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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


BURGESS, Richard


Maungatapu murderer.

A new biography of Burgess, Richard appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Richard Burgess, alias Hill, was born in London, reputedly the illegitimate son of a guards officer and a lady's companion. Educated and thoroughly spoiled by his mother, on her marriage in 1837 he rebelled against his stepfather's discipline, thereafter consorting with street urchins engaged in petty crime. Transported to Van Dieman's Land in 1841 for burglary, he won his ticket-of-leave in 1847, and proceeded to Ballarat where he learned the stonemason's trade. In 1852 he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for armed highway robbery, and was released in October 1861.

Burgess arrived in Otago in January 1862. He met Kelly on the goldfields, and the pair spent the next four years in Dunedin Gaol for armed claim-robbery. Released on 11 September 1865, they were escorted by the provincial police to the Westland border.

Burgess, leader of the Maungatapu gang, was a vain man, proud of his crimes. In Court he boasted of no less than nine murders, and in gaol, awaiting trial and execution, he wrote his memoirs which have never been published. He was executed in Nelson Gaol on 5 October 1866, along with Kelly and Levy; Sullivan, the fourth member of the gang, was reprieved.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.