Events In History
13 November 1990David Gray kills 13 at Aramoana
David Gray, an Aramoana resident, began a shooting spree that left 13 people dead. Read more...
1 September 1987New Zealander sentenced to death in Malaysia
Lorraine Cohen was sentenced to death by a Malaysian judge for heroin trafficking. On appeal her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. The trial of Lorraine and her son Aaron, who was arrested at the same time, gained worldwide attention. Read more...
19 May 1987Attempted hijacking in Fiji foiled
An attempted hijacking of an Air New Zealand Boeing 747 at Nadi airport, Fiji, was thwarted when a member of the cabin crew struck the hijacker on the head with a whisky bottle. Read more...
27 March 1984Trades Hall bombing
A suitcase bomb exploded in Wellington's Trades Hall, killing caretaker Ernie Abbott. No one has ever been arrested for the crime. Read more...
14 October 1979'Mr Asia' found murdered
The mutilated body of Marty Johnstone, the nominal leader of the 'Mr Asia' drug syndicate, was found by divers in Eccleston Delft, a flooded disused quarry in Lancashire. His execution had been ordered by syndicate kingpin Terry Clark. Read more...
31 May 1975Mona Blades vanishes
Eighteen-year-old Mona Blades was last seen sitting in the back seat of an orange Datsun station wagon. Her body was never found and her disappearance has never been explained. Read more...
27 September 1974William Sutch charged with spying
Economist Dr W.B. Sutch was acquitted of spying in 1975 after his 'surreptitious and clandestine' meetings with a Russian diplomat were observed by the Security Intelligence Service. Continuing speculation on the matter has been fuelled in recent years by the release of SIS and KGB files. Read more...
16 April 1973Arthur Allan Thomas convicted of Crewe murders for a second time
In the retrial the defence case centred on a cartridge case that had been a key factor in Thomas’s original conviction. Despite questions about its relevance he was convicted for a second time. Read more...
7 December 1963Bassett Road machine-gun murders
The bullet-ridden bodies of Frederick George Walker and Kevin James Speight were found in a house at 115 Bassett Rd, Remuera, Auckland. Ron Jorgensen and John Gillies were convicted of the killings. Read more...
17 May 1962George Wilder escapes from prison
Wilder was a burglar who left apology and thank-you notes for his victims. He was at large for 65 days, becoming a renegade folk hero in the process. His second (and longer) period on the run the following year won him even greater notoriety. Read more...
18 August 195520-year old hanged for murder
Edward Te Whiu was one of the last four people executed in New Zealand. He admitted to killing 75-year-old widow Florence Smith, but his underprivileged background and childlike mental state led some to question the appropriateness of the death penalty. Read more...
28 August 1954'Heavenly Creatures' found guilty of murder
Pauline Parker, aged 16, and Juliet Hulme, 15, were convicted of the murder of Pauline's mother Honora at Christchurch on 22 June. Their story was later the subject of Peter Jackson's film Heavenly Creatures. Read more...
22 June 1954Parker-Hulme murder in Christchurch
Armed with a brick in a stocking, 16-year-old Pauline Parker and her best friend Juliet Hulme, 15, became two of New Zealand's most notorious female murderers when they killed Pauline's mother, Honora, in Victoria Park, Christchurch. Read more...
20 October 1941Fugitive Stan Graham shot by police
Graham died of his wounds the following day. He had been on the run since 8 October and was responsible for the deaths of seven people. Read more...
8 October 1941Stan Graham runs amok on West Coast
Graham shot dead three policemen and mortally wounded two other men before escaping into the bush. One of New Zealand's largest manhunts ended when Graham was shot and mortally wounded on 20 October. Read more...
17 September 1941Death penalty abolished ... for the time being
This law change also ended flogging and whipping as punishments for murder. National reintroduced the death penalty in 1950 but it was finally abolished as the penalty for murder in 1961. Read more...
3 May 1929Controversial ex-mayor killed in Berlin riots
Charles Ewing Mackay, the disgraced former mayor of Whanganui, was shot dead by Berlin police during May Day riots in the German capital. Read more...
16 June 1923Baby-farmer Daniel Cooper hanged
A generation after the execution of the infamous Minnie Dean, the murder trial of Daniel and Martha Cooper revealed that 'baby farming' was still seen as a solution to the problem of unwanted children in 1920s New Zealand. Read more...
17 May 1922Catholic Bishop found not guilty of sedition
James Liston, the assistant bishop of Auckland, was found not guilty of sedition after it was alleged he had made anti-British remarks in a St Patrick’s Day address. Read more...
28 May 1920Fingerprints help convict murderer
In the Auckland Supreme Court, Dennis Gunn was convicted of the murder of a postmaster and sentenced to death. In what was claimed to be a world first for a capital crime, Gunn's conviction was based almost entirely on fingerprint evidence. Read more...
15 May 1920Whanganui mayor shoots poet
Walter D'Arcy Cresswell alleged that Mayor Charles Mackay had made homosexual advances towards him. Mackay was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years' hard labour. Read more...
27 August 1911Pawelka's last prison break
Joseph Pawelka escaped from Wellington's Terrace Gaol. It was the last in a series of bold but seemingly effortless prison escapes he made over a period of 18 months. Read more...
24 September 1905Race killing in Haining St, Wellington
Lionel Terry killed Joe Kum Yung to draw attention to his crusade to rid New Zealand of Chinese people. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on the grounds of insanity. Read more...
12 August 1895Baby-farmer Minnie Dean hanged
In 1895 Minnie Dean became the first (and only) woman to be hanged by law in New Zealand. Known as the 'Winton baby farmer', she had been convicted of the murder of baby Dorothy Edith Carter after a sensational trial in Invercargill. Read more...
18 June 1895Minnie Dean goes on trial
Minnie Dean's trial for murdering a baby placed in her care began at the Invercargill Supreme Court. The 'Winton baby-farmer' was found guilty three days later and hanged on 12 August. Read more...
29 December 1880Tuhiata hanged for murder of Mary Dobie
Tuhiata, known as Tuhi, was hanged in Wellington for the murder of the artist Mary Dobie at Te Namu Bay, Ōpunake. Tuhi wrote to the governor days before his execution asking that 'my bad companions, your children, beer, rum and other spirits die with me'. Read more...
16 November 1869Hamiora Pere executed for treason
Hamiora Pere was hanged at the Terrace Gaol, Wellington. He is the only New Zealander to have been executed after being convicted of treason. Read more...
5 October 1866Maungatapu murderers hanged in Nelson
Burgess, Kelly and Levy were hanged. Joseph Sullivan, the fourth member of the 'Burgess gang', received a life sentence after turning Queen's evidence and helping convict his co-accused. Read more...
13 June 1866Murder on the Maungatapu track
Having murdered George Dobson a fortnight earlier, and a prospector the day before, the Burgess gang continued their killing spree on the track between Canvastown and Nelson. Four men were ambushed and slain in a crime that stunned the colony. Read more...
4 March 1855Legendary sheep rustler James Mackenzie caught
Mackenzie escaped but was recaptured at Lyttelton on 15 March. Sentenced to five years' imprisonment, he was unconditionally pardoned in January 1856. Read more...
18 April 1847Gilfillan killings near Whanganui
A Māori raid on the Gilfillan farm at Matarawa, near Whanganui, left four family members dead. The artist John Gilfillan and one of his daughters were severely wounded. Read more...
7 March 1842First official execution in NZ
17-year-old Maketū Wharetōtara was hanged at the corner of Queen and Victoria streets in Auckland for the 1841 murder of Elizabeth Roberton, her two children, and two other adults. Read more...
20 November 1841Mass murder in the Bay of Islands
Maketū Wharetōtara, the 17-year-old son of the Ngāpuhi chief Ruhe, killed five people at Motuarohia in the Bay of Islands. In March 1842 he became the first person to be legally executed in this country. Read more...
The first execution in New Zealand was that of a young Maori named Maketu, convicted at Auckland in 1842. Walter Bolton became the last to be executed when he was hanged at Mount Eden prison in 1957. In total there were 83 verified executions for murder and one for treason in New Zealand between these dates.
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.
Page 6 – Further information
This web feature was written by Steve Watters and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team.
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 Maungatapu track near Nelson. Now you can read their story in a virtual comic book.
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
In May 1866 the Burgess gang embarked on a crime spree on the west coast of the South Island that would culminate in the murder of five men on the Maungatapu Track.
Page 4 – Sullivan's betrayal
Joseph Sullivan claimed to have acted solely as a lookout for the gang, and told the police about the killing of James Battle, incriminating the others
Page 5 – The trial
Deposition proceedings against the gang began on 2 August 1866 amid great excitement. Only now was it 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 that '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
Page 8 – Further information
Further reading and links to information about the Maungatapu murders
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 Dean, who, in August 1895, became the first (and only) woman to be hanged for murder in New Zealand.
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.
New Zealand is often seen as a relatively safe country, but as this selection of notable crimes shows, we have had our fair share of homicides, violent acts and other criminal behaviour. The timeline of more than 75 events can also be viewed as a map.
Page 3 – Further information
Links and books relating to NZ crimes
The homosexual law reform campaign moved beyond the gay community to wider issues of human rights and discrimination. Extreme viewpoints ensured a lengthy and passionate debate before the Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed 27 years ago, in July 1986.
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.
The need for the New Zealand government to promote national interests during the Depression and the Second World War created a renewed appreciation of the role of the family within society.
- 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 was the decade that modern New Zealand came of age. Despite political and economic uncertainty, the country shrugged off the gloom of war to embrace the Jazz Age - an era of speed, power and glamour. Explore an overview of the decade and a year-by-year breakdown of key events.
- Page 6 - 1923 - key eventsA selection of key New Zealand events from
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.Read more...
Sutch, William Ball
Even before his arrest, trial and acquittal on spy charges in the 1970s most New Zealanders had heard of Bill Sutch. He was a prominent citizen – known for his work as an economist, writer, public servant and diplomat.Read more...
Ross, Sydney Gordon
Sydney Ross was perhaps the greatest political hoaxer in New Zealand’s history.Read more...
- WW1 home front
- WW1 stories
- aramoana massacre
- minnie dean
- child welfare
- burgess gang
- john gilfillan
- whanganui city
- death penalty
- nelson city
- bay of islands
- charles mackay
- bill sutch
- pauline parker
- juliet hulme
- justice system
- roadside stories
- postal service
- famous firsts
- james liston
- sydney ross
- daniel cooper
- wellington city
- james mackenzie
- george wilder
- cold war
- mona blades
- george cross
- henry garrett
- gay rights
- law reform
- workers rights
- james cowan
- katherine mansfield
- railway stations
- arthurs pass
- joseph merrett
- venn young
- national party
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- fran wilde
- norman jones
- labour party
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- social policy
- mazengarb report
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Main image: The death of Samuel ChoateSketch of Sergeant Edward Marsden which appeared in NZ Truth at the time of his trial for the manslaughter of Staff Sergeant-Major Samuel Choate during the voyage of the Pakeha.