Events In History


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 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

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 3 - Mokomoko and VölknerThe 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


  • 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.