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 Mary Ann Prosser & Walter Stannard 

Mary Ann Prosser was b: 06 Jul 1861 in Melbourne (bapt: 7 Sep 1860) the youngest child of parents Samuel and Caroline Prosser. While, just a babe in arms, her father and younger sister Caroline died the following year and her mother gathered up her remaining children and they left for New Zealnd to join her oldest sons who had preceded her to try their luck at the goldfields. In Wellington, the family were again reunited and now by hard work, business accumen, and optimising their financial backing, set up livery stables and also purchased the Crown and Anchor hotel.

Mary Ann's mother Caroline died in 1874 and she would have assisted her brothers in the hotels wherever their varied hotel endeavours took them in the next years - housekeeping and helping young mothers as growing nieces and nephews that came along. It was at the Hawera  where brother John and wife Jane had the Hotel when Caroline that met Walter Stannard. He had arrived in Lyttelton in 1877 as mate of a vessel, became resident in Napier a year later where he was a horse breaker. The next year Walter had moved to Hawera where he obtained the position of clerk to a butchering company and was at the time of their marriage was engaged in breaking in horses. 

Manawatu Times, 6 Mar 1880 Thomas Goodison v. W Stannard: Claim for £1.16.21/2d. A letter was received from defendant promising to pay in a week and a judgment summons order was made it be paid forthwith; in default one week in Wanganui Gaol.

Mary and Walter were married by the Hawera registrar on Sunday 21st Nov 1880. Within a week, calamity was to strike the newly weds. Word spread like wildfire that Miss Dobie, the sister-in-law of Major Goring, has been found murdered about two miles south of Opunake camp. She had gone for an afternoon walk and failed to return so a search party was sent to look for her. Her body was found in the flax with her head severed nearly from her body. An old saddle and a bunch of wild flowers evidently gathered by the deceased were found and her blood from ten feet to forty yards off the road where the ground showed traces of a desperate struggle.

Walter was arrested and charged with murder on the ground of circumstantial evidence - he had seen and passed her on the way to Opunake about the time the murder tookplace at Te Namu and a horse with a saddle was seen tied there, and he had blood on his clothes.
The country was outraged at the killing but locals did not consider Walter likely to commit such a crime - the blood stains on his coat were thought due to his separating two men who were fighting at the hotel in Hawera on Tuesday night -it was said the wife of a storekeeper at Hawera wiped some blood off his clothes before he started out for Opunake. Those who knew him described him as a quiet, respectable, sober, and exceedingly well conducted man, unlikely to be guilty of the offence which he was charged." Then Tuhiata was also taken in custody and at the depositions hearing Walter was cleared of the crime - it was proved the blood came from his horse's bleeding nose and Walter now became a witness at Tuhi's trial and was recorded by the papers "as a respectable-looking fellow, with a frank and open countenance". Tuhi claimed that when he had followed Mary Dobie he had no intention of killing her but she became frightened thinking he was going to rob her, gave him what little money she had on her in an attempt to get him to leave. When she warned Tuhi that she would ‘tell the soldiers’ about him, and he panicked and tried to strangle Dobie and stabbed her in the throat as she attempted to run away. Tuhiata was sentenced to death.

March 1881 Walter  sold a horse to his brother-in-law Wm Rbt Prosser - this went to court and was repossessed by the owner. Then, on the 21st May 1881 Walter Stannard was arrested at Hawera for stealing a mare on 4th Mar from a native named Poki.

The Wanganui Herald succinctly wrote (Jun 4) "Walter Stannard of Hawera seems to have put his foot in it just now. He stands already committed for trial on two charges of horse stealing, and a third is to be preferred against him on Monday next. Walter was formerly the victim of an unfortunate blunder in connection with the murder of Miss Dobie, but we fear the avenging Nemesis will be too much for him this time."

On Nov 3 Mary's first child was born and was named Walter. Her husband had already spent 6 months in custody and his trial at the Supreme Court at New Plymouth on the 11th Nov. found him guilty in 2 cases. He was given a sentence of 3 years imprisonment on each charge to run concurrently with hard labour.

It is not known where his sentence was served  but on the 5th Mar 1886 his wife Mary Ann inserted this sad advertisement in the Wgtn Evening Post.

Mary Ann was left with no support in his absence and had formed a liasson with someone which resulted in the birth of 2 children - Claude b: 06 Oct 1883 in Hawera  and Herbert Stannard b: 15 Jan 1885 who d: 16 Mar 1885. 

A renewal of their relationship was undertaken and their son Herbert Prosser Stannard was b: 22 Oct 1887.  At Woodville 9 Apr 1888, before the Mayor and Colonel Gorton, W Stannard was charged with ill treating his wife. The evidence of Mrs Stannard and Sergeant Carlyon was taken. The accused made some very remarkable statements affecting his wife's character which if true, disclosed a most wretched state of affairs. The all-male Bench dismissed the case! A further charge against the man so was remanded until Monday.

On 2 Feb 1889: "William Stannard undertook a difficult operation a Masterton on a horse owned by Mr. P. Dickson. The animal had a tumor growing behind and almost around tho windpipe, portions being attached to it. The exoresoence was found to weigh over threequarters of a pound, and looks almost like a sheep's heart. The animal, which is a valuable one, is doiug well. "

Mary suffer continuing physical abuse at the hands of her embittered husband unrepentant and unaccepting of the fact his problems were of his own making. Days after their daughter Zoe Stannard was b: 05 Apr 1892, things again came to a head and Mary took Walter to court. He was charged with ill-treating his wife - he was not believed but although much space was given to a theft conviction which his plausability eluded a conviction, no protection order for his wife was published. 

The children attended school at Woodville then Walter found employment at Pahiatua as dog registrar and inspector of slaughter houses so they moved but shortly after, at the Pahiatua Police Court 29 June 1893, a warrant was issued for Walter's  arrest for failure to answer an order to produce his books. He was brought before the Court next day and ordered to produce these books.

Walter left 1894. Mary's baby Marie Eileen was b: 25 Jun 1895 at Pahiatua - she was not his child. and at the Auckland Police Court on 27 Oct 1896 Walter Stannard was charged with having failed to comply with an order for the maintenance of his wife and children. He was remanded to Pahiatua.

The saga of theft and appropriating other people's livestock continued. 16 Aug 1899 the police brought Walter "a middle-aged man" from Opotiki to Gisborne to face 4 charges - 2 of appropriating money, and charged with stealing two horses belonging to two different owners. He pleaded not guilty and conducted his own defence. His cross-examination of each witness was of a very lengthy and tedious nature, and His Honor had several times to remonstrate with the accused for putting leading questions to the witness. However to no avail, and  on 10 Feb 1900 after a retirement of ten minutes the jury returned with a verdict of "Guilty. The judge remarked on Walter's past - that it was strange that a man of intelligence could not live honestly and taking consideration of the fact that he had already been 6 months in prison, sentenced him to 18 months imprisonment with hard labour for each offence concurrent.

The Auckland Star, reported that Walter Stannard was arrested at Morrinsville on Saturday on a charge of horse stealing at Pukekohe 12 months prior. He had been practising as a veterinary surgeon. 14 Aug 1905: At the Pukekohe Court he was also charged stealing a cheque value £18 from John Bilkey, of Pukekohe, on April 29 and was committed for trial .

14 Nov 1908: CHARGE OF HORSE-STEALING. Walter Stannard, committed for sentence from Pukekohe on a charge of horse-stealing, entered the dock. The circumstances of the case are that, after the evidence was given in the Lower Court, prisoner entered a plea of guilty, but apparently he did not, in accordance with another formality of law, sign his plea upon the information. Therefore the matter was not properly before the Court. His Honor discharged the prisoner, but intimated that his spell of liberty would be very short, and that he would be re-arrested on the same charge.

It is now 10 February 1909 when Walter Stannard, a slight, active looking man, of middle age pleaded not guilty to the charge of having stolen a horse at Pukekohe, and obtaining money by false pretences. The Crown Prosecutor, the Hon. J. A. Tole, K.C., in outlining the case, explained how the prisoner, representing himself last October as a veterinary surgeon, borrowed a horse from' a farmer to ride round the district. When Stannard didn't turm up, the settler made inquiries, and discovered that the horse had been sold for £18 to a hotelkeeper. The accused man. in the course of his address to the jury, pointed out that he had never left the district, and said that the informant should have communicated with him before taking proceedings. After twenty minutes' retirement, a verdict of "not guilty" was returned and he was acquitted!

In discharging Stannard, his Honor congratulated him upon his "luck," and then informed the jury what had previously happened to Stannard in respect of this charge. That some months ago he pleaded guilty at the Magistrate's Court at Pukekohe, and was committed for sentence to the Supreme Court. When examining the papers, however, he (the judge) had discovered that Stannard had not attached his signature to the plea, as required, although he had signed properly elsewhere, and he had therefore ruled that Stannard was not properly before the Court. So he was discharged, rearrested, and the whole procedure of trial at the Lower Court repeated. But meanwhile Stannard had altered his mind, deciding to plead not guilty, and had therefore come up for trial. Stannard had assumed an attitude throughout of imperturbability towards the Court, almost amounting to indifference, ignoring directions given by his Honor, and generally choosing his own method of defence. "You are a lucky man, and I must say that I think you are the most impertinent man that I have ever come across," summed up his Honor.

WALTER STANNARD d: 03-Sep-1920 at age 69 yrs, Occ. Vet, Surgeon;  at Epson Auckland Bur: 07-Sep-1920 Plot: Noncom. Div. C Row 17, Plot 51 at Waikumete Cem. 

Mary lived at Levin and later at Wgtn. From 1912 to 1918 in various newspapers throughout the Wellington province, she lent her name for likely financial return to advertisements advocating medical remedies. Knowledge of her whereabouts later are not known, but Mary died 11 Aug 1940 and was bur: at Tokanui Hospital Cemetery C07.17 aged 71 yrs.          

Click here for Mary Stannard's 6 Children

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