Amy Bock sentenced in Dunedin Supreme Court

27 May 1909

Amy Bock (South Otago Museum)

The Tasmanian-born confidence trickster had topped off a long career impersonating well-off men for financial gain by posing as a sheepfarmer and bishop’s nephew. ‘Percy Redwood’ had married the daughter of ‘his’ South Otago landlady on 21 April 1909.

Bock had managed to keep up appearances while wooing Agnes Ottaway, but was arrested within four days of the glittering Port Molyneux nuptials. Amidst speculation as to the consummation of the union, postcards depicting a dapper pipe-smoking Redwood sold by the dozen.

In court, Bock pleaded guilty to charges of false pretences, forgery, and making a false statement under the Marriage Act. With a string of mostly minor fraud convictions dating back 23 years – a flair for amateur dramatics had allowed her to evade many more – she was now the first New Zealand woman declared to be an ‘habitual criminal’ (the forerunner of preventive detention).

The sham marriage was annulled on 17 June 1909. Released on probation after two years in gaol, Amy Bock had her final day in court – inevitably, charged with false pretences – in 1931, aged 72.

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