Death of Carl Völkner

‘Savage Dance, Pai Marire  Volkner’s Death Mar. 21st 1865’

This engraving appeared in the Illustrated London News in July 1865. The date of the murder was actually 2 March.

The frequency of Völkner’s visits to Auckland had raised suspicions that the Ōpōtiki missionary was acting as a government spy. On his most recent trip he had been warned not to go back to his mission station. He ignored these warnings and returned to Ōpōtiki with fellow missionary Thomas Grace on 1 March 1865. Both were taken prisoner.

Grace witnessed Völkner’s killing. The missionary ‘knelt down and prayed, and, having shaken hands with his murderers said “I am ready”, and, while they continued to shake hands with him, they hoisted him up.'

Völkner was hanged from a willow tree near his church by Te Whakatōhea members of his own congregation. His head was then cut off and many of those present either tasted his blood or smeared it on their faces. In a final insult Kereopa Te Rau swallowed Völkner's eyes, describing one eyeball as ‘Parliament’ and the other as the ‘Queen and English law’. Grace’s life was spared.

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