In June 1887, Poverty Bay was gripped in a sensational case of witchcraft and murder. Four young Maori men- Aporo Paerata, Te Hau Porourangi, Te Uri Maerenga and Erena Parewhai- were on trial for the double murder of 60-year old Jeremiah Noko (Nuku) and his wife Hiria. Along with the rest of the tribe, the four young men believed that the pair had fatally bewitched a 70-year old man named Pareka, who had reportedly been in good health until Noko told him that he would die in three days. The tribe alleged that Noko had sent an evil spirit into a small hole near where Pareka sat. The young men responded by fatally shooting the sleeping couple on January 29th, 1887 at Pahatikotiko, and then allegedly setting fire to their hut. Aporo Paerata, Te Hau Porourangi, Te Uri Maerenga were convicted and sentenced to death, and Erena Parewhai was acquitted.

Maori from all over New Zealand responded in outrage to the convictions. Petitions poured into the Government from all over the country urging that the prisoners should be released on the following grounds: (1) That they had acted only in accordance with the laws of their forefathers; (2) that, if the responsibility rested anywhere, it rested on the tribe as a whole; and (3) that no proof had been adduced as to who was the actual murderer. The death sentences for all three prisoners were subsequently reduced to life sentences, although the prisoners were released after five years for exemplary behaviour.

Chelsea Nichols, March 2010. Unless otherwise stated, all images and information found on this website are property of the New Zealand Police Museum