Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Death on Batkin Road


A young immigrant, having served his country during World War II, travelled to New Zealand for a new life. Here, he found love, but he also met his death far too soon in a New Windsor boarding house.

The boarding house was at what was then 5 Batkin Road, today’s 39 Batkin, the site of the now strangely named Blockhouse Bay Rest Home and Hospital (not in Blockhouse Bay, and perhaps only barely within sight of the suburb or the bay). The site was the property of members of the Moros family from 1905 through to 1967, starting out as part of one of the farms which made up the early suburb of New Windsor.

The story begins with Nicholas George Moros (c.1855-1908), a fisherman from the Greek island of Syros, who somehow ended up in Wales in the early 1870s. There, he married a young widow named Eliza, who already had a son by her first marriage (her husband appears to have been lost at sea). Nicholas and Eliza would go on to have at least seven more children of their own.

The Moros family emigrated to New Zealand in 1886 aboard the Arawa. Here, Nicholas worked as a fisherman in Dargaville and applied for naturalisation as a British citizen in 1888. Over time in the township he acquired a fruit and fish shop, an attached billiard saloon, as well as the family’s house all on Victoria Street. A fire in 1900 wiped out Moros’ buildings; Moros bought a number of marble ornaments in Auckland and tried asking permission from the authorities to hold an Art Union raffle to recoup his losses, but was turned down. To an extent, Moros did rebuild his business in Dargaville after all, but the family soon decided to move on.

In 1905, Moros (under Eliza’s name) bought 20 acres in New Windsor between the end of Batkin Road and Te Auaunga Oakley Creek from the Batkin family. The Moroses bought another nearly 31 acres immediately adjoining, stretching to present day Maioro Street from two businessmen who, only two months before, had purchased the land also from the Batkins. The house at 5 (39) Batkin Road may well have been the original Batkin homestead from around 1899. This six-roomed house would become the Moros family home, and would remain in their ownership through to 1967, although there was in 1908 another 19th century six-roomed house on the former Victor Longuet vineyard and orchard property closer to Oakley Creek.

Nicholas Moros put all 50 acres of the New Windsor property up for sale in February 1908, including both houses, as “2 First-Class Fruit and Poultry Farms,” the northern 20 acres with 150 fruit trees, “3 acres ploughed and well manured with fish offal,” four large iron tanks and “a splendid well of water.” The main Batkin 30 acres to the south was: “First-Class blue clay land”, subdivided into three fields with stable, three loose-boxes, two fowlhouses, a dairy, cowshed (six bails, concrete floor), piggery and other features. There were no sales, however, and Nicholas Moros died in October 1908, just eight months later, still with two outstanding mortgages on the property, leaving behind his widow Eliza with the relatively large farm in rural New Windsor and teenage children still to look after.

Eliza Moros though set-to and proceed to start selling the property off from 1910. By 1922, all that remained was the four and a quarter acre section which included the house at 5 (39) Batkin Road, plus part of the future road beside.

On 15 November 1915 her daughter Despineo, then known more often as Spineo for short, married Charles Edward Henry Brothers at Avondale’s St Judes Anglican Church, the service officiated by Rev Harold Robertson Jecks. The couple moved to Frankton Junction near Hamilton during the remainder of the First World War, Charles Brothers working a railway employee, but they had shifted back to Auckland by the late 1920s. In 1935, the couple separated, and Charles shifted to Tauranga. Two years later, on hearing word about her husband, Spineo went there and found him living with another woman who styled herself as “Mrs Brothers.” In 1939, Spineo was granted a divorce.

Eliza Moros died at the Batkin Road house in 1940 at the age of 90, survived by three sons and three daughters. A year before her death, Eliza lost her sight completely. Up to that point, according to her obituary, she loved going to see picture shows, and had a keen memory.

In 1944 the estate’s executors transferred title of the house to Spineo, who had been living at the house with her mother and brother, John Nicholas Moros, since 1935. At least from the mid 1940s, Spineo started expanding the premises, adding rooms and out-buildings until it became a full-fledged boarding house, capable of accommodating around 16 lodgers. Many of these were single men or even couples with small children working at the nearby gardens, such as the large one run by Arthur Currey on New Windsor Road, or the brickyards at St Georges Road, and the Amalgamated Brick and Pipe works further west at New Lynn, along with the Ambrico (soon to be known as Crown Lynn) pottery.

One of those lodgers was Gordon James Pepper.

Pepper was born 19 July 1926 at Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in England, the only son of Arthur Leonard Pepper and his wife Mary Ellen. Gordon was apprenticed as a mould-maker in a pottery factory in his home town at the age of 14, working there until he volunteered for war service at 18. He served with the Warwickshire Regiment for 12 months, and was then transferred to the Royal Pioneer Corps, going to France on D-Day plus 4, then Germany, rising to the rank of Quarter-Master Sergeant before returning to England to be demobilised in 1947.

Pepper returned to the pottery works, and toward the end of 1948 he received an offer of work from the other side of the world, at Crown Lynn pottery. So, he packed up, said goodbye once again to his home, and arrived at Wellington on 13 January, aboard the Atlantis. Two days after that, he was in Auckland, secured his job as a mould maker at the New Lynn pottery, and took up lodgings at Batkin Road.

In July, Pepper got engaged to Edna Coward, who happened to be a friend of Spineo Brothers’ family, with the marriage set to take place towards the end of that year. Pepper wanted to be able to buy a house for himself and his bride-to-be, so decided to take out a life insurance policy on himself as a form of security. On 1 October 1949, he woke up at Batkin Road at 3.30 am to start work at 4 am. After his shift, he headed by car into the city for the necessary medical examination, arriving at the doctor’s offices at 9.45 am, running up two flights of stairs because he was slightly late. The doctor found him to be in perfect health. Pepper was back at Batkin Road by around 11 am, did some washing, and had lunch at 1.15 pm, before retiring to his bedroom, which he shared with fellow Tunstall native Vincent Stevenson (another who worked at Crown Lynn), for a nap. He had tickets for a showing at one of the picture theatres for himself and Edna later that evening, so intended just to have a rest break in the course of a busy day.

Around 5.30 pm, Pepper came into the kitchen, dressed in pyjamas and trousers, apparently with a bit of upset in his stomach. Up to that point, he’d had nothing out of the ordinary to eat – his lunch earlier that afternoon was fried bacon and cheese. He asked Mrs Brothers if he could have some of her Andrews Liver Salts. She told him that the salts had perished, and instead to use a bottle of Enos fruit salts from the kitchen’s medicine cupboard instead. The bottle was still store-wrapped and seemingly unopened. Pepper took off the wrapper, poured some of the salts into a teaspoon, then mixed them in a cup of water, before drinking.

His immediate reaction to Brothers was, “I don’t like your Enos Fruit Salts, they taste bitter.” Brothers dismissed his remark, telling him he was just being “faddy.” Pepper asked another boarder standing nearby, Gordon Wood, to take a taste. Wood dipped a finger into the cup, and also remarked on the bitterness.

Whether Pepper finished the cup of water isn’t known. It was later found to have been washed and put away. The bottle of fruit salts was returned to the cabinet.

Pepper then went outside, brought his washing in from the line, and Brothers put his washing in the hot press to air off. A little later, about to start ironing his shirt for his evening with Edna, Pepper suddenly told Brothers, “I feel funny, I feel giddy.” Brothers couldn’t see that he looked unwell, but told him to go lie down for a bit. Pepper refused, continued ironing, then complained that his legs had gone stiff. A moment later, he told Brothers he couldn’t walk.

She helped him back to his room, took off his slippers for him and laid him on the bed, covering him with the bed clothes, helped by Stevenson. Pepper asked if it had been the fruit salts that had affected him. Around 6 pm, Brothers rang Dr William Gordon Davidson who was living at 1834 Great North Road in Avondale. She reported that Pepper had felt unwell after taking the fruit salts, and asked Dr Davidson if that might be the cause. The doctor said no, “there was nothing in fruit salts to cause any harm,” and it was more likely just a case of influenza. He told her to give Pepper aspirins and lemon juice. Dr Davidson and his wife were, at the time, in the process of dressing for a social evening at the home of Dr Robert Warnock in Pt Chevalier.

Brothers had no chance of giving Pepper any aspirin or lemon juice. His condition worsened, and he began to complain about the light. She tried contacting another doctor, in vain, then rang Dr. Davidson again at around 7.20 pm.

Dr Davidson later testified: “Just as we were leaving the house between 7.20 pm and 7.25 pm, Mrs Brothers telephoned again. She said, ‘That he was much worse and that his legs appeared to be stiff.’ I told her that I didn’t think much of this and that the aspirin had hardly had time to work. She then said that ‘She didn’t think it was the flu.’ I told her that I still thought it was the flu and to carry on with the treatment. I told her that I was going out for the evening and would be home about 11 pm, and if he was any worse then to give me a ring and I would come up and see him. She agreed to this.”

By now, Pepper was convulsing and crying out in pain. Brothers tried called Dr Davidson again ten minutes later, but by then he had left his house, and all Brothers could do was leave a message. This was passed on by phone to Dr Warnock, who greeted Dr and Mrs Davidson at his door when they arrived with the news that something was very wrong at Batkin Road.

When Brothers put down the phone, she returned to Pepper’s room – to find that her lodger had passed away.

Doctor Davidson finally arrived at 7.55 pm, and later stated that he was “shocked” to find Pepper dead, his face “abnormally pale.” He thought at the time that perhaps Pepper had suffered a brain haemorrhage. When he called the police, however, he wisely told them about the fruit salts. After the local constable arrived, the doctor pointed out the bottle of fruit salts to him, then left Batkin Road to return to Dr Warnock’s house. A little later, a police sergeant went to Pt Chevalier, asking both Drs Warnock and Davidson their opinion about the fruit salts bottle. Both declared the taste bitter, and Dr Davidson later stated that he’d noticed “some needle shaped shiny crystals in the bottle which did not seem usual for fruit salts”.

This turned out to be crystals of strychnine hydrochloride, spread almost throughout the bottle in six distinct layers, each layer (apart from the untampered one right at the bottom) was laced with varying amounts of the poison. The analysis found that the bottle had been opened, most of the contents mixed with the strychnine crystals, before the fruit salts were then carefully poured back into the bottle, and the whole resealed as if there was nothing wrong.

There is no indication that Gordon Pepper was the intended victim. Anyone in the boarding house could have felt some indigestion over the period the bottle was in the household. It appears that, like a roll of the dice, Pepper was simply unfortunate that day.

So – how did the bottle get into Spineo Brothers’ boarding house?

Spineo’s brother John Nicholas Moros worked as a fishcurer and later general labourer, and had lived in the family home at Batkin Road since the First World War. At the time of Pepper’s death, Moros said that he assisted his sister with odd jobs around the place. He recalled that, months before Pepper’s death, he went outside for a smoke, and walked around the house to check to see if that day’s copy of the Auckland Star had been tossed, as usual, over the front hedge onto their lawn. There was no newspaper, but instead he found a wrapped parcel on the front lawn, six yards from the road and six to eight feet from the path going around the right side of the house. The parcel was wrapped in brown paper and tied with white string, “as if it had just come out of a shop,” Moros later testified. There was no writing on it at all, and was completely dry.

Moros took it inside and showed his sister. He opened it, to find that it contained “two cakes of washing soap, a long stick of shaving soap, one packet of Gillette razor blades” – and a bottle wrapped in paper, the Enos fruit salts. Brothers added in her testimony that the bottle “was wrapped in its original wrapper,” including corrugated cardboard. She stated that Moros had found the parcel “four to six months” before Pepper’s death. Brothers wondered if the parcel had been dropped by one of the lodgers, so left it in the kitchen for some time. When no one asked for it, she put the fruit salts bottle in the medicine cabinet. Brothers claimed she never bought Enos fruit salts, and she was certain that the bottle that had been laced with strychnine was the one from the mysterious parcel her brother found on the front lawn.

The coroner Alfred Addison’s finding after the hearing in March 1950 reads thus: “… the said Gordon James Pepper died on the 1st day of October 1949 at 5 Batkin Road Avondale Auckland and that the cause of his death was strychnine poisoning as the result of taking a dose of fruit salts with which had been mixed by some (as yet unknown) person with murderous intent needle crystals of strychnine hydrochloride.” Addison was reported in the newspapers as continuing: “Pepper was the victim of one of the foulest murders in this country’s history. Police inquiries are not concluded in this case.”

However, to date, the poisoner’s identity or motive remains unknown.

Gordon Pepper was laid to rest at Waikumete Cemetery with a military headstone. A memorial service was held for him back at Stoke-on-Trent in October 1949, and his widowed mother received the proceeds of his estate, totalling £335 8s. The Daily Mirror referred to the case as “The Health Salts Murder.”

John Moros who had found the fatal parcel, died in 1958 at the age of 73.

Spineo Brothers continued running the boarding house through the 1950s, and possibly into the 1960s as well. She subdivided and sold most of the rear section to Kingram Estates Ltd in 1961, and Brothers Street was laid out, named after her. In 1967, the remainder, including the sprawl of buildings that made up her boarding house, was sold in 1967, and became the Bettina Rest Home, today site of the Blockhouse Bay Rest Home and Hospital. Spineo died in 1981, and shares a plot at Waikumete Cemetery with her brother John, next to their mother and father.

Her son Raymond Nicholas Brothers (1924-1988) who had lived for a time with his mother at Batkin Road while a student, went on to a career as a noted lecturer, professor and geologist attached with the Department of Geology at the University of Auckland from 1951, and Head of Department from 1972 to 1980. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1975.

So, as you head down Batkin Road, to drive along Brothers Street to get to Valonia Street, spare a thought for the Moros-Brothers family. But especially remember Gordon Pepper, a young immigrant keen to make a home and living for himself and his bride-to-be in a new country after a dreadful war. Someone who may have become part of the history of Crown Lynn with his skills had he lived. Instead only to perish horribly due to someone’s callous decision to do harm. The product of that decision wrapped in a parcel tied with string, left one day on a front lawn in Batkin Road.

Images: Advertisement from Northern Advocate, 22 January 1935; detail from DP 4801, LINZ records.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Mt Eden Gaol “Cuckoo!!” Mutiny of 1865

Mt Eden Gaol as it was a few years after the incident, in the 1870s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 4-155 

I don’t know about you, but the word “mutiny” for me usually conjures up scenes of violent overthrow of authority, or at the least something involving weapons and a lot of angry shouting. There’s also the “refusal to take orders” type of mutiny.

I haven’t before now come across one involving calling out the name of a bird to drive someone utterly up the wall.

The year 1865 was when the prison at Mt Eden was under considerable scrutiny. It was on the verge of becoming Auckland’s only prison, with the last prisoners held still at Queen Street gaol moving out later that year in November. But there had been a number of high-profile escapes and near-escapes, along with public concern as to the state of the prison itself, in its then wooden shed-like form. The gaol’s governor, Flynn, was in the crosshairs of some who sat on the Auckland Provincial Council, especially in March of 1865. On 14 March, at the Provincial Council’s meeting, Hugh Carleton was in the midst of reporting back to his fellow councillors on the state of the gaol and the clearance of the lava field around the existing stockade to allow room for the construction of stout stone walls, when an urgent letter was delivered to him. He read it, then rose from his seat, and asked for a colleague to take over from him as, he said, a mutiny of the prisoners had broken out in the stockade, and his presence was required. The meeting then continued on, as Carleton hurried away.

 On that same morning, the NZ Herald had written an opinion piece on the subject of Governor Flynn, and his possible ousting from his job. They wrote: “With all due respect for the natural instinct which teaches the cuckoo to lay its egg in the nest of the sparrow, we beg leave to say that we do not see why this principle should be permitted to develop itself in the Provincial Government affairs of this province, and we trust that Mr Flynn will not be among the first on whom the principle is to be tried."

Two years earlier, the authorities had made two investments for the ongoing profitability of the gaol and its quarries. They had purchased a steam-powered stone breaking plant, hiring an engineer for it, and took on the services of one Charles Dyke as Inspector of Prison Labour and Instructor of Stone-Dressers. Dyke, though, was not liked by the prison inmates. The day before Carleton’s announcement of the mutiny, Dyke had complained to the Engineer-in-Chief about Governor Flynn’s laxness in not stamping out gambling taking place amongst the inmates, a charge which proved to be unfounded.

So, what was the mutiny?

Apparently, according to the NZ Herald, the engineer in charge of the stone breaker was a regular reader of their newspaper, and through him the prisoners learned of the Herald’s quote as to cuckoos and the eroding position Flynn was in regarding his job. So, on the day of the “cuckoo” article, 14 March 1865, when Dyke turned up to work and entered the quarries, he was met with cries of “Cuckoo!! Cuckoo!!” coming from various parts of the landscape, from behind hiding places, from a number of throats. The cry of “Cuckoo!!” resounded from all sides, and drove Dyke to a fury. “This evidently somewhat annoyed Mr. Dyke, who” the New Zealander reported, “at once proceeded to town to lodge a complaint with the Superintendent of the very unruly behaviour of the prisoners. By what stretch of imagination Mr. Dyke managed to convert this rather disagreeable system of chaff into an open mutiny of the prisoners, is best known to himself. We have been assured that the men retired at the usual time in the most orderly manner, and that the cries of “cuckoo” which so terribly aggrieved the foreman, ceased immediately on his disappearance from the scene.”

Six ringleaders were identified, and isolated to stand before the Resident Magistrate, Thomas Beckham, who held an enquiry into the “mutiny.” Beckham couldn’t see that there was a “mutiny” as such, but still warned all of the prisoners in the gaol that such behaviour as calling “Cuckoo!” at a prison employee was against regulations, and could entitle the guilty parties to a flogging. But he added he had found no real evidence, simply sentenced two men to solitary confinement for talking back to Dyke, and left it at that.

Flynn lost his job on 15 March 1865.

Dyke seems to have left Mt Eden Gaol soon after, taking up work as a construction supervisor for the new Auckland Supreme Court Building in 1866. He then leaves the historical record, and the “Cuckoo Mutiny” was forgotten.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Keith Russell Jones: a bit of a scoundrel

 Image from NZ Police Gazette, 2 October 1912

"Keith Russell Jones, a well-dressed young fellow of 23, who had come only recently from Sydney, admitted to Mr Cutten, SM, at the [Auckland] Police Court this morning, that he had stolen £7 10s. from a room in one hotel and cheque-book and purse containing £1 from bedrooms in another hotel.

"The history of the man given by Chief Detective Marsack was unusual. He had arrived in Auckland about three months ago, and had been for some time employed canvassing for a photographer, and later as steward on a small coastal boat. He had arranged to be married to a young lady on May 1, but the bride waited for him at the church, and he failed to turn up. He stayed at a hotel for a time and, while there (also on the fateful May day when he was due to be otherwise engaged), he entered another boarder's room and stole £7 10s. He moved to a hotel in Newmarket, and while there took a room-mate's cheque-book, and also stole from a servant girl's room a purse containing £1. At one period of his Auckland experience he took a fancy for motoring, and ran up a bill of £5 10s. with a taxi-cab owner. He paid the bill with William Wooden's money, captured at the Waverley Hotel.

"The accused, who appeared to have little sense of responsibility, explained that he committed the thefts because he was stranded, and the taxi-cab man was pressing in his demands. He added incidentally that he had private reasons for not meeting his expected bride at the church, and said he had given her notice in time to have prevented her going there. He said he was a traveller, but he had been studying accountancy, and he had been drawn to New Zealand by a desire to see a young lady in the South Island. "His Worship said he could not help a young man who committed theft after theft in the way the accused had done. He would be sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour."

Dominion 16 May 1912

"Keith Russell Jones was ordered to find security in £100 that he would contribute to the support of his illegitimate child at the rate of 7s 6d a week."

NZ Herald, 30 October 1912

"A sentence of 21 days' imprisonment was imposed in the case of Keith Russell Jones, who was £24 behind in respect to an order for the payment of 7s 6d a week for the support of his child, the sentence to be suspended for 14 days."

NZ Herald, 26 February 1913

"Keith Russell Jones, for failure to comply with an order respecting the maintenance of an illegitimate child was sentenced to ten days' imprisonment unless he reduced the arrears at the rate of 20/- a week."

Auckland Star, 9 December 1913

"A remand for eight days was granted in the case of Keith Russell Jones, charged with having forged the name of L W Much on a £10 cheque, drawn on the Bank of New Zealand at Manaia."

NZ Herald 18 June 1914

"When Keith Russell Jones was brought up for sentence on charges of forgery he denied that he had been twice previously convicted of theft. Sentence was therefore deferred until Tuesday next, the Court records to be produced in the meantime to prove the convictions."

NZ Herald, 24 July 1914

"Keith Russell Jones, alias Thomas, alias Leslie W Meuli, who was represented by Mr Gould, came up for sentence on the charge of forgery.

"His Honor said the accused had been previously convicted of three distinct offences. He had been sent to gaol for one month on each charge.

"Mr Gould said that Jones was quite a young man, who had been well educated in New South Wales. His mother was a very respectable woman. Soon after the accused arrived in New Zealand a maintenance order was taken out against him. He then got into financed difficulties. The order was still in force, but the woman in whose favour it was made had since married. Jones was in bad health, and out of employment when the offence was committed. If given an opportunity, his mother desired to send him to Canada and give him a new start.

"Mr. Tole said the accused frequented billiard-rooms and imposed on boardinghouse-keepers. The offence he was now charged with was a very designing and criminal one.

"His Honor said that any possible intention the accused had of going to Canada was a matter for the Prisons Board. The accused would be sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and at the expiration of that period ordered to be detained for reformative treatment for two years."

NZ Herald 29 July 1914

"Keith Russell Jones (29) charged that he was an idle and disorderly person with insufficient lawful means of support, stated that he would like to consult his solicitor before pleading. When he mentioned the solicitor's name the Chief Detective remarked that that solicitor had been communicated with on the prisoner's behalf and had not attended the Court. From the tenor of the report received by him respecting the prisoner, he (Mr McMahon) understood that the solicitor had interested himself in Jones and had to some extent been victimised. The case was stood down for a time, and a Court official sought to communicate by telephone with the solicitor, but could not get him. When the case was recalled Jones stated that he could not understand why he should have been arrested, as he had got a passport and was arranging to leave for Sydney next Monday.

"Mr McMahon: I can't understand how he got a passport at all, nor how he expects to get away to Sydney when he is out of the reformatory on license. "His Worship decided to remand the prisoner till to-morrow morning, so that any communication he might desire to have with a solicitor might be arranged in the meantime."

Auckland Star 29 June 1916

"There were some peculiar circumstances in connection with a charge against Keith Russell Jones of having insufficient lawful means of support. Mr Gould stated that when the man's mother left New Zealand some time ago she left some money with him to send her son to New South Wales on the completion of a term in a reformatory to which he was sentenced by the Supreme Court. At the expiration of his sentence he was given a passport and his fare to Sydney. Jones did not leave New Zealand, however, for witness learned a month later that he was still about. After an interview with the probation officer he decided to procure another passport for the accused, the old one having expired. Since the application was made, however, Jones had broken certain conditions, and he had decided to finally wash his hands of him. The passport had now come to hand, however, and he was prepared to advance him his fare if the Court would allow him to go to Sydney next week.

"Chief-Detective McMahon said he thought the Court might consider the advisability of ridding the country of this man. The police, however, should have been informed of the issue of the passport and other circumstances as the accused would have been turned off the boat by the police, who knew that he was released on license.

"Mr Brackenrigg, probation officer, said the accused had received permission from the Justice Department to leave the country. The magistrate remanded Jones until Monday with the idea of having him placed on the next boat for Sydney."

NZ Herald 1 July 1916

The very convincing Martha Tainui


Image from NZ Police Gazette, 1 October 1913

Martha Tainui. Her place in New Zealand criminal history is that she had a record stretching from 1888 in Oamaru, when she was around 15 years of age, right through to at least the 1940s, her last known court appearance in Papers Past being in 1942. Amongst her many, many aliases, Martha Tainui seems to be the common thread for most of her appearances. In the main, her charges were for theft, forgery, false pretences, posing as the relative of well-known people (from a solicitor with the Public Trust to Sir Maui Pomare), and drunkenness (at least once found guilty of being drunk while in charge of a horse and cart in Wellington, 1900).

It is said that she was half-caste Maori, well educated, and almost always appeared in court well-dressed. For this blog entry I can only cherry-pick a few of the hundreds of references to her in Papers Past.

"Martha Tainui, a comely half-caste girl, who has been appearing before the Wellington Magistrate's Court at short intervals for some time, was charged yesterday with trying to obtain goods by false pretences. She pleaded guilty and asked to be sent to a Home. Chief Detective McGrath stated that leniency would be misplaced in this case, as accused had thirty previous convictions against her. As the prisoner left the dock, after having been sentenced to six months' imprisonment, she said: " I'll settle McGrath for this when I come out!" To the Bench " I'll do it again—your Worship."

Wairarapa Daily Times, 29 June 1904

"TAIHAPE, March 16. A sensation was created here yesterday half-caste woman, who had posed as the possessor of untold wealth, was arrested after being identified as Martha Tainui, an habitual criminal who had been released in October on a license. The woman had a very insinuating manner, and completely dazzled business men with her alleged wealth. She claimed to be a "daughter of Colonel Macdonald", presumably meaning Colonel McDonnell. She was driven about by land agents, entertained them and others, and talked of giving large benefactions for public objects in the town. When they searched her lodgings the police found that she possessed only one penny. She was charged with false pretences this morning and remanded till to-morrow."

Christchurch Star, 16 March 1911

"I have never before seen such a long record of convictions for false pretences,” said Air Wyvern Wilson, S.M., at the Magistrate’s Court, as he surveyed the list of Martha Tainui, who at various stages of her romantic career has posed as the “daughter” of Sir Maui Pomare, and the “niece” of Sir James Carroll, and has been the possessor of an inspiring collection of aliases. The charge preferred against her this morning was that she was deemed to be a rogue and vagabond, in that she imposed upon private individuals by verbal fraudulent representations in order to obtain money and goods. The magistrate said he proposed to treat her as an habitual criminal. The accused pleaded guilty, but said in extenuation that drink was her trouble, and nothing better could be expected of a woman who drank. Senior-Detective Gibson said that Tainui had four times been declared an habitual criminal, and the only years in which no convictions were recorded against her were those in which she was under restraint. The magistrate said that he was going to take a course which would keep the accused under supervision for a long time. She would be sentenced to twelve months’ hard labour, to be followed by three years' reformative detention. “I’ll get out." was the accused’s cheery assurance as she left the court."

Christchurch Star 20 December 1922

"When Martha Tainui (56), a Maori domestic, was found on premises at 135 Grafton Road, about five o'clock this morning, she declared that she was inquiring the way to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital. When she appeared in the Police Court later on a charge of being found on the premises without lawful excuse, she told Mr F K Hunt, SM, that she had made a mistake in the house. But Chief Detective Hammond told another story. Tainui, he said, had been stealing milk jugs from houses for some time. This morning she was watched and was seen to enter the premises of 135 Grafton Road. There was no milk jug out at this house and Tainui, when questioned by a detective, said she was asking the way to the Mater Hospital.

"There are several other charges," said the chief detective, in asking for a remand for one week."

Auckland Star 19 February 1930

"Martha Tainui, aged 64, domestic (Mr Ackins), pleaded guilty in the Police Court, before Mr W R McKean, SM, yesterday, to a charge of stealing on January 11 a fur valued at £3 15s, the property of Rita Alcott. Sub-Inspector Fox prosecuted. "If you give me a chance I will mend again." said accused. "For five years I have been leading a good Christian life. It is drink that is my trouble." Accused was convicted and ordered to come up for sentence if called upon within two years."

NZ Herald 20 January 1939

"This is her 55th appearance before the Court and she first appeared in 1897," said Senior-Detective Walsh, when Martha Tainui, a Maori, aged 68, was charged before Mr J H Luxford, SM, yesterday, with the theft of 42 sheets, 21 pillow slips, and 12 towels, valued at £47 I7s, the property of Percy Norman Wright, and with the theft of numerous articles valued at £10, the property of persons unknown. Accused pleaded guilty to the first charge and not guilty to the second. "It was difficult to know what to do with the woman, said Mr. Walsh. From time to time she broke out, although she had not been in trouble in the last few years. She was addicted to drink. A large quantity of articles had been found in accused's room, said Detective W H Cromwell. She stated that she brought them from America. They were articles that could be purchased in any department store. Accused was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment on the first charge and the second charge was dismissed."

NZ Herald 6 October 1942

Thomas Francis Hill: "a waster in uniform."

Image: NZ Police Gazette, 4 November 1914.

Thomas Francis Hill (DOB noted in the military file as 1890, but could be wrong) seems to have joined the Auckland Infantry Regiment on 14 August, 10 days after war was declared.

"It is a despicable thing to misuse the King's uniform at a time like this and to utilise it to impose upon generously inclined people," said Mr F V Frazer SM, when Thomas Francis Hill and Frank Wilson were brought before him in the Police Court yesterday on a charge of soliciting alms. Hill, who appeared in the dock wearing a territorial uniform, was stated to have joined the Epsom camp on August 15. The same night he absented himself without leave, being arrested a fortnight later by the guard. He was sent to the hospital to recover from a drinking bout, but left and was finally discharged from the force on September 7.

"Since then, with Wilson, he had been begging in the streets from other territorials and civilians, the proceeds being spent in drink. His Worship said that 14 days' hard labour would have a beneficial effect in the case of each of the accused."

NZ Herald, 16 September 1914

Uh, no, it had little effect whatsoever ...

"Charged with insobriety and a breach of his prohibition order, Thomas Francis Hill was allowed to go without penalty, a friend offering to pay for his passage to Coromandel to get him away from the town."

NZ Herald 1 January 1915

On 25 October 1915, he was at Avondale, enlisting to join the Tunnellers as a sapper.

A young man who had managed to spend a considerable amount of time in the uniform of a soldier without getting anywhere near the firing-line, came before Mr E C Cutten, SM, this morning in the person of Thomas Francis Hill, aged 25 years. The history of his life as a soldier, as retailed by Sub-Inspector McIlveney, was that he joined the Main Expeditionary Force, but after some weeks was discharged because of his unruly conduct and generally bad disposition. He, however, managed to retain his uniform, and on the strength of it had a generally good time about the bars in Auckland.

"Eventually he was detected begging money from real soldiers in uniform and brought before the Court. That was on May 3, and he then explained that he wore the uniform because he had no other clothes and no means to get a fresh outfit. He was given a chance then by being convicted and ordered to come up for sentence when called on, and he was given an outfit by the Rev F Jeffreys, while another gentleman supplied his steamer fare to a place where he said he could get work.

"He did not go to work there, but went on to Pukekohe, where he came under notice of the police and got a sentence for vagrancy. By some means he got back into the Expeditionary Force recently, and the day before yesterday he was found drunk in uniform in Auckland. The military authorities had now intimated that they wanted no more of him, and the police had brought him up on the old vagrancy charge on which he was ordered to come up for sentence when called on as he appeared to be an absolute waster, who had made no effort at all to settle down to honest work, and seemed determined to bring the uniform into disgrace. He had absented himself from camp for eight days, and had finally been found drunk in the city.

"Hill protested at being brought up on a charge that was over six months' old, but his Worship told him he had had his chance and didn't take it, consequently he would be sentenced to three months hard labour."

Auckland Star 11 November 1915

On 17 February 1916, he enlisted again, at Trentham Camp.

Then, he went south, to Dunedin.

"On Tuesday forenoon Detective Hammerley apprehended a man named Thomas Francis Hill, alias Thomas Howard, alias George Hill, alias Williams, in the city on a charge of being a rogue, and a vagabond. The arrest of the accused was the outcome of a number of complaints received by the police authorities, and latterly by the detective office, to the effect that a man giving the name of "Corporal" Hill was going about the city under the guise of a returned soldier, imposing upon various sympathetic people by means of concocted stories of how the Turks were slaughtered by his company at Gallipoli. The stories were invariably so well told that in few instances only did accused fail to play upon the feelings of his auditors, the result being that accused collected various sums of money.

"Accused appeared in the City Police Court yesterday on the charge mentioned above, to which he pleaded "Guilty."

"Chief-Detective Bishop said this was one of the worst cases of its kind that had ever come before the court. Accused was one of the greatest wasters that had ever been in a dock. He arrived here five or six months ago, and ever since had been imposing upon the public. It was true that he had joined one of the early contingents, but had no doubt been. dismissed from the Army through his own misconduct. Accused had stated that he was discharged for having varicose veins in his legs, but it was only of recent date that the military authorities took men into camp who had varicose veins. Accused was an absolute menace to the city, and he had a number of convictions against him.

"Since 1906 he had spent a good deal of his time in gaol. He had been sentenced for theft vagrancy (on two occasions), rogue and vagabond, and obscene language. He urged that this was not a case for lenient treatment. The Magistrate (Mr Widdowson) sentenced the accused to twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour."

North Otago Times, 15 September 1916

He enlisted again, at Christchurch, 27 June 1917. By this stage, his military file is a mess of enlistments, medical exam reports, and not a lot else.

Hill was still passing himself off as a returned soldier in Dunedin in 1918, and received 12 months with hard labour, plus three years' reformative treatment. He was caught in Gisborne in 1926 passing bad cheques (six months' imprisonment), stole two coats in Christchurch in 1930 (six months' imprisonment), stole more clothing in Christchurch in 1931 (six months' hard labour, three months imprisonment on two charges), got drunk in Dunedin 1932 (one month and a fine) ... and so it went on. Until ...

"Thomas Francis Hill appeared before Messrs J R Copland and J W Fenton, at Balclutha yesterday morning on a charge of being idle and disorderly. Constable McCormack said the accused was very fortunate to be alive. He had camped in a public works whare at Clinton. He had been drinking heavily, and had taken to methylated spirits. He lit a fire in the whare and then dozed off to sleep. Some rubbish on the floor caught alight, the fire spread, and the canvas wall at one end of the whare was completely burned. The accused had spent a considerable portion of his life in gaol for various offences; in all he had 37 previous convictions. A sentence of three months’ imprisonment was imposed."

Evening Star, 9 November 1940

Looks like he died two years later, aged 57.