The Galways' next door neighbour didn't hear the gunshots when Ada Valerie killed her husband Patrick John as he lay in bed in the early morning.

It was a Friday when Ada Galway, aged 48, pointed the .22 rifle at 54-year-old Patrick Galway and shot him twice in the head at their home in Rapahoe, a beach-side settlement on the West Coast, 10km north of Greymouth.

The police were told at 6.35am and Ada was charged with murder later in the day. Within hours, she too was dead.

Patrick Galway, fourth from left, at the gold mine in Waiuta, inland from Greymouth, in 1936.
Patrick Galway, fourth from left, at the gold mine in Waiuta, inland from Greymouth, in 1936.

When she appeared in the Greymouth Police Court on December 1, 1967, Ada "sobbed quietly for much of the short time she was in the court but was more composed when the charge was read out," the Herald reported the next morning.

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No pictures of the couple were published and Ada's name was at first suppressed.

The two presiding justices of the peace remanded Ada to Sunnyside Psychiatric Hospital near Christchurch, on the other side of the Southern Alps.

She was driven by a constable and they were accompanied by a woman appointed as a temporary police matron, but they only got as far as Otira Gorge, which ascends steeply to Arthur's Pass, when tragedy struck.

The police car stopped to let another car pass.

"Mrs Galway jumped from the car and ran toward a high bluff," the Herald reported, four days later, citing the findings of an investigation made public by the Police Commissioner G. C. Urquhart.

"The constable-driver raced after her and grabbed for her but only got a hand to her dress. Mrs Galway pulled away and plunged over," the paper said.

Ada died from serious head injuries in the 60m fall. Her body was recovered by Arthur's Pass National Park rangers, including chief ranger Peter Croft. They took nearly two hours to climb down and retrieve the body with climbing gear.

The newspaper article in the Herald detailing the events.
The newspaper article in the Herald detailing the events.

Later in the month a magistrate agreed to a police request to withdraw the murder charge, because of the tragic sequence of events following Patrick's death.

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The following February, Greymouth coroner Rupert Kay ruled that at the time of her suicide, Ada was "of unsound mind".


After the shooting at the Galway home in Morpeth St, Ada had gone to her friend Molly Green's house about 100m away on Stewart St, which is State Highway 6, the Coast Road, said Ada's next door neighbour, Margaret Quy, 79, who now lives in Greymouth.

"Charlie Green came and got my husband [Allan] to go over to the Galways' and have a look," Quy told the Herald this week.

Quy said she did not hear the gunshots.

"I had three babies all screaming for breakfast and a husband to get out the door by 6.30 to work. I never heard a thing. My man got out of bed and turned the radio on."

She said Ada had a difficult time with her husband.

"I loved her and she loved my kids. She was a great lady and she didn't deserve a bit of what she got.

"He [Patrick] didn't like us at all. My husband was a big man. I heard them fighting outside one day. My husband was up on the fence on one side and he was on the other side. My husband was threatening him with a hammer; I got him [Allan] inside."

The Otira Gorge road through the Southern Alps passed the edge of steep cliffs. Photo / Simon Baker
The Otira Gorge road through the Southern Alps passed the edge of steep cliffs. Photo / Simon Baker

The Galways had no children and Patrick was unemployed. However, he was well known in nearby Runanga, where he had been foreman of the borough council's works staff. He later worked for the Ministry of Works and the Grey County Council.

A 1936 photo shows him among workers at the gold mine in Waiuta, west of the Grey River.

The couple's house was described as a "modest stucco bungalow at the end of Morpeth St, a short and narrow thoroughfare which ends at a railway siding 150 yards from the house. Apart from one other house on the seaward side, it is relatively isolated."

The current owners of the house are Rose and Peter Ewen. Peter is an elected member of the West Coast Regional Council, a journalist and the author of books on the Strongman and Pike River mines.

They raised their four children at the house. Peter Ewen is well aware of its history, but said it had never really bothered them.

"Rose and I have been in the house since we married in December 1976, rented it for about a year and bought it off the owner when he offered it to us. We jumped at it - and 40 years on we're still there and still together ... and there's been no visits from ghosts - touch wood.

"... one time I was knocking walls down inside and changing doors. I was swinging away knocking timber off and architraves, and on the back of the door jamb was written 'Paddy Galway, Rapahoe'. The joinery factory in town must have put it there when made.

"The thing fell right in front of Rose's eyes as she was holding it up for me, while I was doing the banging. On seeing the name, she ran like [Usain] Bolt outside - haaa, that's the only time she's ever got the wind up."

Patrick and Ada were buried together at a cemetery in Nelson.

Patrick and Ada Galway were buried together in Nelson. Photo / Andrew Board, Nelson Weekly
Patrick and Ada Galway were buried together in Nelson. Photo / Andrew Board, Nelson Weekly