Maungatapu murders, 1866

Page 4 – Sullivan's betrayal

Sullivan turns on the gang

Without bodies, the police case was circumstantial. On 22 June, searchers found the dead packhorse and the missing men's swags. Rewards for information had no takers, but then the government promised £200 (more than $21,000) and a free pardon to any accomplice (not the actual murderer) who turned Queen's evidence. The notice was posted in clear view of the prisoners.

Suspecting that Levy was the most likely of the four to be only an accomplice, Sergeant-Major Shallcrass separated him from the others. Fearing that Levy would take the bait, Sullivan decided to act first. Claiming to have been merely a lookout for the gang, he told the police about the killing of James Battle and incriminated the others. On 28 June the bodies of Mathieu, Dudley, Kempthorne and de Pontius were recovered thanks to Sullivan's evidence. Battle’s body was found three days later.

Sullivan also told police about the murder of Dobson. After that body was found a man the gang had met on the West Coast, James Wilson, was charged with Dobson’s murder. Sullivan also gave the police information about the attempts to rob Fox and the raid on the Hokitika police camp, and identified Burgess as the gang’s ringleader.

How to cite this page

'Sullivan's betrayal', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 14-Aug-2015