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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.



Lionel Terry's Obsession, 1905

Keen public interest and a good deal of morbid sympathy were aroused by the appearance in the dock in 1905 of Edward Lionel Terry on a charge of murdering an aged and inoffensive Chinese in Haining Street, Wellington. The prisoner used the occasion for a violent attack on British policy towards unnaturalised aliens, and described his crime as “a merciful delivery on a world-weary man, and a service to the community”. There was never any doubt of Terry's guilt. He shot his victim down in the street and then went to the police station and described his crime, produced a revolver as evidence, and handed a copy of his pamphlet The Shadow, a harangue on aliens, to the watchhouse-keeper, with the bland remark, “If you read that you'll understand the position”. At his trial he conducted his own defence, and reached remarkable heights of histrionics and rhetoric in his speech from the dock, which was mostly an appeal for the elimination of alien influences in the Empire. The Chief Justice, Sir Robert Stout, told the jury that the material question was the mental state of the prisoner, a suggestion to which Terry reacted violently with an assertion that he was perfectly aware of the quality and nature of his act. The inevitable verdict of guilty was accompanied by a strong recommendation to mercy, and the Chief Justice sent him to prison for life. Terry spent the rest of his days either in gaol or in the Sunnyside and Seacliff Mental Hospitals, but he was a perennial source of embarrassment to the authorities by reason of his escapes and attempted escapes and the violence of his conduct. Though sentenced in 1905, he was still news in 1908, especially when he celebrated one anniversary of his trial by setting fire to his quarters in the Lyttelton Gaol, one wing of which had been specially gazetted as a lunatic asylum for his benefit. He died under restraint at Seacliff Hospital on 20 August 1952.