Sunday, July 31, 2022

The assault on Daniel Caley, 1868

View looking along Queen Street from near Karangahape Road, c.1860s. 4-399, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

One Saturday night in March 1868, at 10 pm, bakery owner Daniel Caley finished up for the night, left his shop beside the Thistle Hotel on Queen Street, locked the door, and started his walk home, up the hill toward Karangahape Road and his home and family.

Caley was born on the Isle of Man around 1817, and arrived in Auckland with his family in late 1859. But instead of taking up a farm in the Kaipara district as intended with other Manx settlers, he settled in to business as a baker in central Auckland instead by early 1860. He was a kind, gentle and well-liked and respected member of the community.

On that March night, however, he had a feeling he was being followed. He stopped along the way to talk with a friend, then continued on. Until up near the top, by the cutting at the junction of the two main streets, he was suddenly set upon by two men who beat, garroted and kicked him to within an inch of his life, and left him bleeding on the road. All for a pocket watch one man yanked off the chain, and a few silver coins, shillings and pence he was taking home with him that night to share out among his children.

Once Caley had been found, taken to a nearby house and the police alerted, the latter were onto it smartly. A house-to-house search through the streets and by-ways which “suspicious characters” frequented led them to Barrack Street and the home of two “notorious females” as the newspapers described them, Elizabeth Kelly and Mary Mininex. Inside were Joseph Bryant and Henry Kersting, both fresh out from completing two years each in Mt Eden Gaol.

Bryant, a soldier with the Military Train who was now absent from his barracks, had been found guilty of garroting a man, while Kersting stole watches and pigs. On Kersting, the police found Caley’s watch.

While Bryant and Kersting were held on remand, they joined up with another highway robber, William Goldsmith, and all three assaulted a prison warder. Before they could make their escape, however, they were captured.

All three men were later found guilty of the two attacks, Bryant and Kersting for the one on Caley, and Bryant and Goldsmith for the one at the gaol, and sentenced to up to eight years hard labour and 25 lashes each. Bryant and Kersting received their flogging, but simply shrugged it off, one saying that it was no more than he’d get from his mother.

Goldsmith’s flogging wasn’t due to take place until he’d complete one of his sentences – but then the authorities realised that if there was a delay of more than six months, the law stated that the flogging would be waived. He probably did miss out on that part of his punishment.

As for Bryant and Kersting – they successfully escaped from Mt Eden in November 1868, and disappeared. The public were outraged.

Daniel Caley recovered, returned to his business, was burnt out in the 1873 fire without insurance, and decided to retire to the Waikato. He did return to Auckland around 1890, though, and died here in 1900, aged 83. He was buried in the Wesleyan section of Symonds St cemetery.

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