Armed robbery, murder, lies, treachery, ‘confession’ and legal tangle that ended in a sensational trial, followed by three executions – all the ingredients of a callous crime committed on the New Zealand goldfields in 1866. A gang of brutal Londoners – Richard Burgess, Tom Noon (Noonan), Joseph Sullivan and Phil Levy waylaid five gold-laden prospectors on a lonely track on Maungatapu (‘Sacred Mountain’), killed them and hid the bodies before going on a spree. The prospectors were missed, and suspicion fell on the four. Hoping for a free pardon, Sullivan ‘dobbed’ on his mates and Burgess wrote a confession but implicated Sullivan. Clune traces the lives of the four and shows the influences played such an important role in shaping their twisted lives – the overcrowded Thames-side slums created by the Industrial Revolution, the laws that punished rather than reformed, the rotting prison hulks, the transportation system and the mental cruelty in the prisons of the day.
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