Murder at Wanganui, 1861
With only the excuse that his victim hounded and abused him on the parade ground and off, Colour-Sergeant James Collins, in 1861, strode into the orderly room of the Queen's 65th Regiment at Rutland Stockade, Wanganui, and shot Ensign William Alexander dead. His trial for murder was notable for the strenuous attempts made to save him from the gallows. He had been a fine soldier in peace and in war, but in the face of the jury's verdict and the starkly simple circumstances of the case, Mr Justice Johnston had no option but to sentence him to death. Throughout the district, and as far away as Wellington, where the Bishop of Wellington took a hand, unremitting efforts were made to secure a reprieve, but they were of no avail and Collins was hanged for his crime. This was the first occasion in the brief history of the colony when a hanging was not carried out in public, the Execution of Criminals Act 1858 having abolished the barbarous practice of hanging convicted murderers in public.