While sorting out some of his old research papers and cuttings he had used to put together his historical rugby book Magpie Magic, Hastings man Frank Long came across a murder.
He later concluded it was not a murder — although the judiciary of the day strongly took the murder stance.
Now Long wants to see justice done, in the form of a posthumous pardon of the murder charge but he knows that will be no easy and overnight task.
He had glanced upon a page in an old magazine about early settlers' reminiscences, and spotted some notes about what had been declared as the first murder to be reported, and dealt with, in Napier.
"Being an old hack journo I was interested straight away," Long, who had worked for many a good year at the Hawke's Bay Herald Tribune, said.
The report which captured his attention, and got him thinking, was that of a shooting in Napier.
On the Friday of January 19, 1866, at about 10am, 29-year-old Thomas Foan, a tinsmith, died from a gunshot wound and 57-year-old cooper (barrel maker) Richard Farrell was taken into custody and charged with the town's first case of murder.
But as Long - his curiosity well snared - began to uncover while sourcing archival material from that era, there was more to this than met the eye.
And after two years of digging into the case his intention is not so firmly focused on putting a book together about it, but in getting an official pardon for the man he said was clearly wrongly sentenced.
His research into the clippings of the past reveals he is not the only one to stand by that opinion.
"It is interesting to note that the accused was sentenced to death, but a petition organised by 'the townspeople of Napier' to the government of the day resulted in the sentence being commuted to one of life imprisonment."
The reducing of what had been a firm and quite rapid decision to impose a death sentence, later to that of a life sentence, would have likely been seen by many in those times as a case of the accused, Richard Farrell, being wrongly charged.
But as Long said, while the death penalty had been set aside, the conviction stood, and still stands today. On the information he has gathered he would like to see that revisited and remedied.
Farrell would go on to serve the rest of his life behind bars, in Napier and later in Wellington where at age 77 he died in his cell at the Mount Cook jail.
Long said although it was clear Farrell had discharged the powerful Enfield rifle musket and that the bullet had struck Foan, who died a few hours later, the circumstances he had uncovered showed they were not those of a deliberate act.
It all happened on a fair summer's day in the small seaside town of Napier 153 years ago.
It was a time when the population of the town was just 1264, and Farrell and Foan were neighbours, living near the town centre off Hastings St which had just had its name changed from White St.
They knew each other well and got on fine. Well enough for Foan to ask Farrell, who was an ex-army man with 21 years of service in places like India and Crimea, to clean his gun for him.
Which he was happy to do, and had done so several times in the past for Foan, who was a member of the Napier Volunteer Rifles.
Farrell was familiar with the type of rifle, as he had used one in Sebastapol during the siege of 1855-56.
He lived in a small house at the back of the Hastings St property occupied by the premises of Williams and Foan — Foan had gone into business with Henry Williams.
On the morning of January 19 Foan went to the back door of Farrell's house and called for him to bring the gun out to him.
Farrell walked down the narrow passageway towards the door holding the rifle horizontally in one hand, and opened the door with his other hand.
As Long uncovered in his research of documents from the day, Farrell was known to be heavy drinker after his war service which had left him with what was effectively a form of shell shock which he drank to ease.
He had been known to suffer from the "DTs" — delirium tremens — a symptom of which was a shaking of the hands.
It transpired he had been on a recent post-Christmas drinking spree.
"Here's your rifle," Farrell said and singlehandedly pushed it out the door barrel first.
"In Farrell's shaky hand the rifle suddenly discharged with the ball being propelled through Foan's abdomen from left to right," Long said.
Farrell, recognising the extent of the damage done, knew he could do little to help and put the gun up against the fence outside and went out into the street in a state of shock.
The shot had been heard and people began to arrive at the scene.
Farrell, distressed, eventually wandered off to a hotel across the street and ordered a rum — then went back outside where a member of the police militia arrested him.
Meanwhile, a doctor had been sent for to attend to the dying Foan who had been comforted by two men and a teenage boy.
William Colenso, a member of the Napier Town Board, also arrived, and a little later Foan's business partner Henry Williams and Inspector Thomas Scully of the Napier Police also went to the scene.
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As Long discovered, initial reports noted that Colenso had asked Foan if the shot had been accidental and he agreed it had been.
He repeated that when Colenso asked him to corroborate it with Williams, and Williams asked "do you think it was a mad fluke?" and Foan replied "I suppose so".
However, later when two Justices of the Peace arrived to take Foan's dying declaration which Colenso relayed to them things changed.
Because then, for the first time, Foan said it had been a wilful act. And when Colenso pointed out the discrepancy with his earlier statement of an "accidental" discharge Foan reportedly said he did not want to be asked any more questions because he was in too much pain to answer them.
The justices signed the declaration with that, and five minutes later Foan passed away.
The media of the day then had its say — reporting the shooting and what had been declared in detail which was all taken in by those who would later form the jury.
"Farrell never had a chance," Long said, describing much of the journalism surrounding what had happened as "lazy".
For Farrell was described as "perpetrator of the crime" — a judgmental statement before any legal proceedings had taken place.
He was handed down the death sentence — but the community was unsettled by that decision and a petition to remove that in place of one of imprisonment was mounted, and it succeeded.
The petition was granted by Governor Sir George Gray in February 1866.
Farrell was sent to a cell at the old Napier Prison until 1883 when he was transferred to Mount Cook gaol in Wellington, where he would eventually die after 21 years of imprisonment.
"The shooting was an unfortunate accident," Long said.
"He had not meant to shoot Foan."
Long has gathered together hundreds of pages of news clippings and reports sourced from newspaper archives and said he would continue on the journey to seek a pardon for Farrell of the murder charge.
"I'll keep at it — been at it for two years so I won't give up."