Even now, over 100 years since Louis Chemis was convicted of the murder of Thomas Hawkings, there is real doubt whether the right man was caught.
There was definitely no love lost between the two men, over a legal issue. And Hawkings certainly seemed to be going out of his way to avoid someone.
But Chemis never admitted he had killed Hawkins and went to his own grave without the truth coming out.
Hawkings' body was found face down on the road near his home in Kaiwharawhara late on the evening of May 31, 1889, after he failed to return home on time.
He had been shot twice and stabbed 21 times. Money and some legal papers were taken.
The police investigation ended with the arrest of Louis Chemis five days later.
The trial was a sensation, but controversial. There was a great deal of prejudice against Chemis, who was an Italian immigrant.
The jury heard a large amount of information, including who Hawkings had argued with (several people).
But what appeared the most damning were little pieces of paper. Fragments of The Evening Post newspaper were found in the shotgun wounds, pieces of a wad used in the gun. A date - May 23, was readable.
The same newspaper was found torn in Chemis’ home. The torn pieces in the wound exactly fitted the torn portion found in his house.
There were also other incriminating things, like a recently fired gun in his possession and a stiletto knife similar to the weapon that stabbed Hawkings
But here’s the problem.
Despite the police zeroing in on Chemis early on and searching his house, they did not initially uplift several key items - including the gun. It was only picked up on the second search the next day. Had it been fired in between?
There was no blood found on the knife or anywhere else.
He could not have been the only person in Wellington with a newspaper - torn or otherwise.
Chemis’ lawyer fought tooth and nail - pointing out inconsistencies in the Crown case but to no avail - Chemis was found guilty in short order at the Supreme Court in Wellington.
He was, of course, sentenced to hang, but the sentence was later commuted.
There was a public outcry over his case. Indeed three police officers were charged with perjury over it, however, only one charge went ahead and even then it was thrown out.
Chemis was released as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee amnesty list in 1897.
He served his sentence and was released, but it plagued him, leaving him unable to find reliable work.
In a last tragic twist he took his own life, going up to a remote area of Mount Victoria with alcohol, putting dynamite and a detonator in his mouth and lighting it.
Mr Hawkings (and later his wife) were buried in the Bolton St Cemetery. They were later disinterred for the expansion of the motorway and a memorial put up.
Chemis is buried in Karori Cemetery.