Story: Violent crime

Page 5 – Mass murders

Mass murders (the killing of four or more people at one time) have been rare in New Zealand. Before 1990 there were only four mass murders, involving 20 victims in total. Six mass murders, with a total of 43 victims, occurred between 1990 and 1997.

Mass murders, 1840–1989

Maketū Wharetōtara

In 1841 five people were killed on a Bay of Islands farm by Maketū Wharetōtara (aged about 16), the son of Ngāpuhi chief Ruhe. Maketū killed his employer Elizabeth Roberton, her two children, Thomas Bull, and Isabella Brind, the granddaughter of Ngāpuhi leader Rewa. Abuse by Bull, who worked with Maketū on Roberton’s farm, appears to have prompted these murders. Maketū’s father handed his son over to the authorities to avoid conflict with Rewa. He was convicted and hanged in 1842.

Burgess gang

Five men were robbed and killed on the Maungatapu Track near Nelson in 1866 by members of the Burgess gang: Richard Burgess (also known as Hill), William (Phil) Levy, Thomas Noon (also known as Kelly) and Joseph Sullivan. After selling the gold they had stolen, the gang was arrested and Sullivan testified against the others. Burgess, Levy and Noon were found guilty and executed. Sullivan was sent to prison in Dunedin after being convicted of one of the murders. He was deported to England, but escaped to Australia and was imprisoned there before disappearing in 1876.

Hēnare Hona

Four family members were killed near Te Kūiti in 1934 by 20-year-old Hēnare Hona. While being arrested for the murders, Hona also killed police constable Thomas Heeps with a .32 pistol. He then committed suicide.

Stanley Graham

In 1941 seven people were killed in Kōwhitirangi on the South Island’s West Coast by 41-year-old farmer Stanley Graham, who had refused to hand over his rifle to police as part of the war effort. Among the dead were police sergeant William Cooper, and constables Edward Best, Frederick Jordan and Percy Tulloch. Eleven days later Graham died in the bush from gunshot wounds inflicted by police and home guardsmen.

Mass murders in the 1990s

David Gray

Thirteen people were killed in Aramoana in 1990 by 33-year-old David Gray, including police constable Stewart Guthrie. During a siege the next day, Gray was shot dead by police.

Brian Schlaepfer

In 1992 in Paerātā, south of Auckland, 64-year-old Brian Schlaepfer murdered his wife, his three sons, the wife of one of his sons and a grandson. He then killed himself. Schlaepfer’s granddaughter Linda survived the killings by barricading herself in a bedroom.

Raymond Ratima

Seven members of his family were killed in Masterton by 25-year-old Raymond Ratima in 1992, including three of his own children. Ratima and his wife were having problems in their relationship, and were living with her parents. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Bain family killings

Five members of the Bain family were killed in Dunedin in 1994. In 1995 22-year-old David Bain, the only survivor, was convicted of murdering his mother, his father, his two sisters and his younger brother. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a 16-year non-parole period.

From the start there was controversy over whether David was responsible or whether his father had killed the others and then shot himself. After an appeal to the Privy Council succeeded in 2007, there was a retrial in the Christchurch High Court and Bain was acquitted in 2009.

Alan Lory

Six residents of the New Empire Hotel in Hamilton died when Alan Lory (41) set fire to the building in 1995. Lory was acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter and arson, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Stephen Anderson

22-year-old Stephen Anderson killed six people and wounded another eight at a ski lodge in Raurimu, south-east of Taumarunui, on 8 February 1997. Some of the dead were family and friends who had been invited to join the Anderson family for the weekend. Found to be legally insane, Anderson was committed to secure psychiatric care.

How to cite this page:

Greg Newbold. 'Violent crime - Mass murders', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12