Author(s): David Hastings
'Dreadful murder at Opunake', said the Taranaki Herald, 'Shocking outrage', cried the Evening Post in Wellington when they learned in November 1880 that a young woman called Mary Dobie had been found lying under a flax bush near Opunake on the Taranaki coast with her throat cut so deep her head was almost severed. In the midst of tensions between Maori and Pakeha in 1880, the murder ignited questions: Pakeha feared it was an act of political terrorism in response to the state's determination to take the land of the tribes in the region. Maori thought it would be the cue for the state to use force against them, especially the pacifist settlement at Parihaka. Was it rape or robbery, was the killer Maori or Pakeha? In this book, David Hastings takes us back to that lonely road on the Taranaki coast in nineteenth-century New Zealand to unravels the many deaths of Mary Dobie - the murder, the social tensions in Taranaki, the hunt for the killer and the lessons that Maori and Pakeha learnt about the murder and about themselves.
This interesting, well-illustrated book looks at the murder of Mary Dobie, a young Englishwoman who went for a walk from Opunake one fine morning in November 1880, intending to do some sketching and painting. When she failed to return, searchers found her body lying under a flax bush on the coast. David Hastings uses the hunt for the killer to illustrate the social tensions of the time. Mary and her sister Bertha, who had arrived from England to visit relatives, were thought to be rather forward young ladies, not quite fitting the Victorian ideal of the time. Was it rape or robbery? Was the killer Maori or Pakeha? Pakeha feared it was an act of terrorism in response to the government's determination to take the land of the tribes in the region. Maori thought it would be the cue for force to be used against them, especially against Parihaka. The author investigates all the possibilities for the 'many deaths' of Mary Dobie, and in doing so really brings to life the New Zealand of the time. - Jan
David Hastings holds an MA (Hons) in History from the University of Auckland. A former editor of the Weekend Herald, he is the author of Over the Mountains of the Sea: Life on the Migrant Ships, 1870-1885 and Extra! Extra! How the People Made the News, both published by Auckland University Press.