In August 1942 the people of Wairoa were deeply troubled.
No one had seen Annie Smyth, 63, or her 74-year-old deaf sister Rosamund Jane Smyth for days.
Annie was well known in the area, out riding her bike. A brigadier in the Salvation Army, she had been stationed in Japan for many years before going to Wairoa. She and her sister lived behind the Salvation Army hall on King Street but often went out and about spreading the word.
Annie was born at Kaiwharawhara, Wellington on October 25, 1878, to Edward Smyth and Isabella Cansick. She was the seventh of 10 children, Rosamund was her elder sister.
When Rosamund went to a talk by William Booth who founded the Christian Mission that became the Salvation Army, Annie went too, later going into training.
When asked to be New Zealand’s first overseas salvationist, she accepted and went to Japan.
She worked for the rehabilitation of prostitutes and travelled extensively.
She never married and served in Japan for 34 years, stopping only because of the outbreak of World War two.
When she returned to New Zealand she asked to keep serving and wanted the most difficult location they had and ended up in Wairoa.
It was war-time in New Zealand and Annie was fond of many things Japanese. It wasn’t a popular sentiment. She was a vigorous, active woman, considered brash and even bullying.
Annie missed a meeting on August 9 and originally it was thought she was just out ministering, then on the 16th, a group turned up for service but found the doors shut.
A neighbour, thinking it was strange, spoke to her lodger Arthur Percy Farn, who managed to get into the house through a window and found, to his horror, Annie lying dead in a chair. She had been brutally hacked about the head.
Rosamund was found lying under a bed with similar wounds.
It began a huge police investigation.
A blood stained axe was found in a wash house at the rear of the property.
Annie had been hit with the axe while Rosamund had been killed with a poker.
Police struggled, pleading for information. A number of people had seen Annie, on August 8 - when both sisters were believed to have been killed.
They offered a reward of £500 to no avail.
There was a inquest more than six months later - headed by Dr Lynch (see one of our previous stories) and he outlined the head wounds to Annie and Rosamund.
Despite Annie’s clothes being rearranged, Dr Lynch thought it was for show and that neither woman had been interfered with.
His belief was despite Rosamund being deaf, she realised there was a commotion in the house and had confronted her sister’s murderer, ending in her becoming the second victim.
A funeral service was held in Wellington for both sisters who are buried at Karori Cemetery.
And for years who killed them was unknown. Until 1999.
Keep watch for our next update: The serial killer’s death bed confession.
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