June 23

This Day in History

Crime

Jun 23, 1934:

Even without the corpse, a murderer is uncovered

William Bayly is convicted of murder in New Zealand despite the fact that the body of one of his alleged victims was never found. Most of the evidence against Bayly consisted of trace amounts of human hair, bone, and tissue, representing a marked advance in the field of forensics.

Sam and Christobel Lakey disappeared from their farm in Ruawaro, New Zealand, in October 1933, along with their rifles. Christobel's body soon turned up in a pond on the farm with terrible bruising to her face and head, and investigators then discovered fresh bloodstains in both an old buggy and a barn, leading them to believe that Sam had been shot and transported somewhere else.

One of the first suspects was William Bayly, who owned a farm adjacent to the Lakey's, and who was known to have argued with his neighbors frequently. Years earlier, he had been suspected of killing his cousin, but was released due to insufficient evidence. Suggesting to police that Sam Lakey had probably fled after killing his wife, Bayly soon dropped out of sight himself.

Meanwhile, detectives found the missing rifles buried in a swamp on Lakey's property. Following up on a report that there had been thick smoke coming from a shed on Bayly's property on the day that the Lakeys disappeared, investigators found pieces of hair and bones, ash, and shotgun lead in a large oil drum inside the shed. It appeared that Bayly had cremated Sam Lakey's body in this drum.

Tests of the hair and bone fragments from the drum in the shed proved that they were human in origin. Baley was convicted and hanged at Mount Eden Jail in July.

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