Kowhitirangi Incident Memorial

By Caitlin Lynch

This memorial, made in 2004 by Barry Thomson, commemorates those killed in the 1941 Kowhitirangi shootings. On the 8th October, police arrived at Stanley Graham's farm responding to complaints about Graham had been threatening his neighbours. Graham opened fire on the three officers before heading on the run. A 12-day manhunt ensued, throughout which Graham shot several more law enforcement officers until he was cornered and killed by police.

The manhunt was the largest in recent history and shocked the country. “For thirteen days terror ha[s] reigned in the usually peaceful West Coast” the Auckland Star reported. The seven victims of Graham’s shootings are noted on the memorial: William Cooper, Frederick Jordan, Percy Tulloch, Edward Best, George Ridley, Richard Coulson and Gregory Hutchis.

Graham and the Kowhitirangi shootings were the inspiration for the 1982 drama ‘Bad Blood’. The film was directed by English Mike Newell, starred Australian actors Jack Thompson and Carolyn Bruns and featured a number of local actors including Miranda Harcourt, Kelly Johnston and Martyn Sanderson. Critics praised the way the way the moody West Coast scenery accentuated the film’s themes of paranoia and fear.  

Somehow the memorial has not been considered a candidate for Heritage listing, but the locals look after it.