John William Brady’s death was accidental and, as it turns out, amazing that it happened at all.
On April 25, 1939, Brady was driving two of his work colleagues home in a three seater car on the main highway on the Wellington side of the Paekakariki hill. At 9.45pm he suddenly slumped over the wheel. The car ended up against a bank.
His two mates, a Mr Davies and Mr Ryan from Lower Hutt, thought he had a fainting fit, but it turned out he had been shot in the back of the head. Both of the passengers received minor injuries.
Police suspected foul play.
The same evening, four young men were travelling in a lorry returning to Wellington. The men had been out shooting rabbits and on the way home one of the men, Robert Alexander Martin, aged 20, picked up a gun intending to put it in its case.
He did not remember pulling the trigger but the gun went off, ejecting the empty shell to the floor of the lorry.
In an extraordinary coincidence, that shot killed Brady.
Martin had thought he had fired all the ammunition during the rabbit hunt. It was also very dark that night and he never saw Brady’s car.
Two days after hearing about the accidental death, two of the men, including Martin, came forward to police and went to the place where they thought the shot was fired.
A police arms advisor, Gregory Gerard Kelly, advised the inquest into Brady's death that the pull on the trigger was too light. When questioned about the shooting, Martin denied firing at the tail lights of the car to give someone a scare.
The coroner, Mr Gilbertson, returned a verdict of death by accident.
Brady was 26, a labourer employed by the then Hutt Country Council. He is buried in Masterton’s cemetery in Archer Street.