Stan Graham's killing spree on West Coast

8 October 1941

Stan Graham, c. 1941
Stan Graham, c. 1941 (Alexander Turnbull Library, MS-Papers-2404-1-01)

Dairy farmer Stanley Graham killed seven people in Kōwhitirangi on the South Island’s West Coast. One of New Zealand’s largest manhunts ended when Graham was shot on the evening of 20 October. He died of his wounds the following day.

The tragedy began when Graham refused to hand over his rifle to police to assist the war effort. He felt aggrieved that police were ‘persecuting’ him rather than investigating his neighbours, who he believed were poisoning his cows.

On 8 October policemen Edward Best, Percy Tulloch, Frederick Jordan and William Cooper went to Kōwhitirangi after a neighbour claimed Graham had threatened him with a rifle. Cooper, Jordan and Tulloch were shot dead, while Best later died from his wounds. George Ridley, a visiting agricultural instructor, was also shot and eventually died in 1943. 

Graham fled into the bush pursued by police, soldiers and home guardsmen. On the evening of 9 October, he exchanged shots with home guardsmen Richard Coulson and Gregory Hutchison. Coulson died immediately and Hutchison the following day. Graham eluded capture for 12 nights until he was fatally wounded by police.

In 2008 the New Zealand Police erected a memorial to the victims at the site of the shootings.