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‘Revolting murder at Te Aroha’ in 1881

The brutal murder of Hamiona Haira, who had been mining with his two brothers and his father-in-law, shocked the new settlement. Being a member of Ngati Koi and Ngati Hako, these hapu threatened utu on the Pakeha responsible, causing both Maori and Pakeha miners to abandon their claims at Tui. Suspicion immediately fell on John Procoffy, a Finn, and evidence was quickly collected, officials being anxious to obtain a speedy conviction to avoid an innocent Pakeha being killed in revenge. Rangatira agreed to let the courts deal with the case, although some Pakeha criticized the government for being too anxious to appease Maori. After a coroner’s inquest, which included Maori as members of the jury, returned a verdict of murder by ‘person or persons unknown’, Procoffy faced two trials. As the prosecution was handicapped by the limitations of contemporary forensic skills, its case was largely circumstantial. Although the police were certain they had their murderer, others were not convinced, and there was a reluctance to convict because of the death penalty. The final outcome was a verdict of not guilty, which, as was pointed out, should have been ‘not proven’. Procoffy fled the country. His acquittal was accepted by Maori leaders, and calm returned to Te Aroha.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). ‘Revolting murder at Te Aroha’ in 1881. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 29), Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart

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