Race killing in Wellington's Haining St

24 September 1905

Self-portrait of Lionel Terry (Hocken Library, 74/174)

The murder of Joe Kum Yung in Wellington’s Haining St highlighted the hatred some people had for New Zealand’s small Chinese community. His killer, Lionel Terry, committed the brutal act to promote his crusade to rid New Zealand of the so-called ‘yellow peril’.

Terry had walked 1400 km from Mangōnui, giving lectures and distributing copies of The shadow, a book of verse with a long introduction on the need for racial purity. When he arrived in Wellington on 14 September, he tried to convince politicians and immigration officials that all non-European immigration should be stopped.

On the night of the 24th, Terry went to Haining St and shot Joe Kum Yung with a revolver. Next morning he surrendered to police. When his case went to trial in November, he conducted his own defence. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment on the grounds of insanity.

Later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Terry spent the rest of his life in Lyttelton prison and Sunnyside and Seacliff mental hospitals.