Murder, he wrote: A remarkable coincidence – 50 years on

17 Mar 2021

In 1998, my book on capital punishment in New Zealand was published, called Guilty on The Gallows.

A quite remarkable event occurred some years after this book was published. I was on a Cook Strait ferry to Picton with my cousin, and went over to a porthole to look at Waikawa Bay as we neared our destination. There I was joined by a dapper man wearing a hat and carrying a cane. As he looked to be from overseas, I told him where we were, and said Picton had once had a prison, where two men were executed.

He asked me how I knew that, so I told him about my book on capital punishment. He responded by saying he had lived in New Zealand from 1955–1957, having been seconded from the Royal Navy to be aide de camp for Sir Willoughby Norrie, the Governor General, from England. After these two years, he returned to the UK, left the Navy and went into business in

He said one day he had gone to see Sir Willoughby, who showed him a large file received from the government, seeking his consent to execute a man from the South Island. I said that was Harvey Allwood, who had shot and killed his friend on the road between Te Anau and Milford Sound. He said Sir Willoughby asked him to take the file, read it, and give him his opinion next morning.

Next morning, he told the Governor-General he thought the case was clear cut, and Sir Willoughby signed his consent.

I told him I had also read that file, seen the signature, and we would be two of very few people still alive who could claim to have done that. An incredible encounter, on a ferry more than 50 years later, between two people from opposite sides of the world.

On Wednesday 8 April 2020, a former Royal Navy man died in Australia. His name was Michael Richard George Muschamp, and he went to Christ's College (also in Harper House) from 1945–1948. Amazingly, he was born exactly 10 years before me – on Sunday 20 March 1932. His life story was published in the Wellington Dominion Post newspaper on Friday 8 May 2020. On reading it, I discovered he was the Royal Navy aide de camp to Sir Willoughby from 1955, and was the man I spoke with that day. Doubly incredible.

In 2020, I went to Christchurch to join with others from our 1955 third form at Christ's College, for our 65th reunion. We had lunch in the Dining Hall with men who had begun at College 10 years before us, in 1945. I spoke with some of them, who remembered Michael Muschamp well, and confirmed he had joined the Royal Navy and been with Sir Willoughby in 1955. I told them this story, which, they agreed, was a remarkable coincidence, so many years later.