Friday, July 11, 2008

The unsolved Dunedin parcel bomb murder - February 1962...


There have been two unsolved crimes in New Zealand in the last 50 years that have interested and intrigued me. The 'Wellington Trades Hall bombing' in the 1980's, and the 'Parcel Bomb murder' of Dunedin barrister James Patrick Ward in 1962 (below). Mr Ward's office was, rather ironicly, in the Security Building in the CBD area of Dunedin. Police were mystified about markings on a piece of wood used to make the box that contained the bomb. By memory, I recall newspaper reports suggesting they could have been part of a black stencil marking on that particular piece of wood. But what was it? It could provide the answer towards discovering his killer.

I lived in Dunedin briefly from 1964-65. There was definately an active criminal underworld in that city, which included New Zealand's most well known after -hours liquor trading, considering New Zealand still had six o'clock closing of hotel bars at that time. I still remember a number of infamous hotels and well known celebrities connected with boxing in Dunedin at the time. But how was Mr Ward connected with the Dunedin criminal fraternity to the point of losing his life? Was Mr Ward actually too successful in defending the city's lawbreakers?

The Ward Parcel-bomb Murder, 1962:

At 9 a.m. on 5 February 1962 James Patrick Ward a well-known Dunedin barrister, received a parcel in his office. A few minutes later the building was shaken by an explosion. Ward was rushed to the Dominican Tertiary Hospital, where he died six hours later. Although the police, in the course of their investigations, established the method by which death was inflicted, they were unable to discover any motive for the crime or to gather sufficient evidence to justify an arrest. From an examination of the debris in Ward's office, the police found that the parcel had been posted in Dunedin during the preceding weekend. It contained a roughly made wooden box in which were two torch batteries, a pull-through switch, an electric detonator, a quantity of explosive, electrical wiring, and pieces of tin. Apparently the opening of the parcel completed an electrical circuit which detonated the explosive.

An incident similar to the Ward case occurred in 1937 when a bomb was thrown at R. A. Singer, an Auckland lawyer. The Singer case has never been solved.

by Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.


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I am interested in this unsolved case because. I was born in Dunedin on the same day as Mr Ward's funeral 8 Feb 1962. I was illegitimate and adopted. Mystery surrrounds who I am and who my parents are.