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Crime timeline

Page 1 – Introduction

This timeline lists some of the most notable crimes (especially homicides and other acts of violence) involving New Zealanders since 1840.

We welcome comments and suggestions for additional entries, which can be made in the community contributions area at the end of the page. For background information on crime in New Zealand, see Te Ara.

1842 The hanging of Maketū
On 7 March, at Auckland, Maketū Wharetōtara (also known as Wiremu Kīngi Maketū), the son of a Ngāpuhi chief, Ruhe, became the first person to be executed by hanging in New Zealand. He had been found guilty of murdering two adults and three children at Motuarohia in the Bay of Islands in November 1841. Read more.
1848 Hanging of Joseph Burns
On 17 June, at Devonport, Auckland, Joseph Burns became the first European to be hanged in New Zealand under British law. He had been convicted of murdering a British naval officer and his wife and daughter. Read more and see a newspaper report (PapersPast).
1855 James Mackenzie, sheep stealer
On 4 March, James Mackenzie was found with a thousand sheep stolen from Levels Station, South Canterbury, in the region that was to become known as the Mackenzie Country. Read more.
1861 Murder at the Rutland Stockade
On 1 November, Colour-Sergeant James Collins fatally shot Ensign William Alexander in the Rutland Stockade, Whanganui, who had insulted him. Collins was the first criminal hanged in New Zealand following the abolition of public hangings by the Execution of Criminals Act 1858. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1864 Jarvey poisoning
On 26 September, ship’s captain William Jarvey poisoned his wife, Catherine Jarvey, in Dunedin. The crime was reported by their daughter Elizabeth. The first jury could not agree, and a key scientific expert died of ‘excessive debility and general exhaustion’ on his way to give evidence at the second trial. Jarvey was nevertheless convicted and hanged. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1866 Maungatapu murders
On 13 June, Richard Burgess, Thomas Kelly, Philip Levy and Joseph Sullivan robbed and murdered James Dudley, John Kempthorne, Felix Mathieu and James de Pontius on the Nelson goldfields (they had killed James Battle the previous day). Three of the gang were hanged, but Sullivan’s death sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment after he testified against his accomplices. Read more.
1869 Executed for treason
On 16 November, Hamiora Pere (Ngāi Tahu Matawhaiti) was hanged at the Terrace Gaol, Wellington. He is the only New Zealander to have been executed after being convicted of treason. Read more.
1876 Murder of Edwin Packer
On 27 January, Edwin Packer was murdered on the farm on which he worked in Epsom, Auckland. His workmate Taurangaka Winiata (Ngāti Mahuta), the prime suspect, escaped to the King Country, where Pākehā authority was not recognised. Six years later he was captured by Robert Barlow (Ngāti Pikiao), who handed him to the police and receied a reward of £500 (equivalent to $110,000 in 2024). Winiata was executed at Mt Eden gaol on 4 August 1882. Read more about the crime, capture and exevcution (PapersPast).
1880 Murder of Mary Dobie
On 29 December, Tuhiata, known as Tuhi, was hanged in Wellington for the murder of artist Mary Dobie at Te Namu Bay, Ōpunake, on 25 November. Before his execution, Tuhiata wrote to the governor to ask that ‘my bad companions, your children, beer, rum and other spirits die with me’. Read more.
1883 Whanganui River murder
On 26 February, the body of four-year-old Phoebe (‘Flossy’) Veitch was found washed ashore at the mouth of the Whanganui River, which had been in flood. Her mother, Phoebe Veitch, was convicted of her murder. Phoebe’s death sentence was commuted when a Jury of matrons found that she was pregnant. This was the only time such a Jury – a medieval innovation for testing women who ‘pleaded their belly’ – was ever empanelled in New Zealand. Hear podcast and see related newspaper report (PapersPast).
1886 Hall poisonings
On 19 October, Timaru businessman Thomas Hall was convicted of the attempted murder of his wife, Kate, after a suspicious doctor had a sample of the contents of her stomach analysed. Hall, who had poison in his pockets when arrested, was sentenced to life imprisonment. In January 1887 he was charged with the earlier fatal poisoning of Henry Cain, Kate’s stepfather, found guilty and sentenced to death. This conviction was overturned on appeal because of an evidential technicality. Read more (DNZB).
1891 Child murder in Christchurch
On 5 January, the head of a three-week-old male baby was found by children in Christchurch. Anna and Sarah Flanagan, the mother and grandmother of the dead infant, were found guilty of infanticide, but their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. The case created a sensation because of the gruesome circumstances, the hysterical behaviour of the accused in court, and the fact that Anna's husband, a police constable, was initially also charged with the murder. Hear podcast and see related newspaper report (PapersPast).
1895 Hanging of Minnie Dean
On 12 August, the infamous Winton ‘baby farmer’, Minnie Dean, became the first and only woman to be hanged in New Zealand. Although she had certainly concealed the deaths of several children in her care, it is unclear whether Dean was actually guilty of murder. Read more.
1905 Lionel Terry’s hate crime
On 24 September, Edward Lionel Terry shot and killed Joe Kum Yung, an elderly Chinese man, in Haining Street, central Wellington. Seeking to publicise his campaign to cleanse the empire of alien influences, Terry turned himself in with the murder weapon. He was to spend the rest of his life – nearly half a century – in mental hospitals. Read more.
1908 Invercargill axe murders
In the early hours of 8 April, South Invercargill seed merchant James Reid Baxter attacked his wife, four sons and daughter with an axe before blowing his head off with a detonator cap. Three of the boys died immediately, while the other three victims lingered for up to a fortnight before succumbing to their horrific injuries. The inquest jury returned a verdict of temporary insanity. Read more (PapersPast)
1909 The notorious Amy Bock
On 21 April, confidence trickster Amy Bock – in the guise of Percy Redwood – married Agnes Ottaway for her money. At her avidly followed trial, Bock admitted to masquerading as a man, forgery, false pretences and theft. She received a two-year prison sentence. Read more (DNZB).
1912 Violent death during the Waihi strike
On 12 November, during a bitter industrial dispute in the gold-mining town of Waihī, striker Frederick George Evans was savagely beaten by police and strikebreakers. He died the following day. An inquiry found that Constable Gerald Wade had been ‘fully justified in striking deceased down’. To trade unionists, on the other hand, Evans was an innocent victim of state violence. Read more.
1914 A New Zealand ‘Jack the Ripper’?
On 28 September, prostitute Frances Marshall was brutally stabbed to death in Auckland. This unsolved crime sparked fears that a New Zealand ‘Jack the Ripper’ mimicking London’s Whitechapel murders of 1888–91 was on the loose. However, no similar attacks followed. Read more (PapersPast).
1914 Ruahine axe murderer
On 28 December a young German man, Arthur Rottman, brutally murdered his former employer Joseph McCann, his wife Lucy and their infant son John with an axe. No clear motive emerged before he was hanged on 13 February 1915 at the Terrace Gaol, Wellington. Read more (PapersPast).
1915 Alice Parkinson case
On 2 March, Napier woman Alice Parkinson killed her boyfriend after he refused to marry her following a painful miscarriage. She then shot herself in the head but survived to stand trial. The jury recommended mercy on the grounds of provocation, but the judge sentenced her to life with hard labour. More than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for Parkinson’s release, and she was eventually paroled in 1921. Read more (DNZB).
1916 Arrest of Rua Kēnana
On the morning of Sunday 2 April, 57 armed police invaded the remote Tūhoe settlement of Maungapōhatu in the Urewera Ranges. They had come to arrest the prophet and community leader Rua Kēnana. A gunfight broke out and two Māori were killed, including Rua’s son Toko. Read more.
1920 Dennis Gunn’s fingerprints
On 13 March, Dennis Gunn murdered Ponsonby postmaster Augustus Edward Braithwaite in order to obtain his set of keys to the post office. This case confirmed for New Zealanders the value of fingerprint evidence, as prints left on the gun were matched with prints found in the post office. Read more.
1920 Whanganui mayor shoots poet
On 15 May, Whanganui mayor Charles Mackay shot and injured the visiting poet Walter D’Arcy Cresswell at his office. Cresswell later alleged that the mayor had made homosexual advances towards him. Mackay was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour. Read more.
1921 Murder of a police constable
On 27 August, Constable James Dorgan was found fatally shot outside a Timaru drapery store that he had been watching, believing a robbery was taking place inside. Despite an energetic search by the police and wide public cooperation with the investigation, the murderer was never found. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1923 Baby farming in Newlands
Daniel and Martha Cooper of Newlands, near Wellington, were charged with infanticide and performing abortions. Martha was acquitted – her defence counsel claimed she was weak-minded and pressured by her husband – but Daniel was ultimately found guilty and executed. Read more.
1928 Elsie Walker mystery
On 5 October, 17-year-old Elsie Walker was found dead with a head injury in a disused quarry in east Auckland. The cause of death was not confirmed but locals suspected her cousin, William Bayly, who was to be convicted of murdering Samual and Christobel Lakey in 1933. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ)
1929 Hīmatangi tragedy
On 6 September a farmhouse near Hīmatangi, Manawatū burned to the ground, with four adults and four children perishing inside. One of the victims, 47-year-old farmer Thomas Wright, had been shot in the head prior to the fire, but not enough evidence remained to convict anyone. Read more (Te Ara) and see contemporary newspaper account (PapersPast).
1933 Bayly case
On 16 October, the body of Christobel Lakey was found at Ruawaro, near Huntly; it was later found that the body of her husband Samuel had been incinerated. Their neighbour, William Alfred Bayly, was convicted of the murders and hanged on 20 July 1934. This case marked the beginning of more professional and thorough evidence-gathering by police. Read more (DNZB).
1934 Tragedy in the King Country
Hēnare Hona went on the run after shooting a family of four, the Davenports, on their farm near Te Kuiti on 9 October. On the 20th, near Morrinsville, he shot Constable Thomas Heeps, who died the next day. Cornered by other policemen, Hona died by suicide. See contemporary newspaper account (PapersPast).
1935 Murder of Joan Rattray
On 2 July, six-year-old Joan Rose Rattray was found asphyxiated in the mud of Karamū Creek, Hastings. Police ruled her death no accident but never found the killer. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1939 Death faked at Piha
On 12 February, Australian Gordon McKay attempted to fake his own death at Piha, west of Auckland. Helped by James Talbot, he placed a corpse in a bach and set this on fire. Both men were found guilty of arson and – a New Zealand first – improper interference with a dead human body. Read more (PapersPast).
1941 Stan Graham’s shooting spree
On 8 October, Eric Stanley Graham killed three police officers and fatally wounded a fourth at his farm near Hokitika. He later killed an agricultural instructor and two Home Guardsmen. A massive manhunt ended on 20 October when Graham was shot on sight by Constable James Quirke. Read more.
1942 German sabotage hoax
On 29 March, confidence trickster Sydney Gordon Ross convinced Robert Semple, the Minister of National Service, that members of a German sabotage cell had tried to enlist him to their cause. Ross was put up in Rotorua’s Grand Hotel under the pseudonym of ‘Captain Calder’. The con went on for months until suspicions led to an investigation. In February 1943, the now-discredited Security Intelligence Bureau was taken over by the commissioner of police. No charges were laid against Ross or his co-conspirator, Charles Remmers. Read more.
1942 Wairoa murders
On 21 August, elderly sisters Rosamund and Annie Smyth were found beaten to death in their Wairoa home; the crime had occurred about 13 days earlier. There were a number of suspects but no one was ever convicted of the crime. Read more (DNZB).
1943 Rail disaster at Hyde
On 4 June 1943, a train derailment near Hyde in Central Otago killed 21 passengers in what remains New Zealand’s second-worst rail accident. The driver, John Corcoran, who was alleged to have been drinking, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for manslaughter. Some saw him as a scapegoat for the wartime failings of a hard-pressed Railways Department. Read more.
1947 Marie West mystery
Marie West went missing from her home on 23 April, but it was three months before her body was found just 60 m away in bush on Mt Victoria, Wellington. She had apparently died by suicide, but how her body ended up where it was found remains a mystery. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1949 Moa Creek murder
On 28 September, 62-year-old William Peter McIntosh was murdered with an axe in his Central Otago woolshed. The main suspect was a stranger who had stopped to ask McIntosh’s wife for directions. This man was never identified and the murder remained unsolved. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1951 ‘Secret Service’ murder
On 14 June, George Cecil Horry was arrested for the murder of his wife, Mary Eileen Jones, who had disappeared from Titirangi the day after their wedding almost 10 years earlier. Suspicion was raised by Horry’s implausible claim to be a secret service agent whose wife had drowned during the Second World War. Despite the absence of a body or a confession, Horry was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Read more (DNZB).
1952 Capital punishment returns
On 13 March William Giovanni Silveo Fiori, who had murdered Jack Gabolinscy and his wife Marie at Minginui in the central North Island, became the first person to be hanged in New Zealand following the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1950 by the new National government. Read more (TrueCrimeLibrary) and Jack Gabolinski service page (Cenotaph).
1954 Parker-Hulme murder
On 22 June, Pauline Parker and her close friend Juliet Hulme murdered Pauline’s mother, Honora, on a walking track in the Cashmere Hills, Christchurch. The key question in this infamous and shocking case was not the schoolgirls’ guilt, but their state of mind. It was finally decided that the pair were not insane and had murdered Mrs Parker in cold blood. Because of their youth they were released after five years in prison, on condition that they never contacted each other again. Read more.
1954 Manslaughter at Dunedin Hospital
On 12 December, Senga Florence Whittingham shot John William Saunders in a bathroom at Dunedin Public Hospital. The two house surgeons had been engaged until Whittingham miscarried. She was charged with murder but found guilty of manslaughter after claiming she had wanted to frighten Saunders, not kill him. Whittingham was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1957 Walter Bolton hanged
On 18 February Walter Bolton, a 68-year-old Whanganui farmer, became the last person to be executed in New Zealand. After a controversial trial he was convicted of murdering his wife, Beatrice, and hanged at Mount Eden prison. Read more.
1961 Disappearance of Wendy Mayes
Wendy Mayes disappeared on 15 September after meeting John Maltby for an interview about becoming a photographer’s model. Maltby was the main suspect, but he escaped into the bush while under police surveillance. His body washed ashore at Island Bay on 24 September; Wendy Mayes’ body was never found. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1962 Dunedin parcel-bomb murder
On 5 February, Dunedin barrister James Patrick Ward was killed by a bomb delivered to his office in a parcel. Although it was established that the bomb was sent from Dunedin, no firm lead was ever found. Read more (1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ).
1962 George Wilder’s prison breaks
On 17 May, convicted burglar George Wilder escaped from jail for the first of three times. This prison break lasted 65 days, his second 172 days and his last just three hours. Read more.
1963 Waitākere shootings
On 6 January, Victor George Wasmuth shot dead a kennel owner and two police officers who attempted to apprehend him. Wasmuth was found not guilty of the murders by reason of insanity. Read more (Stuff).
1963 Alicetown shootings
On 3 February, Bruce Douglas McPhee shot and killed two police officers who had responded to a domestic incident at his house in Alicetown, Lower Hutt. McPhee was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders. This shooting, less than a month after the Waitākere murders, led to the formation of the Armed Offenders Squad in 1964. Memorial pages: Bryan Schultz; James Richardson (NZ Police). Read more (Stuff).
1963 Bassett Road machine-gun murders
On 4 December, in Remuera, Auckland, John Frederick Gillies and Ronald John Jorgensen shot Kevin James Speight and Frederick George Walker with a .45-calibre Reising sub-machine gun. The men were involved in a gangland dispute over illegal liquor dens. Both Gillies and Jorgensen were sentenced to life imprisonment. Read more.
1969 Jennifer Beard murder
On 31 December Jennifer Beard, a 25-year-old schoolteacher from Tasmania, was murdered while hitchhiking in the South Island. It is believed she was strangled in a sexually motivated attack. Despite a massive police investigation the murder remains unsolved. Read more (
1970 Crewe murders
The disappearance of Waikato farming couple Harvey and Jeanette Crewe was discovered on 22 June, when their starving two-year-old daughter, Rochelle, was found in their home by her grandfather. The couple’s bodies were found three months later in the Waikato River. Arthur Allan Thomas, who farmed nearby, was twice convicted of double murder, but doubts remained about police methods and evidence. After a long campaign he was pardoned and awarded almost $1 million (equivalent to $6.5 million in 2024) in compensation in 1979. It is still not known who was responsible for the Crewe murders.
1974 Sutch trial
On 26 September a retired senior public servant, Dr W.B. Sutch, was arrested on charges of sharing state information with Russian diplomat Dimitri Aleksandrovick Razgovorov. Sutch was the first person charged with an offence under the Official Secrets Act 1951. He was ultimately acquitted. Read more.
1975 Disappearance of Mona Blades
On 31 May, Mona Blades disappeared while hitchhiking from Hamilton to her family home in Hastings for her nephew’s first birthday party. She was last seen in an orange Datsun on Matea Road, off the Taupō–Napier highway. Read more.
1979 Queen Street nightclub murder
On 1 July 1979, Margaret Bell was shot while standing in the entrance of Mainstreet Cabaret in Queen Street, Auckland. The bullet was meant for another person. On 6 May 1980, Brian Ronald McDonald was convicted of her murder. Two men who were with him on the fateful night and had been granted immunity from prosecution gave evidence. The jury did not accept their claim that McDonald had fired the shot that killed Bell, but found him guilty as a participant with others.
1979 ‘Mr Asia’ murder
On 14 October the body of Christopher Martin Johnstone, a leader of the ‘Mr Asia’ drug syndicate, was found in a flooded disused quarry in Lancashire, northern England. His corpse had been hastily mutilated to make identification difficult. His associate Terence John Clark was found to have called a hit against Johnstone and was convicted of his murder on 15 July 1981. Clark was found guilty after a 123-day trial, one of the longest in English history. Read more.
1984 Wellington Trades Hall bombing
On 27 March Ernie Abbott, the caretaker at Wellington’s Trades Hall, was killed instantly when he picked up a suitcase bomb. No motive was established and the case remains unsolved. Read more.
1985 Rainbow Warrior bombing
On 10 July the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior, docked in Auckland, was torn apart by two bombs planted by French Secret Service (DGSE) agents. A Portuguese crew member, Fernando Pereira, was killed by the second bomb. Having been arrested and charged with murder, agents Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Read more.
1987 Murder of Teresa Cormack
The body of six-year-old Teresa Cormack was found half-buried under a tree on Whirinaki Beach, Hawke’s Bay, on 19 June, eight days after she had gone missing. In 2002, after the development of new techniques for DNA testing, Jules Mikus was arrested and convicted of sexual violation and murder. Read more (
1989 Huka Falls case
In February 1989, the body of cricket umpire Peter Plumley-Walker was found floating below the Huka Falls, with wrists and ankles tied. A teenage dominatrix and her partner were tried three times for murder and finally acquitted. It was alleged that after Plumley-Walker died during a bondage session at their Auckland house, the pair took his body to Taupō and dumped it in the Waikato River. Read more (NZ Herald) and Te Ara.
1990 Aramoana massacre
On 13 November David Gray killed 13 people, including a police sergeant, following an argument with a neighbour at the Otago beach settlement of Aramoana. At the time this was New Zealand’s largest mass murder. Gray was shot dead the next day by police officers. Read more.
1991 Delcelia Witika child abuse case
On 21 March, Tania Witika told police she had arrived home in Māngere to find that her two-year-old daughter, Delcelia, had died. The investigation that followed uncovered one of New Zealand’s most horrendous cases of child abuse. Both Witika and her partner, Eddie Smith, were found guilty of manslaughter and other counts of neglect and ill-treatment, and sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment. Read more (
1992 Child abuse at Christchurch Civic Crèche 
Peter Ellis was one of five staff members arrested on 30 March for the sexual abuse of children at Christchurch Civic Crèche. He was the only one to stand trial. His conviction drew attention to the authorities’ handling of the sexual abuse of young people, and in particular their reliance on the testimony of children. In 2022 the Supreme Court quashed Ellis’s conviction posthumously, ruling that a ‘substantial miscarriage of justice’ had occurred. Read more (Te Ara).
1992 Schlaepfer farm murders
On 20 May, South Auckland farmer Brian Schlaepfer killed his wife during an argument. He went on to kill his three sons, a daughter-in-law and a grandson before dying by suicide. His nine-year-old granddaughter, who hid in a wardrobe, was the only survivor. Read more (
1992 Masterton massacre
On 26 June, Raymond Wahia Ratima killed seven members of his family, including his three young children, at his home in Judds Road, Masterton. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
1992 New Zealand's worst white-collar crime?
On 18 December Allan Hawkins, the executive chairman of Equiticorp, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for stealing $88 million (equivalent to $185 million in 2024) from investors in his company. Read more (Te Ara).
1994 Thomas murders
On 16 February, father and son financial dealers Eugene and Gene Thomas were shot dead in their Wellington office. John Barlow faced three trials for the murders. After the first two ended with hung juries, he was found guilty in October 1995 and sentenced to a minimum of 14 years’ imprisonment.
1994 Bain family murders
On 20 June, Arawa, Laniet, Margaret, Robin and Stephen Bain were killed in their South Dunedin home. The only surviving family member, David Bain, was found guilty of the murders in 1995. Following intense public speculation and doubts over police conduct during the investigation, Bain was acquitted in 2009 after a retrial. Read more (Wikipedia).
1995 First convicted serial rapist
On 31 July, Joe Thompson became New Zealand’s first convicted serial rapist when he pleaded guilty to 129 charges spanning more than a decade – the largest number of guilty pleas ever in a Commonwealth country. Thompson was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Read more (
1996 Serial rapist Malcolm Rewa
On 13 May, serial rapist Malcolm Rewa was arrested at his Māngere home. Found guilty of 24 rapes, he was given a minimum sentence of 22 years. His subsequent conviction for the rape of Susan Burdett earned him an additional 14 years in prison. In 2019 Rewa was found guilty of murdering Burdett in his third trial for this offence, after the conviction of Teina Pora for Burdett’s murder was quashed by the Privy Council in London.
1997 Raurimu massacre
On 8 February Stephen Anderson, a 25-year-old with a history of mental illness, killed six people, including his father, at a central North Island ski lodge. Found not guilty by reason of insanity, he was committed indefinitely to psychiatric hospital care (but has since been released). Read more (
1998 Disappearance of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope
Early on New Year’s Day, Ben Smart and Olivia Hope went missing after boarding a stranger’s yacht in the Marlborough Sounds. Picton resident Scott Watson was found guilty of the pair’s murder in 1999. Their bodies have never been found. Read more (
1998 Peter Mwai HIV case
On 24 June, Peter Mwai was released from prison after serving two-thirds of a seven-year prison sentence for knowingly infecting others with the HIV virus. The first person to be charged in New Zealand with wilfully spreading the HIV virus, Mwai was convicted on a lesser charge of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm. Read more (
2000 Lundy murders
On 29 August, Christine Lundy and her daughter, Amber, were beaten to death in their Palmerston North home. Their bodies were discovered the next day. Christine’s husband, Mark Lundy, who had been visiting Wellington on business, was arrested six months later and convicted in April 2002. In 2013 Lundy’s murder conviction became the last decision of the New Zealand courts to be appealed before the Privy Council in London. In 2015 Lundy was convicted for a second time and sentenced to a minimum of 20 years without parole, of which he had already served 12. Read more (
2000 Chubb robbery
On 22 December Peter Tyson, a former Chubb employee, and six accomplices robbed a Chubb security van in central Wellington. This was the largest armed robbery in New Zealand’s history –  $940,404 (equivalent to $1.7 million in 2024) was taken. Tyson was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment and his accomplices got between 4 and 9½ years. Read more (NZ Herald).
2001 RSA murders
On 8 December, William Bell killed three people and severely beat another employee while robbing the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA, from which he had been fired three months earlier. Bell was sentenced to 33 years in prison, then the longest term imposed by a New Zealand judge.
2007 Graeme Burton’s shootings
On 6 January, near Wellington, a mountain biker was killed and three other people were wounded in random shootings by Graeme Burton (who had been convicted of murder in 1992). This crime sparked widespread criticism of the Corrections Department and the Parole Board – Burton had been released on parole in mid-2006 despite behaving violently in prison. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 26 years for this murder,
2008 Murder of Sophie Elliott
On 9 January, in Dunedin, Sophie Elliott was stabbed 216 times by her ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston, who was sentenced to at least 18 years without parole. The case attracted feverish media attention. Public outrage at Weatherston’s claim that he had been provoked led to the abolition of provocation as a partial defence against a charge of murder. Read more (Stuff).
2009 Christchurch’s House of Horror
On 3 September, following a confession by murderer-rapist Jason Somerville, the bodies of his wife Rebecca and another woman were found under the Somervilles’ Christchurch house. The ‘House of Horror’ was demolished after surviving several arson attempts.
2014 Public servants murdered in Asburton
On 1 September, Russell Tully shot dead two staff members in the Ashburton office of Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ), from which he had been trespassed. Also convicted of the attempted murder of a third staff member, Tully was sentenced to a minimum of 27 years’ imprisonment. In 2016 a judge found that WINZ had failed to take practicable steps to mitigate a reasonably predictable hazard.
2019 Christchurch mosque terror attack
On 15 March, Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed ‘white nationalist’, opened fire on worshippers at mosques in Deans Ave and Linwood, killing 51 people and wounding another 50. The Australian-born gunman used five weapons, including two semi-automatic assault rifles, in the attack. The death toll might have been even higher but for the heroism displayed by unarmed men at both mosques, and by the police officers who forced the Tarrant’s car off the road. In 2022, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, with no prospect of parole. 

How to cite this page

New Zealand crime timeline, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated