Story: Violent crime

Minnie Dean (1st of 3)

Minnie Dean

Williamina (Minnie) Dean is infamous as the only woman ever executed for murder in New Zealand. Here Dean leaves the Milton courthouse in 1895 during the inquest into the deaths of one-year-old Dorothy Edith Carter and one-month-old Eva Hornsby. Both girls – along with many other unwanted babies – had been placed in Dean's care. She was eventually tried in the Supreme Court in Invercargill for murdering Dorothy Carter. Dean did not take the stand, but her lawyer, A. C. Hanlon, passionately argued for her acquittal, claiming that Dorothy's death was an accident. However, Dean was found guilty of murder and hanged a few months later. Her trial highlighted the vulnerability of unwanted babies 'farmed out' to women who received either a lump sum or a weekly payment for their care.

Using this item

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Reference: Lynley Hood, Minnie Dean: her life and crimes. Auckland: Penguin Books, 1994

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Greg Newbold, 'Violent crime - Controversial murder trials, 1840–1939', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 8 October 2022)

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