Story: Violent crime

The last execution

The last execution

Controversy surrounds the case against – and the execution of – Walter James Bolton, the last person to be hanged in New Zealand. Bolton was convicted of poisoning his wife Beatrice, and was hanged in 1957. However, in the year before Beatrice's death, he had paid for her expensive medical care, which seemed inconsistent with a systematic attempt to poison her. There was also some evidence that Bolton was having an affair with his wife's younger sister, Florence Doherty, who often cared for Beatrice and was also initially suspected of her murder. Doherty took her own life a year after Bolton was executed. He is rumoured to have died by strangulation rather than a sudden broken neck, highlighting the inhumane aspects of the death penalty.

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How to cite this page:

Greg Newbold, 'Violent crime - Murder and manslaughter', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 4 June 2023)

Story by Greg Newbold, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 18 Mar 2019