With a new lockdown I’m sure we all feel a bit like we want to escape.
So here at Genealogy Investigations we thought we would give you a few minutes of escape with an extra story for the week. And it's all about escapes.
Please, everyone stay safe.
It’s hard to feel sorry for Edward Raymond Horton. He was jailed for the murder and rape of a widow in Wellington. But it was his escape from prison that led to a rethink of how life sentenced prisoners were treated.
Born on July 28,1928, in Blenheim, he was the son of Murial Doreen Gill and a married man, Herman Edward Hermanson. He was initially raised by his mother but by five he went to his now divorced father and took a name he used - Horton.
Edward preferred to be called Ray or Slim.
By the time he was 10 he was truant from school and had begun stealing, appearing often in the Nelson Children’s Court. He ended up in boys’ homes around the country from which he often escaped.
In 1943 while working as a farmhand he tried to sexually assault his employer’s wife and was sent to the boys training centre in Levin. After being sent back to his father he was sent to borstal for burglary. He escaped from there too and attempted to rape a warder’s daughter.
That landed him in prison in Christchurch where he was until 1948.
Bizarrely he was named as a co-respondent in a divorce case over a relationship he had after leaving prison.
Later that year in Wellington after his release he saw Katherine Gladys Cranston, a 47-year-old widow, while out on a walk. He hit her on the head with a stick, strangled her then raped her and cut her throat with a broken beer bottle. Her body was found on Mount Victoria by a group of boys.
Mrs Cranston had only come to New Zealand the year before.
At the time the country was aghast over a series of unsolved murders and the disappearance of teenager Marie West. It all led to a snap debate in Parliament over the death penalty which had been abolished eight years earlier. It lead to the brief reappearance of the death penalty before it was removed for good.
Horton was actually arrested on a vagrancy charge but confessed to killing Katherine while in custody. He was only 20.
Thirty witnesses were called and the jury that found him guilty was so concerned about his age they added a rider to their verdict, worried that he might be released early because of his age.
Horton was sent to Mount Eden prison where he was considered sullen and withdrawn but he joined the prison band and was allowed to go on trips.
But on December 6, 1955, he was allowed to go to an indoor bowling event in Mount Albert with a few other prisoners serving life imprisonment.
True to form, he took the opportunity to escape, avoiding the guards sight and walking right out a door.
A 200 strong police contingent began searching for him - with reinforcements being sent for from around the country.
It took three days to find him.
In the end he was recaptured by Cyril Naylor - who had been the police officer who had arrested him the first time round in Wellington, after he got a call about a strange man in some bush, this time in Avondale.
Horton’s escape was a great embarrassment for the authorities and changed how life prisoners were treated. There was a review of penal policy over it.
Horton went back to Mount Eden and in 1965 he was transferred to Waikeria prison and given life parole in 1971.
He moved to New Plymouth where he started a family but died of a heart attack on November 10, 1977. His ashes are scattered at the Garden of Remembrance.
Horton was seen both as a monster and as a study of whether prisoners can be rehabilitated.
Katherine was cremated at Karori cemetery.