Skip to main content

The most evil killers from New Zealand

An edited image showing the New Zealand flag and a New Zealand police car

A full 1,000 miles from any other country and with quite a small population for its large land mass, New Zealand is often seen as something of a haven by the rest of the world. Its natural beauty doesn’t hurt its allure either.

While it certainly is a spectacular and largely peaceful country, The Land of The Long White Cloud is no crime-free paradise. Its murder rate is pretty low (1.3 homicides per 100,000 people, compared to an average of 7.4 homicides per 100,000 people worldwide), but still - New Zealand has seen its share of evil killers and mass murderers over the years.

Hayden Poulter – 3 victims

In September 1997, Auckland-born Hayden Tyrone Poulter was convicted of three murders and sentenced to life in prison. Whether or not his victim count was actually higher is something of a matter of opinion. The murderous ex-Navy man often boasted of having claimed more innocent lives, but nothing has ever been proven to back it up.

Poulter, who killed two sex workers and a brothel manager in two separate incidents in October 1996, was paroled in June 2018. He was soon recalled to prison and took his own life inside a cell in September 2018.

Poulter excused himself from responsibility for the attacks, rapes, bludgeonings and stabbings by claiming that it was all the work of his ‘evil alter ego’, something he referred to ominously as ‘Hell’.

Brian Schlaepfer – 6 victims

Wealthy farmer Brian Schlaepfer murdered his entire family in cold blood on his property outside of Pukekohe, Auckland, on 20th May 1992. It became one of the most notorious massacres in New Zealand's criminal history.

Before shooting himself with a shotgun, the 64-year-old shot and stabbed six members of the Schlaepfer family. Only his nine-year-old granddaughter Linda managed to survive the mass murder.

Brian Schlaepfer was a well-liked and highly regarded member of his community before the killings. He had more than 100 acres of property, on which he had constructed residences for the majority of his family. He had also established the neighbourhood gliding club, given a local scout group a campsite and even served as a scoutmaster. Very few people had ever even glimpsed the man’s dark side before that day.

Stephen Anderson – 6 victims

On 9th February 1997, an argument spilled into violence and then mass homicide as Stephen Anderson lost control at a family reunion and killed six of his relatives with a 12-gauge shotgun.

He was charged with six counts of murder and eight of attempted murder. He was found to be insane and committed to a psychiatric unit. 22 years later he was released back into the community. In November 2014, New Zealand media outlets reported that Anderson was an art teacher in Wellington.

James Reid Baxter – 6 victims

‘The Invercargill Tragedy’ in 1907 saw manic depressive James Reid Baxter use a shotgun and a sharpened iron tool called a stove scraper to shoot and slash to death his wife and five children. It was decided that Baxter was suffering from temporary insanity when he carried out the attacks.

Raymond Ratima – 7 victims

On 26th June 1992, 25-year-old Raymond Whia Ratima slaughtered seven members of his own family, including three of his children and his sister-in-law who was eight months pregnant at the time. The slayings were carried out at his parents-in-laws’ house. He was eventually restrained by his father-in-law, who stopped him from killing even more family members in the building.

‘The Masterton Massacre’ rocked the country, with Ratima’s court case fascinating everyone in New Zealand. Understandably, Ratima was given a life sentence and has been denied parole on at least 14 occasions. Unlike some of the other killers on this list, Ratima did appear to show some remorse and contrition at his trial, claiming his actions were out of character and the result of a psychotic break. The judge - and public - were largely unmoved.

David Malcolm Gray – 13 victims

Aramoana is a tiny little beach community in the province of Otago, close to Dunedin on the country's South Island. There, on 13th November 1990, David Malcom Gray carried out an incredibly shocking atrocity. He killed 13 people during a 24-hour murder spree.

Gray had accumulated a stockpile of weapons and ammo and was an ardent student of books about war, weapons and survivalism. Although this was only apparent in retrospect, his mental and physical condition had gradually deteriorated in the six months leading up to the terrible incident. Police eventually shot and killed him.