder of George Dobson, a mob called for him to be lynched

Baby farmers

  • Page 1 – Baby farmers

    Baby farmers were paid caregivers who allegedly neglected children in their care, concealed their deaths or deliberately murdered the infants. The most notorious was Minnie

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  • Page 2 – From childcare to baby farming

    High-profile British and Australian court cases in the 1880s introduced New Zealanders to the sinister practices of baby farmers: paid caregivers who neglected children in

  • Page 3 – Minnie Dean

    In 1895 Southland's Williamina (Minnie) Dean became the first – and only – woman to be hanged in New Zealand. Her story exposed the stark realities of paid

  • Page 4 – The Newlands baby farmers

    The sensational murder trial of Daniel and Martha Cooper revealed that the difficulties facing single mothers and unwanted children continued well into the 20th century.

Crime timeline

Homosexual law reform

  • Page 2 – Setting the scene

    There is a long history of opposition to sexual activity between men and an equally long history of legislation that criminalised this activity.

  • Page 3 – Birth of the gay movement

    Social and political groups for homosexuals in New Zealand began with the Dorian Society in the 1960s. By the next decade, sexual and social liberation was in the air.

  • Page 4 – Reforming the law

    To bring about change in the law, the gay movement needed a parliamentary champion. It found one in Member of Parliament Fran Wilde.

Children and adolescents, 1930-1960

  • Page 4 – The post-war family

    As a consequence of the post-war economic boom there was increasing demand for consumer goods. The 1956 census revealed that more than half of New Zealand homes possessed

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  • Page 4 - The post-war family As a consequence of the post-war economic boom there was increasing demand for consumer goods. The 1956 census revealed that more than half of New Zealand homes possessed

The 1920s


  • Parker, Pauline Yvonne

    While attending Christchurch Girls' High School, Pauline Parker met Juliet Hulme and formed the friendship that was to radically change the course of both their lives. In 1954, the pair were convicted of murder in a sensational case.

  • Ross, Sydney Gordon

    Sydney Ross was perhaps the greatest political hoaxer in New Zealand’s history.