The Spanish Beauty and the Beast – The Manchester St Murder

For £55, reports The Press in 1909, an Antipodean may travel to London and back via the Cape and secure a very pleasant holiday. “Twopenny tubes and penny buses are to be hailed in preference to taxis, and champagne chicken suppers are not to be on the daily menu, but a traveller could live and do fairly handsomely at a rate of a little over £3 per week.” [1]

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19171129-42-3. Taken from the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 29 November 1917 p042
Burns Silver Grid Temperance Hotel after a tragic fire that claimed five lives in 1917. [2]
The Press also reports that French aviator and inventor Louis Blériot has flown the English Channel for the first time in man’s history. His ‘conquest of the Channel’ in July 1909 has marked ‘the birth of a new epoch of human development’. While the Wright Brothers have kept to their biplane, Blériot has developed a lighter and faster monoplane, reports The Press’ London correspondent. [3]

While Blériot is building his monoplane in 1909, Christchurch accountant and inventor Oswald Coates is conducting gliding trials of his machine in his Merivale Lane garden. As Blériot makes his historic flight across the English Channel, Coates is putting his aeroplane – named ‘The Long White Cloud ‘- through its paces before Lord and Lady Plunket in the grounds of Auckland’s Government House. [4]

For boarders and employees at Alfred and May Burn’s ‘Silver Grid’ boarding house and amusement parlour, holidays in London, champagne suppers and aviation exploits are only to be read about. Theirs are ordinary working-class lives. Their time off is spent walking out with their ‘best girl’ or at the Collosseum watching the film of the airship races at Rheims.

In October 1909, the Silver Grid is located at 107 Manchester street. The front portion of the ground floor is occupied by slot machines, a billiard room, and a temperance bar and eating house serving the needs of working-class Christchurch men. Upstairs there is accommodation for boarders, staff and the family, with a nursery for the three small children of the proprietor.

The upstairs portion is ‘somewhat peculiarly divided’. At the head of the stairs, the landing leads into three passages; one proceeding west, in the direction of Colombo street, and another one east towards the front of the building overlooking Manchester street. The third passage is a short one and leads towards the railway station.

In the first passage are the rooms of two boarders, Thomas Moore and John Warwick. At the end of the second passage, overlooking Manchester street and on the right-hand side, is the children’s nursery, which is connected by a door with the bedroom occupied by Alice Newman. Her room has another door opening out on to the passage, which leads off another short passage.

A Dark Spanish Beauty

Alice Edith Newman. Source: NZ Truth , Issue 227, 30 October 1909, Page 7.
Alice Edith Newman. [5]
Alice lives and works at the Silver Grid as a domestic servant cum waitress. She is a particularly attractive brunette and the daughter of a well-known Government official in the Agricultural Department.

At 21, Alice attracts more than her fair share of admirers. John Warwick is one who admires her ‘dark Spanish type’ beauty.

Warwick arrived from England just 12 months ago and is working as a clerk. He has been boarding at the Silver Grid for just a fortnight but has known Alice for at least four months, having ‘walked out with her three times’.

Warwick is, in Alice’s words, a ‘well-educated fellow’ who works in a profession and has prospects. He better suits her aspirations for financial and social advancement than any of her other suitors.

Flaxton farm labourer, William Hart, is also an admirer. He too has known Alice for just four months and has walked out with her on several occasions.

Of all Alice’s admirers, Scotsman Arthur Roberts has the strongest feelings for her. He is also a new arrival having only been in the country some twelve months. He is young – about 21 – keen and determined to have Alice for himself. He is also desperately jealous of the attention that Alice is receiving from the other men.

Before arriving in New Zealand, Roberts was at sea, but in Christchurch, he has gained a variety of shore jobs. He spends most of his days off drinking heavily which contributes to his often florid looking complexion. He is also a heavy smoker – making his way through three to four packs of cigarettes a day – and has ‘other physical habits conducing to a weak state of mind’. He stands at 5ft 9 inches high and has a thin build and slightly bowed legs. Brown eyes soften his face and his short dark hair is parted in the centre – as is the fashion of the day. He has a youthful attractiveness that drew Alice’s attention before his obsessive temperament turned her away. On his right arm, he sports a distinctive tattoo featuring a horseshoe, horse’s head, the letters ‘A.R.’, a flag and crossed hands. He also has a large scar on his left arm.

An Unhealthy Friendship

Roberts had worked as a porter at the Waltham Hotel for six weeks during May and June of 1909. He then got a job as a barman at the Caversham Hotel located off lower High street.

He had visited the Silver Grid on two occasions previously. The first time he had stayed a night on the premises, then he returned in June to have the tattoo design put on his arm by Burns, the proprietor. Burns had seen him talking to Alice. He did not like how familiar they seemed. When he questioned Alice, she denied having known him previously. Alice’s employer does not like Roberts and is suspicious of his behaviour. He has seen Roberts hanging about or hurriedly leaving the place, and he told Alice he does not want him on the premises.

Burns is right to be wary of Roberts. Not long after his second visit to the Silver Grid he was arrested for drunkenness. He had in his possession a bottle of chlorodyne which he threatened to swallow. This highly addictive drug was used originally as a patent medicine to treat cholera. 

Arthur John Wilson Roberts. Source: NZ Truth , Issue 230, 20 November 1909, Page 5.
Arthur John Wilson Roberts. [6]
A Man Insane

Labourer Richard Morton has known Roberts for about nine months and got him the job at the Caversham. He, Roberts and others had shared the same room in the Hotel, and Morton often witnessed Roberts drink to excess nearly every day. One night, two of the other occupants of the room had woken Roberts up three times and ‘rough-handled him’. Roberts lost control and took a razor from his ‘box’ of possessions and threatened to cut the throat of the next man that awakened him. Morton described Roberts as being ‘a man insane.’

In late August, Roberts had appeared again before a Magistrate. He had been involved in a drunken argument with another man outside the Caversham Hotel during which he drew a loaded revolver and threatened the man.

Roberts pleaded guilty and was remanded for eight days for observation by the gaol surgeon, who reported ‘that he was quite sane’. The Magistrate convicted and discharged Roberts on the understanding that he consent to a prohibition order issued against him preventing innkeepers from serving him alcohol. [7]

As if having the likes of Roberts as a suitor wasn’t enough, amongst Alice’s admirers is Ernest Maurice Read, her former live-in lover and father of her four-year-old son.

So Many Aliases

Just ten months earlier in January 1909, Alice Edith Newman had been known as Edith Black. She had not long been employed as a waitress at the Excelsior Hotel in Manchester street, while Ernest Read worked as a cook at Coker’s Hotel. According to Read, the couple had originally met in Timaru in 1899 –  in which case Edith would have been just 15 and Read 17. They had been living together on and off since April 1904. Read claimed that as soon as he got a shore job, he and Alice had lived together but had not married.

Read is a Londoner, the son of Charles Thomas Read, a tinsmith and Helena Bowyer. He had been working as a ship’s steward and lived at home with his parents and siblings in Campden Hill, London in 1901.

There is an old tale about seamen having a wife in every port and it would seem that Read had another in Auckland. In 1902 he – or a man with the same name – had married 24-year-old Ellen Dunn. Ellen already has two illegitimate children born in 1899 and 1900. [8] Despite whatever other relationships Read had, on 24 May 1905 he and Edith Black became the parents of a baby son, Maxwell Black. Read was not registered as the child’s father and the mother’s name was recorded as Esther Spencer. Maxwell was Edith’s father’s Christian name, and Spencer appears to be an expansion of part of the family surname, Spens Black. Edith was born Marie Spens Black, the daughter of a Timaru Rabbit Agent from a well-to-do Scottish family and a mother with French titled connections. Spens Black would later become an officer under the Salmon and Trout Act, Canterbury district, and a ranger for South Canterbury district.

Timaru Herald, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 2688, 5 May 1883, Page 2
Marriage Notice: Timaru Herald, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 2688, 5 May 1883, Page 2
Birth notice: Timaru Herald, Volume XL, Issue 2979, 10 April 1884, Page 2
Birth Notice: Timaru Herald, Volume XL, Issue 2979, 10 April 1884, Page 2.

Edith and Read had arrived in Christchurch from ‘the south’ in about 1907. They lived together in Sydenham. Edith – as she was known then – and Read remained unmarried, a fact which caused a considerable stir when it became public knowledge two years later.

An Unholy Partnership

In January 1909, Edith was charged with having stolen £10 worth of articles from her employer, Ada Rouse, the leasee of the Excelsior Hotel. These articles included glasses, knives, dishes, etc., and a cap valued at 2s 6d. At the same time, Read was also charged with stealing three shillings worth of goods from Coker’s Hotel and with ‘receiving’ the articles stolen by Edith, ‘knowing them to have been dishonestly obtained.’ They both pleaded guilty before the Magistrate although Read’s plea was given ‘under protest’.

The Magistrate wanted to break up their association, which he believed had something to do with the position in which they had found themselves. Even though Read’s offence was the lesser of the two and his employer had vouched in Court for his honesty, Read received six months imprisonment with hard labour.

On the Magistrate’s pronouncement, Edith burst into a flood of tears in the Courtroom. “That is enough of that.” admonished his Worship. “You have made your bed, and you will have to lie on it. I am going to treat you differently because you are a woman and on account of the temptation. This, at any rate, ought to serve as a lesson to you. You are convicted and discharged.”

Edith pleaded with the Magistrate, telling him she was going to marry Read. ‘Thereupon Ernest clasped his Edith passionately in his arms and implanted a kiss on her rosebud mouth, whilst a titter went round the Court, and the Orderly roared, “Silence!” ‘

“You can marry him when he comes out of gaol, then.” His Worship sternly replied. “It’s a pity you did not think of it before.”

‘Edith once more relapsed into tears, and as her hero was borne away to his dungeon cell, she staggered blindly forth into a cold and unsympathetic world.’

Their ‘unholy’ partnership was at an end. [9]

Police Gazette, 1909. Source: Archives New Zealand.
Born: 1882, England, cook, b. 1882, 5ft 6 1/4″, dark complexion, dark hair, blue eyes, med nose, discharged 12/6/09. Round scar on right side of body. F.P. Photographed at Lyttelton 8/6/09
A New Name and a New Billet

With her partner in gaol for six months, Edith needed to find a new ‘billet’ and new employment. This was not going to be easy with a conviction for theft attached to her name. It would be easier to assume a new identity, and so Edith Black became Alice Edith Newman. In April she gained employment at the Silver Grid. The couple’s young boy was put in the care of a Mrs Birss who had a boarding house in Church Street, Papanui.

During Read’s time in gaol, Edith moved on, not just in name but also in her affections. The Magistrate’s sentence had served his intended purpose in breaking up the relationship between the couple.

Even though they had not lived together since January 1909, they still saw each other about once a week. After Read’s release from gaol mid-way through 1909, their regular meetings had been to visit their young son in Papanui. When Read had parted with her, ‘it was on the understanding that they find billets and earn enough to start housekeeping again’. Read said he had offered marriage to Alice. However, she considered he had not sufficient means.

Edith Black aka Alice Newman
Edith Black aka Alice Newman
Stepping Out

It was Saturday evening, 16 October 1909, when Alice steps out after work in the company of John Warwick. They walk near Strange’s Department Store in Manchester street where Read is waiting for Alice ‘by appointment’ outside the Public Fruit Market.

Alice stops to speak with Read whilst Warwick walks on. The ‘ever-present Roberts’ is seen on the other side of the road.

Read had made an appointment with Alice to go to Papanui that evening, but when they meet up she tells him that she is going to the pictures with Warwick instead as he has been ‘a good friend to her.’

Read is not at all happy about this and so follows them. Instead of going to the pictures, the pair continue to walk and when they reach Latimer Square Read challenges Alice about her lie. Alice is annoyed and tells him he has no business to follow them. She and Warwick walk on and return to the Silver Grid about 10.30 pm.

Alice and Warwick step out again on the following afternoon. It is Sunday and they go out for tea in town, returning to the boarding house at ten in the evening. Roberts is spotted waiting on a corner near the Silver Grid. On seeing Warwick in Alice’s company, he demands to know what he is doing with her. Warwick doesn’t understand what he is talking about and says as much. Roberts refuses to believe him and beckons to Read, who is waiting across the street, to come over. “What is this woman to you?” he asks Read, who replies “She is my wife.”

“What!” exclaims Warwick. “It’s true,” answers Read. “You’re not the only one that’s mixed up in this. You’d better be careful or else you’ll be in the mix.”

Warwick wants none of it. He tells Read he will have nothing more to do with Alice, who has retired to the boarding house whilst the conversation is taking place. The men exchange “goodnights” and part company.

Roberts knows Read by the alias Bowyer, his Mother’s maiden name. They had met shortly after Read had been released from gaol. Read has also lent Roberts odd shillings and once paid a court fine for him.

Read also had Robert’s revolver. After Roberts had threatened to kill himself, Alice had taken his revolver and given it to Read for safekeeping. This was in September, just after the prohibition order had been taken out against Roberts. Roberts wanted the revolver back. On Saturday 16th he told Read that he had a buyer for it as he wanted to raise money to go to his new job in Kaiapoi. He is to start work there on 19 October, for the contractor who carries the mail between Kaiapoi and Waikuku. Read is glad to be rid of of the gun and offers to leave it at Burns’s office at Silver Grid the following night.

However, on Sunday, October 17, Roberts turns up at Mrs Birss’s house in Papanui. He obtains the revolver and 50 rounds of ammunition there from Read, telling him he could not leave it for him at the Silver Grid as Mrs Burns would not accept any parcels for him.

Billiard Saloon, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880?-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-009163-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
A Christchurch Billiard Saloon taken in 1910 by Steffano Webb Photographic Studio. [10]
Not a Proper Person

Read wants custody of his and Alice’s son, he is of the view that she is ‘not a proper person to have control of the boy.’ He did not like her ‘conduct with Warwick.’ He has paid weekly support of 10s for the child and discusses the question of custody with Alice on the afternoon of Monday 18th October before returning to Birss’ boarding house in Papanui for the evening.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on the 18th, Alice taps at the billiard-room window to get her employer’s attention and asks him to come into the office. Alice asks Mr Burns to give a room to Roberts. Burns is not impressed, “I told you before I would not allow that man to stop on the premises”,  he says. He is worried at seeing Roberts loitering about the place and keeps an eye on ‘the shop’. He accuses Alice of being ‘a bit fast’ when it comes to Roberts. She replies “How dare you, Mr Burns, speak to me like that. I have been long enough with you now for you to see whether I conduct myself properly.”

Never the less, Burns remains concerned that Roberts is still hanging around outside and at 9.30 p.m, half an hour before her shift ends for the day, he tells her she had better go to bed. Alice makes for the stairs and Burns returns to the billiard room. He remains concerned and waits at the door to the billiard room at the side of the stairs, rather than going inside.

John Warwick has spent most of the evening in the billiard-room. At about twenty past nine he goes to the ‘slide’ to pay his board to Alice Newman who at the time is in charge of the office having earlier put the Burns children to bed. ‘A slight young man about 23 or 24 years of age’ is standing in the angle of the staircase and beckons to Warwick. It is Roberts and he wants to speak with him. Warwick tells him that if it is of any importance they should speak in his room. Roberts refers to Alice and accuses Warwick of talking to her.

“What business have you got with the girl? You had better drop her or else there will be trouble”, he tells Warwick. Warwick replies that he has not had anything to do with her and what’s more does not want to, especially if she is married.

At this point, Alice joins Roberts and Warwick and they move to the landing at the top of the stairs to talk further. After considerable discussion, they part company. Warwick goes to his room and Alice walks towards hers. As Roberts takes a couple of steps as though to go downstairs, he remarks to Warwick, “I’ll see you at eight in the morning” and appears to take his leave.

Thomas Moore, a motor-car driver, has returned to the Silver Grid where he boards, at about 9.20 p.m. He spots Alice in the office and proceeds upstairs to his room at number 21, next door to Warwick’s. He has only been there a few minutes when he hears snatches of an argument between an unknown man and woman – Roberts and Alice. “I am not his wife. I was never married to him”, he hears Alice say. Roberts speaks again and Alice replies “You cur, you have woke the children” before calling down to Mr Burns that all is well, it is only the children. After more talk, the man is heard by Moore to say “I’ll see you at eight in the morning.”

AWNS_19091028_Arthur Wilson
Arthur John Wilson Roberts [11]
Three Shots and a Muffled Scream

The next thing Warwick and Moore hear is the sound of three rapid shots fired in quick succession and followed by a woman’s scream.

Warwick looks out his door and sees Alice running towards him uttering muffled screams. Blood is gushing from her face, marking her progress from the nursery door to his room. He calls for help and rushes downstairs meeting Burns as he is coming up.

Moore comes out of his room and sees Alice lying in the next room to his, on the floor between two beds, in a pool of blood.

Warwick goes for the police. He returns with a Constable, and they find Alice lying on the floor of his room gasping her last breath.

Alice has been struck three times by bullets from a small calibre revolver; once in the temple, once in the neck, which severs her jugular vein, and another in the hand. Another bullet is found on the floor in the passage having passed through her motor-cap that is hanging on the door. She had managed to walk twenty feet from her room to Warwick’s, passing through the nursery where the children are sleeping.

News gets out quickly about the tragedy and a large crowd gathers outside the Silver Grid. The excitement is intensified as various police officers arrive on the scene.

The details of the tragedy are promptly telephoned to headquarters by the first Constable on the scene. The Sub-Inspector and Chief Detective immediately assume charge. Because of the suspicion that the murderer might still be in the house, they make a careful search of the place to allay the fears of the residents. A wide area of the city is scoured, and at eleven o’clock it is rumoured that Arthur Roberts has been seen behaving strangely near the corner of Fitzgerald avenue and Ferry road. Detectives search the locality for a couple of hours but find no trace of him.

All avenues of escape from the city are patrolled by between twenty and thirty men. However, it isn’t until the early hours of the next morning that a report comes in that Roberts has been spotted at about six o’clock by a man who said he had asked the way to Kaiapoi. An hour and a half later he is seen near Islington and has inquired the way down the southern railway line.

The Bravery of Constable Evans

Mr. Evans, Constable #1242 has had a very busy night. He’s only been on the job as a mounted constable in the Christchurch district since September having formerly served in Lyttelton for a year. Whilst proceeding on horseback along the road near Prebbleton he is informed that a man resembling Roberts has been seen in the vicinity earlier in the day. Constable Evans thinks it is likely that Roberts might have visited the local hotel, so he gets someone to hold his horse and proceeds inside. He spots Roberts immediately, standing at a counter writing a letter. Evans approaches quietly. Noticing that the right-hand pocket on Robert’s jacket is bulging out, he adroitly slides his hand in and removes the gun, which was loaded in six chambers, before Roberts becomes aware of what is going on.

Constable Evans asks him his name to which Roberts replies ‘Williams, claiming he has come from Rangiora. The Constable then seizes some letters, one of which Roberts has been writing and the other partly finished. Roberts tries to snatch them back and in doing so tears one in half.

It was addressed to Mr Burns:

“Dear Mr. Burns,— “Excuse me for writing you these few lines, but I could not live without Alice. I am taking my own life now, and I am sorry I didn’t take that man’s life who was trying to do me out of it. We have a child, and I hope you will get somebody to look after it. If it had been near us at the time I would have done for the poor little chap rather than see him homeless in this world. Might God forgive me for doing such a thing, but I could not see her messing around other fellows, so, Mr Burns, you might do me a favour by letting my people know about this sad thing. Write to Mrs Sinclair, 47 Ure street, Govan, Glasgow.”

A second letter is written in the form of a poem on the back of a letter written from his mother in Glasgow. It bears the appeal “Whoever finds this, send it home to my Mother”:

The Telegram announcing the arrest of Roberts by Constable Evans. Source: Archives NZ.
The Telegram announcing the arrest of Roberts by Constable Evans. [12]

Dear Mother,
I cannot live without her, however much I try,
When I think of our troubles how bitterly I cry.
I think it will be better when underneath the clay,
When our souls meet together in that bright land of aye.
Your broken-hearted son. [13]

On taking Roberts outside Constable Evans finds himself in a quandary. Coming down the road he spots an ‘escaped lunatic’ and as he can not leave his prisoner he adopts a little subterfuge. He asks two men nearby to take the ‘man who was mentally deranged’ into the pub for a drink whilst another man communicates with the Mental Hospital authorities. Constable Evans then rings Christchurch to inform them of Roberts’ arrest. Two Constables are sent out to assist with bringing Roberts back to town.

Roberts is found in possession of a six-chambered revolver, fully loaded, and a new free-wheel bicycle. He had spent the night at the Southern Cross Hotel on the corner of Park road and Moorhouse avenue, having arrived there after ten in the evening and being let out in the morning by the barman at 6 a.m. He had inquired the way to Rangiora although he rode off on his bike in a different direction. Evidently, he was trying to set up a false trail.

Missing his ‘best girl’

Kaiapoi farmer Oscar Bondwick had given Roberts a job and Roberts had arrived at 1.30 p.m. on the day of the murder. Roberts told him he had not told his ‘best girl’ where he was going to work and, given the anxiety, he would suffer, Bondwick lent him his bike to ride into Christchurch. Roberts promised to return that night but instead make for Prebbleton. He had stopped into the Prebbleton Hotel for breakfast and was apprehended by Constable Evanswas as he stood at the counter, writing a letter.
Roberts denies point blank that he is the murderer and makes no statement beyond saying that his name is William and that he is on his way to Kaiapoi. He denies all knowledge of the crime, and by the time he’s placed in the cell at Christchurch, he is despondent and crying.

There seems little doubt that Roberts suffers from some kind of mental impairment, he certainly has an addictive personality. Medical evidence at the court case that follows describes him as ‘addicted to abuse’. His uncle had apparently cut his own throat as a result of family trouble. His father used to drink hard for two or three weeks at a time and he tells the medical men that he had to protect his mother against his father. Roberts also bears signs of chronic alcoholism.

Roberts is examined by Dr Gribben, the Medical Superintendent at Sunnyside Asylum. He has special experience in mental diseases at several English asylums and has also been in the service of mental hospitals in New Zealand since 1905. Roberts tells the doctor that he has been subject to fainting fits since the age of seven. He complains of lapses of memory and suffers from impulses to do himself injury. He sees pictures on the wall which he can not describe. Roberts may suffer from what the doctors call ‘epileptic insanity’.

Dr William Symes, medical practitioner at Burnham Industrial School for 13 years past, has also examined Roberts on three occasions. He agrees with Dr. Gribben’s diagnosis and says that Roberts shows ‘physical signs of belonging to the class of criminal degenerates that reside at Burnham’.

“There was a very close resemblance between Roberts and a certain class of boys at Burnham, namely boys addicted to a certain vice. Roberts showed marked signs of the habit in previous years. The effects of this pernicious habit were accompanied by degenerative changes in the brain, causing loss of self-control, so that violent impulses became irresistible.”

He claims “lads in this class suffered from degeneration of the brain and lost power of self-control, so that violent impulses became irresistible. Often in such cases minor epilepsy showed itself, and sometimes major epilepsy. There were evidences of some degree of degeneracy in Roberts’ case… His brain was smaller than the normal size, measuring 1474 cubic centimetres against the normal 1500.”

“The tendency to uncontrollable impulses to acts of violence which was present in all lads of accused’s condition would be greatly accentuated by alcoholism, and in his opinion accused was a dangerous individual, and not fit to be at large.”

The jury finds Roberts guilty of murder but strongly recommend mercy. Regardless, the Judge passes a sentence of death upon Roberts. [14]


  • Edith Black’s father attended his daughter’s inquest but his name was never publicly revealed. Nor was the name of Edith and Ernest’s son or what became of him after his mother’s death.
  • In November 1909, whilst incarcerated at Lyttelton gaol, Roberts’ received a telegram from the Minister of Justice advising the prison authorities that his death sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment on the basis that he did not understand the nature and quality of his acts. He was transferred to Mt Eden Prison.
    In January 1917, Roberts attempted to escape from Mt Eden Prison in the company of another prisoner. Both men were placed on bread and water for fourteen days and kept in a separate division. Roberts ‘lost marks’ equivalent to six months remission of sentence. [15]
    In August 1920, Roberts’ Lawyer, Mr W. J. Hunter, who had been following Roberts’ progress, petitioned the Prison Board for his release. Hunter claimed prison life had brought about an enormous improvement in Roberts’ physical and mental state. On release he said that Roberts would return to Scotland and begin life again.[16] In December 1920, the Prison Board agreed to Roberts’ release in a further twelve months “provided his conduct and industry give satisfaction in the meantime, and his mental condition remains as at present.” [17] On 7th March 1921, Arthur John Wilson Roberts was discharged from prison in Auckland and was never heard of again. [18]
  • On 27 November 1909, Constable Evans, the arresting officer, wrote thanking the Commissioner for the ‘note in favour’ received for his action in arresting Roberts. He was, however, disappointed and had expected something more substantial, such as an advance in pay as had been mentioned in the Commissioner’s minute. He pointed out that Roberts had a loaded gun and had intended on committing suicide. Had he allowed him any latitude he was certain that he would have shot him in order to carry out his intent. Constable Evans was unhappy that the reward he received was the same as that received by the constable who had attended the murder scene and did nothing more than collect evidence. He was supported in his application by Inspector Gillies who forwarded his letter to the Commissioner, adding that Constable Evans “acted promptly and risked his life in arresting the murderer”. [19]
  • In 1910, John Warwick, one of Edith’s former beaus, was “charged with being the author of Mary Aileen Beban’s unborn child”. He was remanded in Lyttelton gaol where Roberts was at the same time. Even though he claimed the child was not his, Warwick later married Mary the same year. The marriage did not last. In 1936, Mary obtained a decree nisi on the basis of wilful desertion. [20]
  • On 19th November 1917 the Silver Grid burnt down, tragically claiming six lives.
  • Ernest Read married Annie Williams in 1910, which was followed by the birth of Ernest Oliver Read the next year. (Oliver was the name of one of Ernest’s brothers.) Years later, Ernest Read appears to have started a new life in Australia. He married again in 1928, to Anita Ryde in NSW. In 1930, Ernest and Anita were living in West Ryde, Parramatta and Ernest was working as a builder. In 1933, they were joined by his son Ernest jnr, who worked as a timber worker. Ernest senior died in 1962.
  1. TOPICS OF THE DAY. Press, Volume LXV, Issue 13554, 15 October 1909, Page 6.
  2. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19171129-42-3. Taken from the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 29 November 1917 p042
  3. THE RUSH OF THE AEROPLANE. Press, Volume LXV, Issue 13554, 15 October 1909, Page 6.
  4. A NEW ZEALAND AEROPLANE. Wanganui Herald, Volume XXXXIV, Issue 12834, 29 July 1909, Page 5.
  5. NZ Truth , Issue 227, 30 October 1909, Page 7.
  6. NZ Truth , Issue 230, 20 November 1909, Page 5.
  7. “Magisterial” Star, Issue 9633, 28 August 1909, Page 4. Star, Issue 9639, 4 September 1909, Page 4.
  8. Press, Volume LXV, Issue 13315, 6 January 1909, Page 2; Star, Issue 9432, 5 January 1909, Page 3; NZ Truth, Issue 186, 9 January 1909, Page 6.
  9. “Marriages: READ – DUNN On July 17, at the Presbyterian Church, Devonport, by the Rev. Ferguson, Ernest Maurice Read, eldest son of Charles Read, London, to Ellen Agnes Nelly Dunn, youngest daughter of the late Sergeant Dunn, Wade.” Source: New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXIX, Issue 12038, 7 August 1902, Page 4. Ellen had two illegitimate children: Margery Alice Brunton Dunn born  in 1898 and  Robert Edgar Dunn in 1900. Ellen later lived with Alfred Brunton as his wife, although they don’t appear to have married. Alfred was the brother of her sister’s husband.
  10. Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-009163-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  11. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19091028-4-1.
  12. Archives NZ, Murder of Alice E Newman (R20119770).
  13. THE CHRISTCHURCH MURDER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXI, Issue 7935, 25 October 1909, Page 4.
  14. MURDERED MARY NEWMAN. NZ Truth, Issue 230, 20 November 1909, Page 5. MANCHESTER STREET TRAGEDY. Star, Issue 9701, 18 November 1909, Page.
  15. Evening Post, Volume XCIII, Issue 27, 31 January 1917, Page 3. Prisoners Break Gaol. Press, Volume LIII, Issue 15810, 27 January 1917, Page 11.
  16. SILVER GRID MURDER Evening Post, Volume C, Issue 33, 7 August 1920, Page 6.
  17. Silver Grid Murder’ Press, Volume LVI, Issue 17018, 15 December 1920, Page 6.
  18. Return of Prisoners Reported as Discharged from Gaols during the Week Ending 6th June 1925. Remarks: ‘Previously Omitted’. Archives New Zealand.
  19. Archives NZ, Murder of Alice E Newman (R20119770).
  20. NZ Truth , Issue 274, 1 October 1910, Page 6. Auckland Star, Volume LXVII, Issue 125, 28 May 1936, Page 8.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Catherine Dobson says:

    I was fascinated to find this story as it contained details of a family member. Ernest Maurice Collins was my mother’s uncle, and I wondered if you had any more information about this rather elusive character?


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