Dennis Quinlivan was attacked and beheaded, his body left near the Buller River.
He was a resident of Lyell, a historic mining town in the Buller Gorge where Māori prospectors had found gold in 1862.
The gold rush was on and the population grew rapidly, making it to 2000 at its highest point.
In 1883, Dennis was a United Victory mine employee at New Creek, Buller.
Originally from Tipperary, Ireland, at 38 he had been in New Zealand for a few years.
He was last seen alive on January 28, 1883. Given the rural area, it wasn’t surprising that it wasn’t immediately noticed that he was missing.
His body wasn’t found until February 3, by a Patrick Carroll who noticed his horse kept shying away from a particular area.
Quinlivan’s head had been severed and burned while his chest had severe wounds.
He was found only 100 metres from the house of a Mrs Mary Gramatica.
Another miner, John Davidson eventually confessed, saying he had been planning to marry Mary.
He told police had been drinking at her house on January 28. Quinlivan had come in and there was a struggle. He said Mrs Gramatica hit Quinlivan with a piece of wood and he fell to the floor. She put him out the back door. She had told him two other men had rolled him off the road.
Gramatica’s account was a little different. She said Quinlivan had accompanied her home that day and they found Davidson already there. The two men were drinking when she went to bed. When she awoke she saw a heap of blankets with two boots sticking out. Later Davidson dragged the body out of the house.
Davidson was given a life sentence for manslaughter while Gramatica was acquitted, but not before being told off by the judge for her immoral lifestyle (drinking and being interested in more than one man).
Davidson went to the Nelson Gaol on March 15, 1883 and became a cook. But it was not the last time he made headlines.
Usually those with life sentences were transferred to Wellington but it wasn’t until July Davidson was told he was to be moved.
He took it badly. He didn’t want to go.
On July 28 the Inspector of the prison Robert Shallcrass was woken by screaming. He found Davidson had a gun. Shallcrass kept Davidson talking but to no avail. Davidson shot himself.
It was then they discovered the body of warder Samuel Adams in a cell. He had been stabbed to death.
Davidson’s body went the same way as a lot of murderers. He was buried “outside” Hallowell Cemetery.
Meanwhile Quinlivan’s body is one of the few interred at the Lyell Old Cemetery on the Upper Buller Gorge Road.
Pic by Muir and Moodie Studios