Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Snowball Murder (NZ208733)

George Hunter, a pitman, has been executed at Morpeth for the murder of another pitman, named Wood, at Dinnington, on December 19 last. The two men had been out shooting together, and on coming out of a public house about dusk Wood began to throw snowballs at Hunter, who thereupon threatened to shoot him, and immediately did it. The jury recommended him to mercy, but the authorities did not interfere. On the day of the murder the prisoner had signed a memorial praying for a pardon for Richard Charlton, who was then under sentence of death for having shot his wife in the same village. 
 [from The Argus newspaper, 5th June 1876]

The famous ‘Snowball Murder’ of 1875 occurred on a snowy winter’s night as four miners, including the above-named George Hunter and William Wood, were exiting the White Swan pub in Dinnington after a day’s shooting. A couple of the locals were engaged in a friendly snowball fight and Wood decided to partake by hurling missiles at his colleague, Hunter. Not best pleased, Hunter threatened to shoot Wood if he didn’t stop. “Stop heaving and clotting or I’ll fire,” to which the perpetrator replied, “Oh, you’ll not fire, Geordie!” The gunman duly delivered his threat and felled his pal there and then. He fell by the churchyard and soon expired – his funeral the following Sunday attracting 1,500 attendees.

George Hunter was found guilty the following spring after it was revealed that he had a history of errant gunmanship. He was hanged at Morpeth on 28th March. 

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