death penalty

Events In History


The death penalty

  • The death penalty

    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.

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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 3 – Mokomoko and Völkner

    The Te Whakatōhea chief Mokomoko was one of five Māori executed on 17 May 1866 for being involved in the murder of the missionary Carl Volkner at Ōpōtiki in 1865. The

  • 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 team. Information about the execution of Maketū Wharetōtara was updated in 2021.

Maungatapu murders, 1866

  • Maungatapu murders, 1866

    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.

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  • 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 8 – Further information

    Further reading and links to information about the Maungatapu murders

  • After being wounded on the Western Front Victor Spencer suffered from 'shell-shock' and was eventually shot by firing squad for desertion.