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WAIKINO TRAGEDY

CHILDREN SHOT, DOWN IN SCHOOL £W0 DEAD, OTHERS WOUNDED HEADMASTER AND CONSTABLE IN. PRECARIOUS CONDITION. .. (IT TBLIOEAPB.—fMSS ASSOCIATION.) WAIHI, 19th October. Farther details of the most terrible 'tragedy in the history of the quiet little township of Waikino, which occurred this morning at about 10 o'clock, are now to hand. A middle-aged married man named John Higgins, a firewood dealer and settler of Waitawheta, ran amuck, and before finally surrendering iS the police he shot eight persons, two fatally. \-At the hour in question, Higgins entered the public schoolhouse and accosted the master (Mr. E. T. Reid) with tEe remarkable statement that he proposed shooting all the children attending tie school, at the same time telling him to! go and inform the police. Mr. Reid, recognising that that the man's condition ■was not normal, endeavoured in the first instance to soothe him, but without avail, Higgins becoming excited and brandishing an automatic Colt pistol. *-Mr. Keid, .-with' fine presence of mind, then called So the children and assistant teac,he?s;:to ;ruu fqrtheir,:lives, and continued to endeavour to claim the attention of Higgins. -■- As the latter then snowed indications of his intention to open..fire,. Mr. Reid attempted to pre-vent-Jiim, but was immediately put out of-action by two shots in succession, one striking him in the jaw and the other entering his neck... As Mr. Reid fell his j assailant turned him-over, evidently to satisfy himself that.'he 'was^'dead.^ VThe injured man feigrie'd death;: otherwise there is little doubt that he-would again have been fired upon. Evidently satisfied that he had made an end of the master, Higgins immediately turned his attention, to.the children, wholwere. now wildly endeavouring to make their escape from the building. Shot followed shot, and amidst the screams of the terrified children two of them went down fatally injured. ■ " . ■ •

LiliT OF KILLED AND INJURED. The names of the killed are as folio^:—• ,Eelvyn Morris M'Lean, aged 13 years, \; • son of Thomas Henry M'Lean, set- - tier, Waitewhata. Charles Allen Stewart,' aged 9, son -„' of ;Charles A.' 8.. Stewart, loco-; ■""■" motive driver,' Waikino. Higgins apparently continued shooting as the children ni3hed for the exit. The firing evidently was indiscriminate, as he could have had no object in selecting any particular scholars for destruction. Others shot included:— : Peter James M'Kinney, aged 'eight :;'; years, shot through the right hand. JKathleen Sarah M'Garry, aged 13/ shot .• ■' in the thigh. . Bustard, > aged 12, shot in ';.'; the groin. Peter Raymond Shaw, aged 12, shot in the hand. Robert Thomas Reid, headmaster, shot , in the jaw.. ; Herbert J. Olsen, police constable, .'■ shot in the abdomen. Pools ; of blood in the dormitory and class-room to the right ■of the main entrance indicated .where the victims had^ fallen. In addition to those shot, two boys •were accidentally injured when getting .through school windows. They were: James Cochrane, aged 12, right arm broken. • Ashley Curry, aged 13, sprained wrist. ; CHILDREN PANIC-STRICKEN. That a panic prevailed was disclosed by the fact that bags, hats, Blates, and school books were left littered about the class-rooms, as the panic-stricken children fled pell-mell from the building and down the steep incline leading from the school to the main road.

Authority having been given by the police, armed residents, with rifles and revolvers, were brought into action from some distance back, but owing to- the difficult angle their shooting vvas ineffective. Higgins responded with his automatic pistol without effect. Despite the fact that it was clear that the man had ample ammunition, the sergeant and constable entered by thj dormitory door and dashed across to a point of comparative safety near* the_ door. of the master's room, -in ■which, it may be mentioned, Mr. Reid ■was still lying on the floor;, within 'a foot or two of Higgins, in a pool of his own blood.- Had he not \had sufficient, presence of mi_n,d to adopt this course he would certainly have been killed, as of one occasion Higgins kicked him, saying: "You're settled. You can do no more damage." . . . . From round the corner fhe sergeant galled on his man to surrender, but Higgins continued the shooting. Constable Olsen then stepped forward to glance through a break made in teh door by a bullet, when Higgins wheeled round and shot him down. By this time Constable Trask had arrived, and joiifed the sergeant, who had another shot or two at Higgins without Jesuit. " . HIGGINS ARRESTED. At this stage either the man recognised the .danger he was in or he had cooled off.' Being -again called on to surrender, Higgins showed an inclination to parley,' and a few minutes later. he:hurled his weapon through the .window. The police chanced whether the act^ was a- -ruse> - and- ■ burst: open the door and made.straight for their man.Higgins was' knocked down" and handcuffed and- removed. ■ to -the-polico-cclls at^Vaihi. --L Meanwhile the " shooting had' been heard from the township, -just on half a mile away, and battery-workers and others set out in the direction' from whence the shooting "came. They met the; fleeing children- en route, and were acquainted with the teirible circumstances'.'' * '■■-'•--<•••■■.'•■•■--• „. On_ arrival, at the.school ground they saw Higgins standing at the window of the master's room, flourishing a, weapon. "Come on! Come on!" cried Higgins. "I want to get you closer up for a shot." They were, however, unarmed, and naturally declined the invitation. Some, however, started back for the township, where they got a service rifle, a pea rifle, and "two or three revolvers, with\which ; they, '.'..re? turned to the scene. In their absence Higgins. fired several shots, and although the bullets went unpleasantly close, no one was struck. ■ CONSTABLE ALSO SHOT. The Waihi police were immediately summoned by telephone, and SeniorSergeant ,o'Grady and Constable H. J. Olsen were conveyed to Waikino with all possible dispatch. Arriving at the school, they manoeuvred their way; round to", the western side". o£ the building, and sought to make an entry by 'the dormitory door, only to be met jritb shots from Higgins, who swung^

round from, the..window, at tßeir approach. When the man again "turned nis attention to the crowd outside, the sergeant took a couple of shots with his revolver at him from the fanlight over he ' door, but from Higgina's crouching position behind the big book cupboard the shots failed to reach him, though they went perilously close. The dead children were conveyed tothe Miners' Hair at Waikino, and the injured were dispatched in an ambulance to the Waihi Hospital for medical attention. Before his arrest the police were at: .a loss to account for the crime, but the mystery appears to have been' solved by the discovery of a letter in Higgins's possession. This was from the truant inspector of Auckland Education Board, and indicated that thit official had just communicated with Higgins relative to his failure to send certain of his children to school. The man appears to have set out deliberately to commit a crime, as in addition to the automatic revolver he had with: hiir. a dangerous-looking pig-knife, three large plugs of gelignite, together with a piece of fuse, to.which he had attached a detonator. The gelignite, fuse and detonator were found lying in the headmaster's room, and had one of the bullets fired come into contact with the explosive, the headmaster and Higgins would have been blown to pieces. Immediately after his arrest Higgins was asked to account for his act, and although then rational and apparently in his normal condition, the man could only say that he did not know why he had done it. Inquiries at the hospital to-night show that the headmaster (Mr. P.cidf, Constable Olsen, and the girl Kathleen M'Garry, who.were operated on, are in a dangerous"-condition.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19231020.2.98

Bibliographic details

WAIKINO TRAGEDY, Evening Post, Volume CVI, Issue 86, 20 October 1923

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1,280

WAIKINO TRAGEDY Evening Post, Volume CVI, Issue 86, 20 October 1923

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