Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 4 (July 2, 1934.)

The Trial of Hamiora Pere

The Trial of Hamiora Pere.

From the time of Edward III. the English law has recognised high treason as one of the gravest of crimes. In those days, and in our own time, the crime consisted of doing, or designing anything which would lead to the death, bodily harm, or restraint of the King, levying war against His Majesty within the Realm, or adhering to his enemies within or without the Realm.

In the early days of the colonisation of New Zealand the peace of the country was much disturbed by certain Maori chiefs leading the tribes upon warlike expeditions, or kokiri, against the pakeha and friendly natives. In these expeditions there was no more skilful or daring chief than Te Kooti. He made his presence felt when, with a large band of braves, he escaped from the Chatham Islands and landed at Whareongaonga. His ravages and cruelty struck terror into the hearts not only of the peaceful European but also of the friendly natives who desired to live at peace with their new pakeha friends.

Out of Te Kooti's guerilla warfare arose a large number of criminal trials for high treason. Natives either voluntarily or when captured by him joined his band of roving warriors and assisted in his wholesale slaughtering. As a result of several battles a large number of these natives were put on their trial by virtue of a statute that had been passed called “The Summary Trials in Disturbed Districts Act.” Under a special Commission, Mr. Justice Johnston, in the year 1869, tried eighty of these natives, one of whom was Hamiora Pere.

He was tried in September, 1869, for high treason, in waging war against Her Majesty the Queen. In order to hold these natives safe during the trial they were placed on board the barque “City of Newcastle,” which lay in Wellington harbour.

At the trial of Hamiora Pere the Attorney-General and Mr. Izard appeared for the Crown, the prisoner being represented by Mr. Allan.

After the jury had been empanelled, Mr. Izard opened the proceedings, the Attorney-General following with a statement to the jury, in which he explained the crime of treason and what facts he was going to lay before them to substantiate the charge. The case was unravelled as the witnesses told their stories from the witness box.

The first witness must have created some excitement. She was Maata Te Owai, and she declared that she was a married woman, the wife of Te Kooti. She said that the great Maori had deceived her and then married her in the Chatham Islands, during the time he was a Government prisoner. She escaped with her husband from the islands and landed at Whareongaonga. Hamiora Pere, she said, joined the force while Te Kooti and the rest of the tribe that had escaped with him were in the Poverty Bay district. She knew the prisoner personally he having joined the tribe at the village of Puketapu. He had a gun. Te Kooti, she said, fortified the pahs at Puketapu. The witness stated that she heard her husband tell his soldiers there was to be a kokiri, or war expedition, to Wairoa for the purpose of attacking the Government people there and to bring back powder and other ammunition. She remembered that the prisoner was present when Te Kooti said this. In that kokiri two Government or friendly natives were killed. The witness also remembered seeing the prisoner return with that kokiri from Wairoa. Later, Te Kooti ordered another expedition to go to Turanganui. He told them to go there and attack the Europeans and the friendly natives.

The witness said that Te Kooti gave his orders after prayers had been said. He commanded them to be strong in fight and to pray to God. If they prayed to God strongly and faithfully, God would listen to them and give all the Government people into their hands; but if they were not strong, and did not pray to God, then they themselves would be given into the hands of their enemies, the Government people. He told his soldiers that all the Government people were to be killed, including the pakehas and the friendly natives, and that Jehovah had told him this. Te Kooti then added that when they had done this God would give them possession of all the other towns, namely Wellington, Auckland and Napier, and all the people who lived in them; that page 25 all the Hauhaus (their own troops) would be saved, but all the others killed. The witness said that the prisoner was present when Te Kooti thus addressed his soldiers.

The expedition then went to Pukepuke (where the sick men and women were dropped) and proceeded on the march again. The order of march consisted in half of the warriors in the lead, followed by the women and children, and then the balance of the soldiers. They all went to Turanganui. The women and old men halted, but the warriors went on to Patutahi, where the residents were captured and brought back as prisoners. The captured people were previously Hauhaus and Te Kooti forced them to turn round and fight with him against the pakeha. Having ascertained where the Government people were Te Kooti formed another kokiri to go to Matawhero. This kokiri, the witness said, consisted of Nama's people and some of the Urewera tribe. Te Kooti himself took charge. The whole expedition was armed, and the prisoner at the bar was one of them. When they returned they had as prisoners Maria Morris, Ema Katipa and her husband, Himiona. The prisoner returned with the expedition. They said when they returned that they had killed 100 whites and friendly natives. Maata Te Owai then said that another kokiri proceeded to Oweta, and the prisoner went with that party too. He returned with them. Then the whole tribe moved to Makaretu. There was a fight there, and many of the Maoris were killed by the Government troops. The rest fled to Ngatapu, where there was another fight. The prisoner was still with Te Kooti. The Government troops went away and Te Kooti fortified the pahs.

“They had made supplejack ladders, and with their aid escaped down the precipices.”

“They had made supplejack ladders, and with their aid escaped down the precipices.”

In cross-examination the witness added nothing useful to her story. She said she had escaped with Te Kooti and had landed at Whareongaonga. In answer to the Judge, Maata Te Owai said that Te Kooti had been an inferior chief of his tribe, but later he became a great leader through his prayers to his God. He belonged to the Ngatimaru tribe, who were not Hauhaus at first, but they nearly all joined Te Kooti on his escape and adopted his religion and became Hauhaus. She added that the Ngatimaru's were a numerous and strong tribe. She said that she herself had been christened by the Bishop at Waerengahika.

Then came another native witness, who gave his name as Riria Kaimare. He remembered when the prisoner joined the forces of Te Kooti at Puketapu. Generally he bore out the evidence of Maata Te Owai. This witness swore that the prisoner had been behind the parapets at Ngatapu with his gun in his hand.

The story was continued by Thomas William Porter, who said that he was with Major Westrup's party in Poverty Bay. He was there when the fighting took place against Te Kooti at Makaretu in November of the previous year. The fighting there was due to Mr. McLean, the Government agent for the East Coast district, ordering Major Westrup to attack Te Kooti. He estimated that about 200 Hauhaus took part in that particular fight.

Colonel Stoddart Whitmore, of the Militia, said he was Officer Commanding the East Coast forces. In July and August, 1868, he also commanded the militia and volunteers as well as the Constabulary. It was in the month of July, the Colonel related, that Te Kooti had landed at Whareongaonga after he and his band had seized the ship lying in the harbour at Chatham Islands. Towards the end of July his forces came into grips with the Hauhaus. Then he returned to Wellington and left Major Biggs in command. The Colonel later returned to the East Coast and led the troops into action again at Makaretu. The enemy were routed. He pursued them to Ngatapu with a force of seven hundred men. He reviewed the situation there and came to the conclusion that his force was not strong enough to attack the strongly fortified pahs. Accordingly, he returned to Turanganui. There he augmented his troops and returned to attack the stronghold. In order to save bloodshed, if possible, he called on Te Kooti, in the name of the Queen, to surrender.

Te Kooti refused to reply to the demand, and the fighting began. Then the witness requested Te Kooti to allow the women and children to come out, and so spare their lives. Te Kooti, however, refused to accept this offer. The pahs were then fired on with shells and rockets, and rifle fire, for several days. The losses among the Hauhaus must have been considerable. About the fourth day a breach was effected in the battlements, but under the cover of the night that followed the enemy made their escape. They had made supplejack ladders and with their aid had escaped down the precipices at the rear and sides of the pahs.

The Maori chief who was in command of the friendly natives then pursued Te Kooti and his followers into the bush, and catching them up, killed and captured many of them. No doubt the prisoner was amongst these though the record is not very clear how Hamiora Pere fell into the hands of the pakeha. That concluded the evidence upon which the Crown relied for a conviction.

The Attorney-General then addressed the jury on the facts, and claimed that the evidence clearly identified the prisoner with the band under Te Kooti, and that the crime was duly proved against him. His speech was a very brief one.

Mr. Allan, who did not call any fresh evidence, addressed the jury for thirtyfive minutes. One can easily imagine that much could have been said to the effect that the natives concerned were not really British subjects and that, therefore, they were not guilty of treason. They were still savages, fierce and resentful, and unable to understand English, hence they would not have known they were doing anything more than fighting a foreign enemy who had stolen their lands.

No doubt these thoughts crossed the mind of the Judge for he took infinite pains to explain the law and the facts to the jury. However, after only fifteen minutes deliberation the jury brought in a verdict of guilty. When it became known that the prisoner had been convicted there was a rush of people into the Court building to hear the death sentence pronounced. The Judge disappointed them for he refused to sentence the prisoner until all the other cases were disposed of. It was not until the 11th October that Hamiora Pere was called on to say why page 26 page 27 the sentence of death should not be passed on him.

Hamiora Pere said that he had been taken prisoner by Te Kooti, and in order to save his own life he had been compelled to join the Hauhaus.

The Judge's exhortation to the native was an extraordinary one. He took great care to congratulate him on the fact that the practice of drawing and quartering after hanging had been abolished. These are his actual words: —

“The sentence I am about to pass on you is one which I regret I am bound to pronounce, even though I am certain it will not be fully enforced against you, for it is a sentence which no Christian man would desire should be inflicted, and which never has been fully inflicted in modern times. But the Judges do not make the law; they only declare it and apply it in particular cases. For some crimes the law permits the Judge to pronounce sentences differing in severity, according to his judgment, but in the case of the great crimes, like treason and murder, he has not this discretion. All the Judges of the Colony, if now present, could not alter the sentence in these cases; but fortunately the Queen's representative has power to mitigate it, or practically to substitute another punishment for that which the law pronounces. The crime of which you stand convicted is considered in well governed and peaceable communities to be the greatest of all crimes, because its tendency is to destroy the foundations of the peace, well-being and happiness of a whole, people, and it was therefore deemed right in old times to mark the horror and detestation in which it was held, and to endeavour to excite fear and terror likely to prevent its commission by adding to the punishment of death, circumstances of a degrading and terrible kind, to which the perpetrators of other crimes, however great, were not made liable. I believe it is to be attributed to the rarity of this crime in modern times, and to the certainty that public opinion as well as individual feeling, would always induce the Sovereign to deprive this sentence of its horrors, that it has not long since been removed from our Statute Book.”

After this quite unnecessary speech by the Judge he formally passed sentence of death upon the prisoner, and told him he should have no expectation that the sentence would not be carried out.

On Tuesday, the 16th November, the luckless native paid the penalty for his folly. He was the third prisoner to be hanged behind the walls of the prison. When the prisoner began to realise how quickly his life was ebbing he became terribly distressed, but became more calm under the spiritual advice of the Rev. Mr. Stock and the Venerable Archdeacon Hadfield. He was helped to the gallows, sobbing bitterly. The Rev. Mr. Stock preceded the solemn procession, reading the burial service in the Maori language. The prisoner spoke a few words huskily and almost inaudibly as he stood on the platform. Just before the final scene was enacted he lost all his nervousness. He stood erect, and in a voice that rang clear and loud he repeated the last words of the prayers before he was launched into eternity.

In these days of peace it is hard to imagine how the execution of Hamiora Pere can be entirely justified.

“When a total stranger accosts me in the street and tells me he objects to my smoking (as a man did yesterday) I consider he is guilty of gross impertinence,” wrote an indignant correspondent of a London daily, adding “I might just as justifiably tell him I object to the cut of the suit he is wearing. If people had always minded their own business and refrained from meddling with other people's the pages of the historian would make pleasanter reading.” Hear, hear! Although tobacco cranks are growing scarcer every day there are still those who would gladly see smoking made a criminal offence. Yet tobacco can be as harmless as fresh air, provided it's good. If you find smoking is affecting heart or nerves your tobacco is at fault, and contains too much nicotine. The toasted New Zealand is the best. Almost free from nicotine—eliminated by the toasting—all four brands, Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog), Cavendish, Riverhead Gold, and Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead), are not only delightful smoking but absolutely innocuous.