One hundred years ago Wellington - and the country - was spellbound by the trial of Daniel Richard Cooper, abortionist and baby killer.
People queued for entry to the trial, some packed lunches so, if they got a seat, they would not have to leave.
They goggled at the exhibits - which included the tiny skeleton of a baby - in court and held their breath when the jury returned.
The headlines had been screaming for months after police became suspicious of Cooper and the women who had been living at his 19 acre property in Newlands in 1922.
When Cooper - who had been running a health business from a Lambton Quay office - was arrested along with his wife Martha - they were held on a charge of illegally detaining a child.
That quickly turned to murder after the discovery of a female baby of less than a month old buried in their back garden.
It got worse when two more baby bodies were found, although a doctor was not able to determine sex due to decomposition.
This year, for the first time, the file on Cooper has been released publically from New Zealand Archives.
Cooper was born in Otepopo - now called Herbert - near Oamaru on October 18, 1881 to George James Cooper and his wife Jessie. He had worked as a builder before marrying his first wife Marion. They had two children before Marion died in the eighth month of her third pregnancy.
There had been rumours about Cooper before, that he was having an affair, that he performed illegal abortions and now, that he had poisoned his first wife.
He married again quickly, to Martha Elizabeth - who he had met before Marion had died.
The couple moved around a bit, but in 1919 they came to Wellington. After a short stint in Island Bay they moved on to a farm in Newlands. And Daniel - who had no medical training or licence, opened a practice on Lambton Quay. He sold remedies for things like hair loss and women’s complaints - a code for performing abortions.
An illegitimate pregnancy could ruin a woman and any way out was better than a child.
So Daniel would arrange the procedure or he would say he could find parents for the child. Several women came to stay with him and his wife at their property. He charged them rent and a fee for adopting out the children.
But it was all a scam - one called baby farming. It was already a sensitive topic in New Zealand after Minnie Dean had been convicted and hanged about 28 years before.
The Crown opted to proceed on one murder charge - that of a baby girl of Mary McLeod and William Welsh. It took the jury only just over an hour to find him guilty.
But his wife - facing the same charge - had claimed she knew nothing about it and was nothing more than a drudge in her own household. She was found not guilty.
The trial also threw up several revelations - like that Daniel had had his mistress - Beatrice Beadle living with them.
On June 16, 1923, Cooper - who had been protesting his innocence was due to go to the scaffold. Thirty minutes before he finally admitted some part in the deaths of the babies and said his wife was innocent.
Shortly after 8am Cooper was hanged, the last man to be executed at the Terrace Gaol.
Martha - moved back to Dunedin, went back to her maiden name and remarried.
Cooper was buried in an unmarked grave in Karori Cemetery.
The bodies of two of his victims were held at the New Zealand Police Museum until 2015 when the remains of several infants were finally buried at Makara Cemetery.
Drawing of Cooper in court from The Truth.
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