CURATOR'S CHOICE: Selected Objects From the Collection
The staff of the New Zealand Police Museum tell the stories behind some of the museum's extraordinary collection objects.
Axe from Dewar Murders, Dunedin 1880
Axe from Dewar Murders, Dunedin 1880 (2012/460/1)
Elizabeth Dewar stumbled from the bed she shared with her husband James as flames engulfed him. She had been struck three times on the head with an axe. James who had been struck by one blow was already dead. Their nine month old daughter died in her crib; overcome by the smoke from the fire that was supposed to cover up this horrendous crime. Elizabeth did not survive.
The axe was found near the bed, covered in blood and hair.
Robert Butler, a career criminal with numerous aliases was arrested and charged with the murder of James Dewar on 14 March 1880. He successfully represented himself in court despite the strong circumstantial evidence against him. He did serve time in Lyttleton Gaol for other crimes before heading to Australia where he was convicted of murder and hanged in 1905.