List of people executed in New Zealand

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A total of 85 people were executed under New Zealand's capital punishment system while it was in force. An additional five New Zealand soldiers were executed under military regulations in France during World War I, though they subsequently received posthumous pardons under the Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Act 2000.[1]

List of executed persons[edit]

# Name Executed Details
1 Wiremu Kingi Maketu 7 Mar 1842, Auckland First person to be judicially executed in New Zealand (although not the first person sentenced to death). Convicted of murdering the family for whom he was working as a farm-hand.
2 Joseph Burns 17 Jun 1848, Auckland Convicted of murdering a naval officer Lt Snow and his family at Devonport Naval Base in order to rob them.
3 Maroro 19 Apr 1849, Wellington Convicted of murdering a man and his children in a fit of rage at a previous conviction for theft – he denied having any particular connection to his victims.
4 William Good 17 Jun 1850, Wellington Convicted of murdering a seaman (John Ellis) aboard the General Palmer, a merchant barque moored in Wellington Harbour.
5 William Bowden 27 Apr 1852, Auckland Convicted of murdering a blacksmith, stabbing him with a knife during a fight.
6 Charles Marsden 12 Feb 1856, Auckland Convicted of murdering a Māori woman of the Te Arawa iwi. The incident caused significant tension between Te Arawa and the government, with some members of Te Arawa threatening to storm the prison and kill Marsden should the government not act against him.
7 John White 11 Jul 1856, Auckland Convicted of murdering his partner, Ann Fay, with an axe. It is alleged that he was abusive towards her, and that he killed her when she refused to stay with him and threatened to reveal previous crimes he had committed. White denied the charge, and said that Fay was sought after by one of the witnesses against him, William Harris, and that Harris's mistress, Ann Scott (also a witness), killed Fay out of jealousy.
8 John Killey 18 Mar 1858, Auckland Convicted of murdering a man in Whangarei after a drunken argument.
9 James Collins 30 Jan 1862, Wellington A Colour-Sergeant convicted of murdering an officer who had constantly tried to bully him. The first person to be executed privately, rather than in public.
10 Teherei 10 Jul 1863, Picton
11 Richard Harper 2 Sep 1863, Auckland Murder of his wife, Jane Alice Harper via Butchers Knife on 16 June 1863.[2]
12-13 Ruarangi 18 Apr 1864, Auckland Convicted of murdering a woman and her daughter on a farm at Kaukapakapa. Another daughter, who was present but survived, told the court that Ruarangi stated an intent to kill other pākehā in the area, allegedly with the intent of sparking conflict, although the relationship between the settlers and local Māori was considered relatively good at the time.
Nikotema Okeroa Convicted of murdering Te Waiti, described as a Māori chief, in the Bay of Islands. Okeroa was argued by some to be mentally incapable (Māori witnesses used the term porangi).
14 Alexander McLean 21 Oct 1864, Auckland Convicted of murdering his wife with a gun. McLean argued that the firearm was discharged accidentally.
15 William Andrew Jarvey 24 Oct 1865, Dunedin Convicted of poisoning his wife with strychnine in order to marry his mistress.
16 John Jones 6 Apr 1866, Dunedin[3] Convicted of murdering a man at Waipori.[4] Jones had been drinking heavily, and claimed that he had no recollection of the event.
17 James Stack 7 Apr 1866, Auckland Convicted of murdering his mother-in-law, Mary Finnigan, 55 and her sons, James, 17, Benjamin, 14 and John, 12.
18-22 Mokomoko 17 May 1866, Auckland Convicted of killing Karl Völkner, a missionary who was believed by the Te Whakatohea iwi to be a government spy. See Volkner Incident.
Heremita Kahupaea
Hakaraia Te Rahui
Horomona Poropiti
Mikaere Kirimangu
23-25 Richard Burgess 5 Oct 1866, Nelson The Maungatapu Murderers; convicted of murdering and robbing four people on the road from Nelson to the West Coast goldfields. A fourth man, Joseph Sullivan, was spared the death penalty for testifying against the others.
Thomas Kelly
Philip Levy
26 Robert Wilson 20 Dec 1867, Nelson convicted of the murder of his prospecting mate James Lennox at Deadmans Creek.
27 John Dinsely Swales 16 Apr 1868, Lyttelton Murdered his business partner, John Rankin, by setting fire to his premises in Colombo Street, Christchurch, as he lay in bed.
28 Whakamau 23 Mar 1869 Whakamau was convicted of murdering a pedlar named Kornerop after hitting him in the head with a tomahawk from behind. The murder took place at Ohau, near Levin, north of Wellington.
29 Hamiora Pere 16 Nov 1869, Wellington Convicted of treason, making him the only person to be executed in New Zealand for a crime other than murder. A participant in Te Kooti's War.
30 Anthony Noble 16 Feb 1871, Hokitika Convicted of murdering a girl aged nine or ten in Hokitika. Noble eventually gave a confession in which he admitted to murdering and sexually assaulting the girl, although he denied raping her. Noble was originally from Baltimore (newspapers described him as "coloured" — his father was African American and his mother was Spanish), and he was working in Hokitika as a casual labourer.
31 Simon Cedeno 5 Apr 1871, Lyttelton A butler to William Robinson, a wealthy land-owner and a member of the Legislative Council. Convicted of murdering a maid of the household, apparently after suffering racist insults. Cedeno was from Central America, and was black.
32 Kereopa Te Rau 5 Jan 1872, Napier A leader of the Pai Marire religious movement convicted of involvement in the Volkner Incident (five others already having been executed – see above). Pardoned in 2014.[5]
33 Joseph Eppwright 29 Jul 1873, Auckland An American sailor convicted of murdering a man named Thomas Garrity while in port at Russell. "EPPWRIGHT, a constable, who stabbed another constable, was hanged at Auckland on 29 July. He made a speech exculpating Fisher, stating that he stabbed GARRITY in the heat of a quarrel without intent to kill him. He denied that he had ever been in gaol before. After the cap was fitted the drop was knocked off but only 6 inches and efforts to pull it down proved ineffectual. The culprit was then taken off, the drop was readjusted and the second time it fell clear, causing instantaneous death."
34 Charles Dyer 30 Oct 1874, Auckland Convicted of murdering his mistress by dousing her in kerosene and then setting her alight.
35 Nutana 19 Feb 1875, Auckland Nutana, who was also known by the English name Newton, was convicted of killing a young Maori girl, Henrietta, by breaking her neck.
36 John Robinson Mercer 7 May 1875, Lyttelton A ship's cook convicted of raping and murdering a young girl while in port at Lyttelton.
37 William Henry Woodgate 25 Jan 1877, Picton Willam was accused and found guilty at the Supreme Court sitting of murder of the newborn baby of his niece Susan Woodgate who was the daughter of his brother Robert. He was thought to be the father of the child.[6][7][8][9]
38 Martin Curtin 6 Feb 1877, Auckland Curtin was convicted of the murder of Denis Shanaghan at Ararimu. The murder occurred on 16 Dec, 1876. Shanaghan was beaten to death and it was thought Curtin may have hit him with an axe, the head of which was later found in a fire on Curtin's property.
39 Te Mohi 23 May 1877, Auckland
40 James Welsh 19 Feb 1879, Invercargill [10] Convicted of murdering his wife, Louisa Welsh, at Waikawa Station in 1878 [11]
41 Ah Lee 5 Nov 1880, Dunedin Convicted of murdering Mary Young at the Kyeburn gold diggings near Naseby in order to rob her home. Although he is alleged to have confessed the crime to police, he denied it in court and at the gallows, and his conviction was the subject of considerable public debate.
42 Tuhiata 29 Dec 1880, Wellington Convicted of murdering Mary Dobie on the road to Te Namu Bay, near Ōpunake.
43 Wiremu Hiroki 8 Jun 1882, New Plymouth Convicted of murdering John McLean, a member of a government surveying party operating in the area east of Waverley. He is alleged to have acted out of belief that McLean had been killing his pigs.
44 Taurangaka Winiata 4 Aug 1882, Auckland Winiata was convicted of murdering a workmate, Edwin Parker, on June 27, 1876, by attacking him with a bill-hook. Winiata then fled to the King Country where he was given sanctuary by the Maori King, Tawhiao, after Winiata had told the King a half-caste had committed the murder. He remained in the King Country until his arrest in June 1882 after being lured out of the area on the pretext of supplying pigs for sale.
45 John Donohue 11 June 1884, Hokitika Donohue was convicted of murdering James Gifford at Maori Creek.
46 Rowland Herbert Edwards 15 Jul 1884, Napier Convicted of the murder of his wife and four children by slitting their throats. The family had lived at Ormondville.[12]
47-48 John Caffrey 21 Feb 1887, Auckland Convicted of murdering Robert Taylor of Great Barrier Island, father of Caffrey's one-time fiancée, Elizabeth Anne Taylor. The intent was to abduct Elizabeth, but they came to believe that they had been detected, and decided to flee to Valparaíso in a vessel stolen from Caffrey's employers. They were forced to turn back by a storm, and managed to hide for a time in Australia before being returned to New Zealand. A third person Grace Cleary, accompanied the two, and was charged as an accessory.
Henry Penn
49 Haira Te Piri 13 May 1889, Napier Te Piri was a bushman and shearer who was convicted for the triple homicide of Frank and Jane Pook and their infant son, Bertie at their residence at the Mataahu Store. Te Piri had lost his own wages playing cards and the wages of another worker, which his employer had asked him to pass on. He stabbed Frank and Jane Pook to death during the robbery and severely wounded Bertie - the young boy dying three days later.
50 Makoare Wata 28 Sep 1889, Napier Wata was convicted of the murder of Robert Gollan at Table Cape, Mahia. The court heard that Wata held a grudge against Gollan, who had accused him of stealing sheep from the Ormond's property. An accomplice (Reihana) testified that Wata had hidden a gun near Gollan's residence and shot Gollan three times before setting fire to the house.
51 Alexander James Scott 22 May 1893, Auckland A resident of Waikumete (then spelled Waikomiti, and usually considered part of Glen Eden today) who was convicted of poisoning his neighbour, allegedly in order to more easily continue a claimed relationship with the victim's wife. Scott claimed that the deceased had committed suicide, and that he had previously spoken of doing so.
52 Minnie Dean 12 Aug 1895, Invercargill The only woman to be executed in New Zealand. A "baby-farmer" convicted of killing children in her care.
53 Etienne Brocher (aka Stephen Bosher) 21 Apr 1897, Wellington Convicted of the double murder of his neighbours. Brocher entered into their house and stabbed them to death during a robbery in Petone, Lower Hutt.
54 William Sheehan 21 Jul 1897, Lyttelton Convicted of the murder in April 1897 of one Agnes Lawcock at Amberley.[13][14]
55 Frank Philpott 23 Mar 1898, Wellington Convicted of murdering Ernest Hawthorne, whom he was living and working with in a bush hut in Silverstream, Upper Hutt.[15]
56 Charles Clements 12 Apr 1898, Dunedin Convicted of murdering his wife.[16]
57 Enoka 2 May 1898, New Plymouth Convicted of murdering his wife with a tomahawk.[17]
58 Alexander McLean 31 Aug 1901, Lyttelton Convicted of murdering a woman and her two children in Eyreton. McLean was the family's manservant, and is alleged to have killed them in order to rob the house.
59 James Ellis 28 Feb 1905, Wellington Convicted of murdering Len Collinson, who worked clearing bush at Te Awaite, in southern Wairarapa. Ellis had been accused of minor criminal acts in the area, and Collinson had attempted to drive Ellis away from the work camp – it was reported that Collinson was aware of Ellis's previous conviction for rape.
60 Tahi Kaka 21 Jun 1911, Auckland Seventeen-year-old youth convicted of murdering John Freeman, a gum-digger in Northland, while robbing him. Kaka's execution gave rise to controversy because of his youth.
61 Alfred Mortram Biddle 13 Dec 1913, Lyttelton A blacksmith from Mayfield who was convicted of murdering the wife of a man who had hired him. Biddle stated that he did not know why he committed the crime, and denied suggestions that he had sexual motivations. He apparently attempted to commit suicide by poison while hiding from police.
62 Arthur Rottman 18 Mar 1915, Wellington Convicted of murdering Joseph and Mary McCann, who employed him on their farm, with an axe.
63 Frank Edward Bennier 19 Jan 1918, Wellington Convicted of murdering his wife, Ethel Emma Bennier, when she decided to leave him.
64 Frederick William Eggers 5 Mar 1918, Lyttelton Convicted of murdering John Coulthard (and attempting to murder two others) in the course of holding up a vehicle transporting miners' wages in Runanga.
65 Dennis Gunn 22 Jun 1920, Auckland Convicted of shooting Augustus Edward Braithwaite, the postmaster of Ponsonby, to obtain the keys to the local post office which he later robbed. Believed to be worldwide the first person convicted of a capital crime based entirely on fingerprint evidence.[18]
66 Samuel John Thorne 20 Dec 1920, Auckland Convicted of shooting Sydney Seymour Eyre, near Pukekohe. He was alleged to be in some form of relationship with Eyre's wife (who was said by prosecutors to be unwilling).
67 Hakaraia Te Kahu 10 Oct 1921, Auckland Hakaraia te Kahu aged 27 was charged with wilfully murdering Patrick Richard Elliot at Mokai on Easter Sunday, 27 March 1921 so that he could steal money from him.
68 John Tuhi 19 Apr 1923, Wellington Convicted of murdering Herbert Henry Knight of Johnsonville.
69 Daniel Cooper 16 Jun 1923, Wellington A "baby-farmer"at Newlands near Wellington, convicted of killing children in his care (his wife Martha was found "not guilty").
70 Robert Herbert Scott 17 Apr 1924, Auckland Convicted of murdering 12-year-old Gwendoline Kathleen Murray at Makaraka, Gisborne.
71 Arthur Thomas Munn 29 Jul 1930, Auckland A Northcote man convicted of poisoning his wife Lillie in order to inherit her property and marry his mistress.
72 George Coats 17 Dec 1931, Wellington A worker on the Mount Victoria Tunnel excavations, convicted of murdering his pregnant girlfriend and hiding her body on the site.[19]
73 Edward Tarrant 6 Mar 1933, Wellington A woodcutter aged 58 from Australia, convicted of killing an elderly farmer named James Flood at Picton in November 1931 with an axe to steal a considerable sum of money.[19][20][21]
74 John Hubert Edwards 11 Dec 1933, Auckland Convicted of the murder of Christian Cunningham.
75 George Edward James 15 Dec 1933, Wellington Killed his live-in partner Cecilia Smith in their flat in Ohiro Rd, Brooklyn. He was later seen merrily cycling with her 4-year-old son Noel across the city. Hours later Noel's body was found wedged in between some rocks at Shelly Bay. His head had been bashed. James then went to a Lambton Quay pub before throwing himself into the harbour. By the time police discovered the body of Ms Smith – lying on the bed, her throat slit – James had been rescued. He had left a suicide note on the wharf, blaming his daughter for his decision to kill those he loved.[19]
76 William Alfred Bayly 20 Jul 1934, Auckland A farmer convicted of murdering his neighbours, and suspected of earlier murdering his cousin.
77 Charles William Price 27 Jun 1935, Wellington Allegedly an alcoholic, convicted of murdering his mistress in a field near Napier. Allegedly for a small sum of money, after an all day drinking session.[19]
Capital punishment abolished for ordinary crimes from 1935 to 1950
78 William Geovanni Silveo Fiori 13 Mar 1952, Auckland Murdered Jack Gabolinsky in his bed, along with his wife. Fiori reportedly was after the 1,163 pound payroll cheque Gabolinsky had withdrawn from the bank in order to pay his workers at the Minginui mill in the Ureweras the following day.[22]
79 Eruera Te Rongapatahi 14 Sep 1953, Auckland Convicted of murdering James Henderson, a taxi driver, at Mt. Somers Township in June 1953.
80 Harry Whiteland 21 Dec 1953, Auckland Convicted of murdering 19-year-old Dorothy Rose Haldane, a Railways booking clerk at Reefton Railway Station on 27 August 1953.
81 Frederick Foster 7 Jul 1955, Auckland Convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend at a milk bar on Queen Street.
82 Edward Te Whiu 18 Aug 1955, Auckland Convicted of murdering an elderly woman who discovered him during a burglary.
83 Harvey Allwood 13 Oct 1955, Auckland Convicted of murdering John Hughes of Makarewa.
84 Albert Lawrence Black 5 Dec 1955, Auckland Convicted of murdering Alan Keith Jacques at a cafe on Queen St. Auckland on 26 July 1955.[23]
85 Walter James Bolton 18 Feb 1957, Auckland Last person judicially executed before the abolition of capital punishment in New Zealand. Found guilty of poisoning his wife.
Capital punishment abolished for ordinary crimes in 1961, abolished for all crimes in 1989

Military executions[edit]

In addition to those executed under New Zealand's regular criminal justice system, five New Zealand soldiers fighting as part of the Allied war effort in World War I were court-martialed and subsequently executed by firing squad.

# Name Executed Details
1 Frank Hughes 25 Aug 1916 Convicted of desertion.
2 John Sweeney 2 Oct 1916 Convicted of desertion.
3 John Braithwaite 29 Oct 1916 Convicted of mutiny. After first being incarcerated for repeatedly being away without leave, he was accused of instigating a prison riot, although he claimed that he only involved himself in an attempt to calm it.
4 John King 19 Aug 1917 Convicted of desertion.
5 Victor Spencer 24 Feb 1918 Convicted of desertion.

The executions were not made public at the time. All five were pardoned in 2000 when New Zealand Parliament concluded that their convictions had been unjust, and that today, all would be regarded as mentally unfit to serve. Two of them (King and Sweeney) were born in Australia.

Number of executions by location[edit]

Initially, executions were carried out in public, and could be conducted at any suitable location – in at least one case (Joseph Burns, 1848) the prisoner was taken to the scene of the crime for execution. Executions from 1862 were carried out in private. Later, the number of locations was reduced to only two – Auckland (generally Mount Eden Prison) and Wellington (generally Mount Crawford Prison). In total, ten cities were the sites of executions.

Location Number of executions
Auckland 41
Wellington 17
Lyttelton 7
Dunedin 4
Napier 4
Nelson 4
Hokitika 2
Invercargill 2
New Plymouth 2
Picton 2
Europe (in World War I) 5


  1. ^ "The executed five Great War Story". NZ History; Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
  2. ^ POLICE COURT.—Saturday. (Before Thomas Backham, Esq, R.M.) THE MURDER CASE. (22 June 1863). "Daily Southern Cross". Retrieved 30 December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Papers Past | Newspapers | Otago Witness | 7 April 1866 | EXECUTION OF JONES".
  4. ^[bare URL]
  5. ^ Stone, Andrew (21 June 2014). "Pardoned at last: Chief cleared of 1865 murder". The New Zealand Herald.
  6. ^ "The Woodgate Murder". Marlborough Express. Vol. XI, no. 873. 6 December 1876. p. 5. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Supreme Court Sittings". Marlborough Express. Vol. XI, no. 874. 9 December 1876. p. 6. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  8. ^ "Extraordinary Failure of Justice in the Woodgate Case". Marlborough Express. Vol. XII, no. 887. 24 January 1877. p. 5. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  9. ^ "Execution of Woodgate". Marlborough Express. Vol. XII, no. 888. 27 January 1877. p. 6. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Execution of Welsh". The Southland Times. No. 3329. 20 February 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  11. ^ "The Waikawa Murder". Otago Witness. No. 4000. 28 September 1878. p. 9. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  12. ^ "Flashback: The Ormondville murders of 1884". 20 January 2017.
  13. ^ "The Amberley Murder , the Amberley Murder". Press. 22 July 1897. p. 5.
  14. ^ "Offences. , Offences". The New Zealand Herald. 14 May 1897. p. 3.
  15. ^ "THE SILVERSTREAM MURDER. FRANK PHILPOTT FOUND GUILTY". The Evening Post. No. 48, Vol. LV. 26 February 1898. p. 5. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  16. ^ "The George Street Tragedy. , the George Street Tragedy". Otago Witness. 10 March 1898. p. 25.
  17. ^ "THE TARANAKI MURDER". New Zealand Mail. 28 April 1898. p. 27. Retrieved 28 September 2021 – via Papers Past.
  18. ^ Hunt, Tom (28 May 2016). "CSI Ponsonby, 1920". The Press. p. A14.
  19. ^ a b c d Clio Francis (29 October 2012). "Old prison reaches its use-by date". Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  20. ^ Johnston, Martin (30 January 2019). "H-Files: Murder victim's skull presented in court as evidence of violent death". NZ Herald. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  21. ^ "Hull Daily Mail". The British Newspaper archive. p. 1. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  22. ^ "Jack Arthur Charles Gabolinsky". Auckland War Memorial Museum. Retrieved 8 July 2022 – via Online Cenotaph.
  23. ^ "Albert Black execution". 19 November 2018.

External links[edit]