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Great New Zealand Robbery: The Extraordinary True Story of How Gangsters Pulled Off Our Most Audacious Heist

by Scott Bainbridge

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reasons I decided to read this book.

I found it in the local equivalent of a Little Free Library.

And the iconic Northern Steamship Building is featured – a building I used to know well! My father worked for Northern Steam (who occupied the bottom floor) for just over twenty years. I believe he was their last paid employee when Ron Brierley gutted the company. (Dad then went to work for Brierley at another company)

It was a gorgeous building – very Dickensian inside. Dad used to take one or two of us kids in with him when he did a spot of Saturday overtime, & the manager quite often had his granddaughter & we would have a great time playing hide & seek, hiding in the cubby holes.

By Auckland War Memorial Museum –…, CC0,…

This picture is from the 1920’s, but more recent pictures all seem to have scaffolding on it.

I went for a meal when it was the Northern Steamship restaurant & the interior was pretty much gutted. This was done well before the restaurant was in place. Last I heard it was a bar.

My dad never mentioned that a huge heist had taken place at the Waterfront Industry Commission’s offices (on the first floor – we were never allowed to go up there) around 10 years prior – there was no real reason he should. I wasn’t born at the time of the heist, & Mum & Dad were still living in Canada.

I’m a bit of true crime ghoul, but it turns out that doesn’t include burglaries & cracking safes. Or discussions on bank note numbering. Who knew? Plus Bainbridge without warning starts to treat this book as fiction with chunks of dialogue inserted. Very jarring.

I was interested in reading about NZ politician John Banks. Whatever you think about this controversial figure, his parents were a career criminal & a backstreet abortionist who both spent a good bit of Bank’s childhood in jail.

I think I would be more interested in a book about the Banks’ family.

DNF @ 37%.

A City Possessed

A City Possessed: The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

A City Possessed: The Christchurch Civic Creche Case by Lynley Hood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Think the Salem Witch Hunts couldn’t happen in modern times?

Think again.

A shocking case of mass hysteria.

This book doesn’t bother making any pretence of being a dispassionate, unbiased account so neither will I.

When rumours of a Christchurch based cult abusing children and then the (later and separate) allegations against workers at the Christchurch Civic Creche started in the early 90’s – I believed them. I was a young mother at the time and one of the messages we absorbed was if your child made any remarks that could remotely be construed as being about sexual abuse – believe your child. I loved my children and thought I was the luckiest woman alive being their mother, but there was always an element of fear. I couldn’t be so lucky to parent these wonderful beings, something would have to go wrong. I think these were the subliminal messages I was absorbing.

Further along of course you know children can and will lie about almost anything. In some cases I would call it more make believe and sometimes (and this is important) if you badger children and won’t accept an answer of, “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember” children will say what they believe their parent wants to hear.

I did start wondering when the four woman childcare workers were acquitted, but I didn’t start to really doubt till I read some of the children’s allegations – & even more when the oldest child accuser recanted and said she had made her claims because she thought that was what her parents wanted to hear. Even though those charges were dismissed there was no move to rehear the other cases. Peter Ellis remained inside. He wouldn’t attend parole hearings as he wouldn’t admit to something he hadn’t done. Most telling was that in most cases NZ prisons are hell on earth for child molesters – but Peter was untouched as his court guards let it be known (after sitting through some of the “evidence”) that they believed he was innocent and the charges were a farrago of nonsense.

Peter Ellis was set up. I think a lot of the problem was parents don’t want very young children in the care of males and this book makes serious allegations against the policeman in charge of the investigation. Problems remain to this day in NZ in getting male teachers to teach children of any age. He wasn’t released until 2000 and had just received permission to appeal his charges, but died of cancer in September. I hope the appeal still goes forward.

I know I’m making some judgemental comments, but I had to knock off half a ★for a few of Hood’s own. The first 167 pages were background info and she describes a child witness as the school gossip. How do you think the child would feel reading this as an adult? And calling Sharon Crosbie a radio diva, sounds like paying off an old score. I also found some of the indexing a little frustrating when I wanted to look things up.

Still a very important read for New Zealanders, but if you aren’t interested in all the background (Hood is very thorough) Start reading from about page 167.

Further reading…

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Scene of the Crime

The Scene of the Crime

The Scene of the Crime by Steve Braunias

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was a fan of NZ journalist, Steve Braunias even before I read his rebuttal to literary snob Graeme Lay in my favourite online magazine, Spinoff*…

This collection of essays, originally published in various NZ newspapers & magazine, shows Braunias’ great strength is not only his writing ability, but also his heart. Braunias has made me look again at one of NZ’s most notorious murder cases the Mark Lundy case – & think about it again. Ultimately, my opinion hasn’t changed, but I was able to entertain the idea that there were others who may have had a motive to harm Lundy & his wife Christine & his daughter was unlucky enough to be woken by the noise – & maybe Lundy was lucky to be away on business at the time. But in spite of incompetent scientists, whack job witnesses & police who appeared more interested in getting a result than being sure they had the right defendant, I still think Lundy is as guilty as sin. I think maybe Braunias should have expanded the 3 chapters given to the Lundy case into a book, as interest in some of the other court cases (Guy Hallwright, Derek King) has faded &, with apologies to the victims of Chris Wang, I had forgotten this case.

Yet another article about (shudder!) that disgusting pervert Rolf Harris was necessary at the time, but I don’t think I needed to read again (as an aside, I was staggered to find out that Harris is no longer behind bars)… ) This article not up to Braunias’ usual standards – its oddly passionless.But, just when I was thinking maybe Braunias should have stuck to NZ cases – well, the Australian case of Brad Murdoch was powerful stuff.

I was most interested in the strange, sad, horrifying case of Antonie Dixon, since his attack on his girlfriend & ex girlfriend happened in an isolated area not that far from where I live. Braunias’ theory (that Dixon, was insane, thought he was sane, so pretended to be insane at the trial) is the best explanation I’ve read about Dixon’s bizarre appearance & behaviour in court. Dixon did everything short of foam at the mouth.

That haircut looks familiar…

I really want to read Simonne Butler’s autobiography now, Double-edged Sword: The Simonne Butler Story She was his victim – now more than a survivor.

& on page 27, Braunias mentions, but doesn’t elaborate on other famous cases in NZ where many believe the police got it dead (pardon the pun) wrong. I do emphasise Braunias writes little to nothing about these cases.

Let’s play Guilty or Not Guilty!

Arthur Thomas – Our justice system’s most notorious stuff up, imprisoned for nine years for a couple of murders he didn’t commit. Now pardoned. Not Guilty

David Bain – also pardoned, but I still think he is Guilty

David Tamihere – another famous case in my backyard. (I swear I live in one of the most peaceful parts on NZ. That made these cases all the more shocking) He was partly convicted on the evidence of a couple of secret witnesses that wouldn’t have convinced a child of four. I don’t agree with wrong methods being used to get the “right” results. I lost a lot of confidence in our justice system after this one. Nevertheless Guilty

John Barlow- I was glad Braunias mentioned this. Less famous than the other cases, for me this case didn’t make sense. In spite of Barlow’s lies & really stupid behaviour, I’m still not convinced he did it. Neither were the first two juries. I hate things that don’t make sense – & nothing about this case did.I’m going to go with the Scottish option Not Proven Since this isn’t as well known as the other cases (where Google is your friend) I’m providing a link.…

Scott Watson. I’m not certain he is guilty. More importantly, neither is Olivia Hope’s father. Probably Not Guilty

Teina Pora. No doubt on this one – & Malcolm Rewa was just convicted of Susan Burdett’s rape & murder. Since he was already in prison for multiple violent rapes, Rewa will never be a free man again. Shame on the police concerned & shame on some on some of Pora’s family who dobbed him in to collect a relatively small reward. Not Guilty

I don’t want to bag on NZ police too much. Newspapers & the public put a lot of pressure on them To Get a Result.

Reading these cases & the other ones I have mentioned will give the idea that NZ is an extremely violent place. It is (sadly) no better or no worse than anywhere else.

I’ve rambled again, sorry. I do that.

* I just wish Spinoff hadn’t farmed it’s comments out to Facebook. The comments lost a lot of their vitality then.

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