Story: Violent crime

Burgess gang killing

These sketches illustrate key events in the robbery and murder of five men by the Burgess gang on the Maungatapu Track near Nelson on 12 and 13 June 1866. The men were killed one by one, by different members of the gang. The first to die was James Battle, who passed the gang on the track and was killed to prevent him witnessing a planned robbery. The gang knew that Felix Mathieu, John Kempthorne and James de Pontius were carrying gold and cash on their journey from Canvas Town, near Picton, to the West Coast. The first sketch shows Kempthorne being shot in the back by Richard Burgess. The second sketch recreates the division of the stolen cash and gold dust among the gang members.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: F-315-35mm-E

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Greg Newbold, 'Violent crime - Mass murders, 1840–1989', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 8 June 2023)

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