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Private William Negus (1826 ......1896.)

Settled In New Zealand

Back To . . 58th Foot Rutlandshire Regiment
  • Born :   3 January 1826
  • Where Born :  Mepal, Cambridgeshire, England
  • Occupation : Soldier
  • Date Arrived : 24 March 1845, Auckland
  • Ship Arrived on to NZ on the "North Star" to the Bay of Islands.
  • Rank on Discharge :
  • Date of Enlistment :  1844
  • Regimental # :
  • Where Enlisted :  Mepal, Cambridgeshire,
  • Date of Discharge :
  • Where Discharged :  
  • Died : 27 August 1896 at the age of 74 years
  • Where Died / Buried : : Auckland  hospital / Waikumete cemetery the following day.
  • Parents Names : 
  • Spouse's Name : Bridget Healy
  • Born :
  • Where Born :
  • Date Arrived :
  • Ship Arrived on :
  • Died :
  • Where Died / Buried :
  • Date Married : 1852
  • Where Married : Methodist  Hall   Auckland
  • Spouse's Parents.

  • Descendants :
    Information supplied
    Ken Brewer;


    Area Settled :

    Cobury Street, Auckland.

    Children :
    History & Achievements :
    The second named policeman in the town was constable William Negus, who arrived during 1863 and in September 1865, became involved in the famous investigation into the districts first multiple murder, when the Finnegan family disappeared from their Fencible cottage. STACK James , an old soldier of the British 65th Regiment, which had once been based in Otahuhu, had married the daughter of Mrs. Mary Finnegan.  When Stack's new wife died suddenly, he took up residence with Mary Finnegan, herself a widow of one of the early Fencible settlers and her three sons in their cottage on Lot 7 of Section 8, in what was then called Chapel Road, Otahuhu. Mary's sons were James 18, Benjamin 14 and John 10. A fourth son Alexander was away serving with the Militia in Tauranga.
    Like typical Fencible cottages at the time, it was divided into two separate homes, with the Finnegan's on one side and the widow Mrs. Weaver on the other. Towards the end of September 1865, Mrs. Weaver expressed concern that the entire Finnegan family seemed to have suddenly disappeared overnight. She had spoken to Mary Finnegan only the previous day and she
    had expressed concern over Stack's intentions toward her and the boys. On the night they disappeared, she had heard only the normal noises of people moving around next door.
    The  following  morning  Mrs. Weaver had gone next door and asked STACK James  for the return of a hammer she had loaned him a few days earlier. He claimed he could  not  find  it and instead, gave her two shillings in payment for it. She  did  not  see  STACK James   again  that  day, but over the next few days she observed  STACK James   digging furiously in the garden, until he too disappeared. After  an  initial  reluctance,  Constable  Negus  was finally convinced to investigate  the matter, but he made only cursory inquiries as each time visited  the  Finnegan  cottage  he  found  it locked and failed to proceed further. Later, he was to receive considerable criticism from many quarters for his inaction at this time. Negus eventually managed to track STACK James  down  late  December,  but  the  man  produced  a  plausible  story about the Finnegan's  traveling  to  the  Hokitika  gold  fields  and even supplied a
    letter,  supposedly  written  by  Mary Finnegan, to support his story. This letter  was  later  proven  to  have  been a forgery written by a friend of
    STACK James .  Meanwhile,  Negus once more lapsed into inaction until just prior
    to  Christmas,  when  news  reached  him  that  Stack had fled the district because of concerns over the Constables questioning.
    Finally,  the  cottage and its gardens became the subject of a full search. Whilst  the  cottage  itself  revealed  no  evidence at all, searchers soon
    discovered the body of James Finnegan buried in the garden. Benjamin's body was  found nearby and Mary was located buried beneath a bed of carrots. Ten year old John's body was not discovered until several years later. All were found  to  have died from severe blows to the head from a blunt instrument possibly   the  hammer  STACK James  had  borrowed  from  Mrs.  Weaver.  She  was
    immediately arrested as a suspect, but then released without charge.
    Police  Commissioner James Naughton arrived from Auckland to take charge of t he investigation and started by offering a reward of twenty pounds for the arrest  of  STACK James. Messages were sent out to all districts across the country  on  the  new  telegraph system and, on 27 December 1865, Stack was apprehended  at  Kaipara  north  of  Auckland,  when he was recognized by a sergeant  from  his former Regiment. He had grown a moustache to change his appearance and was using a false name.
    STACK James  was returned to Auckland under armed escort and on arrival, was marched  through  a  large crowd and into the City Gaol in Queen Street. He w  as  subsequently  convicted  of  the  Finnegan murders by a trial jury and sentenced to death by hanging.
    Early  on  the  morning  of  7  April  1866,  Mary Finnegan's surviving son Alexander  went to the gaol and pleaded with Stack to say where the body of 10  year old John could be found, but Stack pretended to deny all knowledge of  the  deaths.  Stack  was  then  taken to the gallows at 7.00 am and was executed, his body remaining on the rope until 8.00 am. Ironically

    Stack's executioner  was  a fellow inmate who carried out the function for a fee of ten  pounds  and a pardon. Whilst serving a custodial sentence for offences committed  whilst  serving  in the military, Stack himself had received the same  payment  a  few  years  earlier, by acting as the executioner for the convicted murderers Harper and McLean in the same gaol

    Exactly  when  William Negus joined the Police in New Zealand is not known, but  he  had been born in Mepal, Cambridgeshire, England on 3 January 1826 In 1844 there, he had enlisted in the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment known as the  Black  Cuffs  and  left  England with the Regiment under Major Cyprian Bridge  and  acting  as  a  guard on one of the penal ships heading for New
    South Wales. He arrived in Auckland from there on 24 March 1845, aboard the 28  gun  frigate '“North Star'' under the command of Captain Matson. Both the ship  and,  the Regiment now under Lt. Colonel William Hulme,  were to take part  in  the  attack  on  Pomare's  Pa  at  Otuiti.  Men  from  both  also participated  in  engagements  at  Puketutu, Ruapekapeka and the disastrous attack  on  Ohaewai  Pa  on  1 July 1845 which cost the lives of 40 British soldiers. It is believed that Negus had taken some part in each, or most of these actions
    Negus personal Police record describes him as being 5 foot 10 inches tall, with  blue  eyes and auburn hair. He married Bridget Healy at the Primitive Methodist  Hall in 1852 and they lived together in Cobury Street, Auckland The  City  of  Auckland electoral roll records them as being resident there from  1855  to  1860,  but  in  the  1865 to 1870 roll they are shown to be resident in Otahuhu. No photograph of William Negus is known to exist.
    On  31  March  1866, Constable Negus apprehended John Murphy at Otahuhu, an army  deserter and charged him with the theft of 1 pound 14 shillings worth of tools from Mr. John Casey of Mangarei. The local Court convicted the man and sentenced him to three months imprisonment with hard labour. It  was  a  busy time for Negus, as on the same day he arrested John Murphy for  theft,  he was also to investigate and arrest Otahuhu shoe maker Henry Elliott  for  the  attempted  murder of his wife May Elliot, by stabbing her with a sword stick. A former soldier of both the 99th and 40th Regiments of foot,  Elliot  had  been seen running from the scene by Papakura man Robert East,  who  gave  evidence  at  his  Otahuhu Court hearing on 14 April 1866 before  Magistrate Mr. J. J. Symonds Esquire. East also described observing the  offender trying to dispose of a cane in an area of swamp and assisting Constable  Negus  in recovering the item. When the cane was pulled from the mud the top came away to reveal the blood covered blade of the sword stick. May  Elliot  survived,  but  was  too ill to give evidence and the case was remanded  for  a  further hearing at Onehunga, with Elliot held in custody. Regrettably the result of the subsequent trial is not known.
     Reported  in  the  Weekly  Herald  on 28 July 1866, was the news item: Two large two storey houses with shops in the possession of the Trustees of Mr. Frogham's  estate,  situated at the corner of Railway Street, just opposite the  Star  Hotel,  caught  fire  on  Thursday 26 July. They were two chains distant  from  any  other  building.  The fire broke out at 3.00 am and was first  noticed  by  a  baker employed by Mr. John Hall. Arson is definitely suspected as both houses had been securely bolted and closed up. This paper makes  a  plea  to  the  Police  to  exert  themselves in tracking down the perpetrator  of  this  heinous crime, in an attempt to dissuade others from such  vagrant  Unfortunately the result of this investigation is not known,  but  it is likely the newspapers knowledge of Constable Negus  lack of  action in the Finnegan case the previous year, was behind their plea to the Police to investigate this matter.
     Only  one other record exists of William Negus in Otahuhu and that occurred when  he  brought  James Steward before the Court on 20 April 1867, for the theft of a pair of boots valued at 12 shillings, from the residence of John Helly in the village. The offender was to be convicted and sentenced to one months  gaol with hard labour. Where custodial sentences were for more than just a day or two, the prisoners were marched to the Auckland Gaol. Even in later years it was a common sight to see prisoners being marched around the streets  under  Police guard. Very short sentences were often served in the local  lockup  and  the prisoners were then fed by the Constables wife, who was also responsible for cleaning the lock up.
     When  the  Auckland  Provincial  Council  faced bankruptcy, largely brought about  by the huge costs incurred by the land wars, a decision was taken in 1870   to  amalgamate  their  Police  Force  into  the  New  Zealand  Armed Constabulary.  On 21 March that year, Negus was sworn into that service. He did  not stay long however and resigned on 24 April 1871, moving out of the township  to  live  with his son Jack in Mount Roskill whilst taking up the occupation  as  a  carter.  On 27 August 1896 at the age of 74 years, Negus died  at  Auckland  hospital after being hit by a fall of scoria at a Three Kings quarry and was buried at Waikumete cemetery the following day.
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    Last revised: Tuesday, 27 October 2009 08:34:31