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DOBIE, MARY BEATRIX

 

Mary Dobie was born in 1850, the daughter of Major Herbert Mayon Dobie of the Madras Army and Ellen nee Locker. She was a gifted artist, and nearly all the sketches of New Zealand scenery in the London Graphic, a magazine edited and owned by her uncle Frederick Locker, were hers.

 

In 1880, she visited her sister and brother in law Major F Y Goring at the Opunake redoubt. Mary was in the habit of wandering the countryside seeking suitable sketching material. On the 25 November 1880, she went to Te Namu Bay where she began to draw Mt Egmont for the magazine. She was never seen alive again.

 

By nightfall when Mary failed to return, search parties were organised. By 9.30 pm their worst fears were realised. First a bunch of wild flowers were found, and nearby a trail of blood leading from one flax-bush to the next. Under one, they found Mary's lifeless body. Her hand was raised as if to protect her throat, where above her collar and her silk kerchief she had terrible knife wounds.

 

The first suspect arrested was a horse-breaker from near Hawera, Walter Stannard, who had the misfortune to appear in Opunake with blood on his hat, clothes and boots. However, Stannard was proven innocent, blood from his horses bleeding nose having soiled his clothes.

 

The second suspect, who was subsequently arrested, was a Maori named Tuhiata, or Tuhi, also known as Te Karea. The Maori at Opunake became annoyed with him (he was not a local resident), for committing a crime in their territory. They considered that if he wanted to kill a Pakeha he could at least have done it on his own home ground.

 

After his confession, Tuhi's trial took place at Welllington in December. His counsel faced a hopeless task, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging on the 24 December 1880.

 

Mary's companion at the time of her death was a huge retriever dog which Major Goring ordered to be shot when Tuhi said the dog did nothing to protect his mistress. Her grave is in the old soldiers' cemetery on the point overlooking the power board lake. Attention was drawn to a notice board at the entrance to the cemetery saying the Mary died at the hands of the enemy, but since there was no Maori war going on at the time (1880) the notice was considered to historically inaccurate. The notice has since been replaced.

 

SOURCE

The Clearing - A History of Opunake by Kate Mickelson

Famous N Z Murders by D G Dyne

Hawera Star reports

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