The 1909 marriage of a notorious "confidence trickster" and a wealthy landlady's daughter that turned out to be an elaborate scam is among thousands of alleged crimes documented in police archives published online today.

The New Zealand Police Gazettes published between 1878 and 1945 have been digitised on's New Zealand website for the first time.

The newsletters contained information about crimes and criminals, as well as missing people and men who'd abandoned their wives and were disseminated to police officers between 1861 and 1990.

The tale Tasmanian-born con woman Amy Bock and how she posed as a sheep farmer named Percy Redwood to convince a woman to marry her is one of the many interesting stories that will be available to be read online.


On April 21, after a few weeks of courting, Bock and her wife were wed in a lavish ceremony at a boarding house. She was arrested there four days later when the family discovered the 155cm, slightly-built bridegroom was a woman.

During a hearing at the Dunedin Supreme Court in relation to the incident, Bock pleaded guilty to charges of false pretences and forgery. She was sentenced to two years' hard labour.

Read more: Auckland bride Mary Eileen Jones killed by 'British secret service' fraudster

The judge also declared Bock a "habitual criminal".

The marriage was annulled, however, not before the press found out. The story was widely publicised in newspapers around the country and stores sold popular postcards printed with images of the dapper pipe-smoking "Redwood".

The sham wedding was one of several incidents in which Bock had duped people. Her other alter-egos included Miss Lang, Mrs Merry, Miss Barrett, Miss Crisp, Miss Bruce, Miss Shannon and Agnes Vallence.

Read more: Black sheep: NZ's colourful characters revealed spokesman Jason Reeve said the New Zealand Police Gazettes were a valuable resource that told us a lot about our culture now as well as the nation's past.


"I think it says people face all sorts of challenges - any crime, any choice a person makes, there is a reason.

"When we're looking back over historical records of any kind - whether it's criminal or shipping and immigration - it helps us to try and understand not just their own approach to life, but also the world that they were living in."

Many cases of alleged criminality - including that of Bock - which occurred during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries would be dealt with differently if they happened now, he said.

"It is interesting to look back through these records and see how particular challenges were addressed. Hard labour is really not a common thing anymore."

Due to the shame convicted criminals like Bock brought on their families, they would have likely been shunned, Reeve said.

"Records like [the Gazettes] bring some of those darker stories to life that might not have been passed down orally.

"We can look at any experience in here and consider it a bad thing, but once we've moved past that it is just history. It's just as important as all the good stories."

In her book Mad or Bad? The Life and Exploits of Amy Bock author Jenny Coleman argued Bock - whose mother was committed to a lunatic asylum when she was a teenager - was misunderstood.

Bock has also been dubbed an early feminist by some scholars.

It was unclear how she identified in terms of gender and sexuality. Bock usually dressed as a woman and married a Swedish man after her marriage to Agnes Ottaway was annulled.

In total, about 520,000 records and 50,000 photographs can be found in the New Zealand Police Gazettes stored on

Other stories from these archives

• How New Zealand police used finger print evidence to successfully convict a murderer for the first time in 1920. The alleged offender, Dennis Gunn, was later hanged.

• The Wanganui mayor who shot and wounded a man in his office. The victim said the mayor, Charles Ewing Mackay, had made unwanted sexual advances on him.

• Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana being sentenced to hard labour and imprisonment for allegedly selling alcohol illegally in 1907.

• Why a mother who was convicted of killing her 4-year-old in 1883 escaped the death penalty. An all woman jury - the first in New Zealand - sentenced Phoebe Veitch to life imprisonment because she was pregnant.

• The 1881 invasion of the pacifist Māori settlement at Parihaka.