Story: Violent crime

Self-portrait of Lionel Terry

Painting of man with long hair and beard wearing a white suit

Lionel Terry grew up in England and travelled to southern Africa, the US and British Columbia after serving in the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Royal House Guards. In Africa he developed strong racial prejudices. By the time he arrived in New Zealand in 1901 these prejudices had developed into an obsessive hatred of the Chinese. Terry walked from Mangōnui in the far north to Wellington in July 1905, stopping along the way to campaign against non-European immigration. Shortly after arriving in Wellington, he shot and killed Joe Kum Yung, an elderly Chinese man, then used his trial for murder to publicise his opposition to Asian immigration. Terry’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on the grounds of mental instability. He was later diagnosed as schizophrenic.

This idealised self-portrait was produced in Seacliff Mental Hospital, north of Dunedin, where Terry was confined from 1914 until his death in 1952.

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Hocken Library, University of Otago
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How to cite this page:

Greg Newbold, 'Violent crime - Controversial murder trials, 1840–1939', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 June 2024)

Story by Greg Newbold, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 3 May 2024 with assistance from Greg Newbold