The hunt was on for Frank Dean, the most wanted man in
Thames, but he had vanished just as completely as the money he had stolen.
Frederick ‘Frank’ Clarence Dean, 55, had been the Thames
Town Clerk and Treasurer for the past 20 years when he was arrested on 5 July
1889 on charges of embezzlement.
The entire community was surprised and shocked.
This upstanding man had feloniously stolen, taken, and carried away on or about the 8th of November, 1888, £12 8s; on 8th of January, 1889, £13 11s 8d; and on the 25th February, 1889, £6 17s 6d, monies of the Thames Harbour Board.
At the Police Court the next day he was remanded until 15
July, but, if upon further examination of the books, anything more was discovered,
Dean would be re-arrested. He was
released on bail.
Mr McIntyre, Government Audit Inspector, still trawling
through the Borough Council and Harbour Board accounts, found the defalcations
of F. C. Dean now exceeded £1000. A charge of forgery was made and the police
proceeded to his house at Parawai to arrest him.
But Dean was nowhere to be found. He had last been seen in town early that
morning. The police searched most
assiduously, but unsuccessfully, late into the night. Constable Berne was dispatched on horseback
to Puriri as it was suggested Dean was there, but he was not.
On returning to Thames about midnight Constable Bern came
across a fisherman named Rolton who said
two of his brothers had left in the fishing smack Penguin with the delinquent Dean. He didn’t know where they were going but
Constable Bern knew where Rolton was going – straight to the police station to
make a statement.
Sergeant Gillies now stepped in and ascertained beyond
doubt that Dean, under the cover of darkness, had boarded the fishing smack
Penguin, about 6 pm on Thursday, 11 July, at the foot of Mary Street, accompanied
by William and Charles Rolton, bound for Auckland.
Sergeant Gillies acted with commendable promptitude. At the earliest possible hour the next
morning –Saturday the 13th -
he despatched a telegram to Inspector Broham in Auckland but the Police Department were reluctant to incur any further expense in following Dean.
It was suspected that Dean
had boarded the schooner Christine, outside Auckland harbour. The schooner
sailed from Auckland at 2 pm on Saturday, for Norfolk Island.
On Monday July 15 the Thames Police Court was crowded as charges
of embezzlement against F C Dean, late town clerk, were made. Dean was formally called, but did not appear.
Mr Hudson Williamson, Crown Prosecutor, said he was well
aware that Dean would not appear as he knew that accused had left the
district under cover of darkness last Thursday night in a fishing boat, and had
made his escape out of the Gulf.
The late town clerk, he thundered, had proved to be a
Moneys of the ratepayers had been fraudulently
misappropriated by Dean, and there was no doubt these thefts would
extend over several years. The means resorted to by Dean had been of
every conceivable description of deceit. The initials of Councillors of the
Finance Committee and entries in the minute book had been very cleverly forged.
He had also made improper use of the stamps of businesses.
His Worship issued a fresh warrant for the arrest of
That afternoon a hurriedly convened meeting of the Borough
Council was held. It was agreed to
guarantee £100 towards sending a vessel to Norfolk Island, with a detective on
board, to arrest Dean in the event of his being there.
The Penguin then slunk back into Thames with the two
Roltons on board. They had suspiciously few
fish, certainly not a large catch for three days' fishing. Sergeant Gillies closely questioned them, and
eventually succeeded in uncovering similar information to that which he already
deduced. The Rolton's added that the passage of
the Penguin to Omaha, where Dean was hoisted on board the Christine, was
arduous and they nearly lost their lives.
The next day, Tuesday 16 July, at 11 am, Detective
Herbert left Auckland on the mission schooner Southern Cross, bound for Norfolk
Island, his quest being to arrest Dean. There was hope that Dean would
be captured unless the Christine made a quick voyage, and left for Noumea
before the Southern Cross arrived.
Thrillingly, another detective, along with the Auckland
water police and their boat, were on a mail steamer bound for San Francisco,
where they remained on board until well outside the harbour, in the event
of Dean trying to make yet another escape.
Dean’s dastardly deeds were now headline news -
A SCOUNDRELLY TOWN
A DEFAULTING TOWN
A DETECTIVE IN
Thames was on tenterhooks as the drama played out. The Thames Advertiser speculated that Dean may
have landed at some isolated place with a supply of provisions, to wait for a favourable
opportunity for the “participators in the fruits of his crime to get him away
Council were blamed for the slack manner in which they allowed their business
to be conducted. Others were implicated
in the Dean embezzlements to the outrage of one person who said “Dean's mastermind
in manipulating the accounts appear to have put them all off the scent.”
Scorn was poured on the Thames Borough Council. How was it that Dean could have
embezzled such a large sum without being discovered? In the early days, when Thames
was in a flush of prosperity, it was quite conceivable that embezzlements to a
considerable extent could have been achieved without discovery. But lately revenue
had been small, and every penny counted.
Proposals made for works to be done were rejected as there were no funds
available. It now appeared the funds
were being swept away to pay for the luxuries which Dean thought
necessary for life.
The blame lay squarely at the feet of the gentlemen who held
municipal office to explain how such a thing could have gone on for so long
without their becoming aware of it, especially as Dean indulged in luxuries on
the modest salary of a Town Clerk.
It was whispered that for the past 15 years a number of
Thames and Auckland residents had been suspicious
of Dean and the manipulation of accounts was a topic of private
conversation. Dean kept to himself, making no friends and no enemies. At least one member of
the board got himself elected for the express purpose of trying to trip him up
in his accounts.
Then came an even bigger jolt to the sensibilities of
those at the Thames.
Frederick Clarence Dean was
outed as a son of the late Sir John Dean Paul, of the firm of
Strachan, Paul, and Bates, bankers, whose trial and conviction for fraudulent
bankruptcy had created a Sensation in
London about thirty years previously.
Dean, sniffed the Observer newspaper, “the Thames
forger, thief, and absconder, proves to be one of those bad English baronets,
who are as plentiful as blackberries in New Zealand . . . Very appropriately, he has cleared out for
Norfolk Island, which he may imagine is still a convict settlement.”
The Observer became obsessed with the case, and sent a male
member of staff disguised as a female,
to Thames with instructions “under penalty of instant dismissal, to conceal his
identity from the residents and
ascertain how Dean succeeded in escaping.”
The dainty decoy observed “We made a pretty smart passage
to the Thames in the s,s. Rotomahana, and the gallant Captain Farquhar was very
kind to me on the way down, especially when I informed him that I was a recent
arrival from the Old Country, and had letters of introduction to my most
intimate friend, the Mayoress of Thames.”
A lengthy report in the Observer followed. Headed “MORE INTERESTING
REVELATIONS - HEREDITARY CRIMINALITY” it was an explosive expose of Dean and his
In the meantime, as rumours and accusations swirled
around Thames, Detective Herbert pursued his quarry. It took three days and 15 hours – a ‘very
smart trip’ - for the Southern Cross to reach Norfolk Island. They arrived on
Saturday 20 July but wild weather meant passengers could not be landed until
Sunday. Early that morning Detective
Herbert was rowed ashore where he ascertained that the Christine had arrived on
Saturday afternoon, about half-a-day before the Southern Cross, and that
Captain McLiver and some of the passengers had landed. The detective promptly procured a horse and
galloped to McLiver’s house where he closely questioned the captain.
There had been a man on board, said McLiver, known to the other passengers as the Reverend Father Davis. He was not wearing priestly clothes but professed to be a Roman Catholic priest en route to New Caledonia on mission work. The Captain did not know whether or not the man was Dean, late Town Clerk of the Thames, but he had been placed on board the Christine about thirty miles outside of Auckland. He was still on board.
Detective Herbert had his man.
But not quite.
After the Captain and some passengers had landed, a
fierce gale had risen up and the Christine had to be taken a little way out to
sea. Hunt Christian, in charge in the absence
of the captain, cast anchor, but the cable broke and the anchor was lost. The Christine was then blown out to sea
beyond the sight of land.
In vain, day after day, Detective Herbert watched for the
return of the vessel but it wasn’t until Thursday 25 July that the cry of “A
sail!” rang out. The sea was calm and
the progress of the vessel was watched eagerly as she moved towards the
island. There was some anxiety though
that it may have been the Mary Ogilvie, daily expected from Sydney. Night fell as the vessel was about 10 miles
from shore and it wasn’t until 11 the next morning that the vessel was identified
as the Christine.
When she was about five miles from the island, Detective
Herbert, in a ferment of excitement, hired a boat and rounded up a crew. He set off along with Captain Mcliver who
wanted to see what damage had been done to his schooner, and Stephen Christian,
Norfolk’s chief magistrate with whom Detective Herbert was staying.
Once on board Detective Herbert proceeded to the cabin of
the ‘priest.’ The man glanced up at Detective Herbert who quietly asked “Well,
do you know me?"
“What might your name be?"
"Davis - John
“Mr Dean, I
have followed you from Auckland in the Southern Cross to arrest you. I am
Dean was completely staggered at his
discovery. Detective Herbert then took
the warrant, issued at Thames, from his pocket,
which charged Dean with forgery, and after reading it over, arrested
Dean, who had been completely unnerved, burst into
tears. Once searched and divested of
over £70 Dean went quietly with Detective Herbert. He was brought ashore, taken to the residence
of the Chief Magistrate and remanded until 31 July.
On Sunday Detective Herbert was invited to attend church
with the Chief Magistrate and his wife.
Now thoroughly chastened, Dean asked to attend with them. The islanders were then treated to the
curious sight of a detective and his prisoner sitting side by side in God’s
house. The congregation, although aware of Dean’s misdeeds, shot him
sympathetic looks and several women cried.
There was no sympathy from Detective Herbert though who
was intent on making for Auckland in good time for the criminal sessions of the
Supreme Court, which he thought would begin about the 2nd of September.
On 31 July the intrepid detective and his prisoner left
Norfolk Island for Noumea, on the Christine, arriving three days later. After remaining one night the pair boarded the
Victoria, a vessel trading between Fiji and Sydney, and reached Sydney on
Friday, 9 August.
Dean was lodged in the Woolloomooloo gaol until next
day, when they left on the s.s. Hauroto for Auckland. He was in excellent
spirits throughout the trip, and gave the Detective no trouble.
Before leaving Sydney, Detective Herbert had tried to
send a cable to Auckland announcing Dean's arrest, but the wires were
interrupted. He left a cable to be sent
as soon as possible, but the lines were not repaired in time, so the first news
of the capture was received by the arrival of the Hauroto in Auckland at 8 am.
The news reached Thames about 9.30 am by a telegram from
the Thames Star’s Auckland correspondent, and an extra edition was immediately
Detective Herbert was greatly praised for the clever way
in which he performed his difficult task and brought Dean back to
Dean was very annoyed at the insinuations that others
were in the secret, and denied it absolutely. He appeared reconciled to his
fate and looked well, although was anxious about his wife.
There was tremendous surprise at Thames as the general
impression was Dean had succeeded in escaping. Sergeant Gillies, however, never for a moment
believed this, and was confident that the steps he took could not fail to
eventually secure the arrest of the absconder.
At the Auckland Police Court Dean was remanded to Thames,
where charges of embezzlement and forgery were to be proceeded with.
The detective and his charge boarded yet another ship – the
Rotomahana - arriving at Thames’s Goods Wharf about 9 pm.
A howling mob had gathered on the wharf, and
when Dean appeared on the gangway cheers and groans filled the night.
Sergeant Gillies and the police had some difficulty in
getting Dean into the cab as the crowd jammed round the gangway. Once in the cab, the door promptly closed,
and the vehicle rattled off with the crowd, hooting and yelling, following. In anticipation of Dean being lodged in
the Grahamstown lock up, another crowd had collected in the yard, but was
thoroughly disappointed when he was driven to the Shortland gaol.
Sergeant Gillies took every possible precaution to prevent any further attempt at escape and a constable was in constant attendance. Dean was strictly guarded until he brought up at the Police Court. He appeared to be in pretty good spirits, and was visited by a few of his friends.
On instructions from the Sheriff in Auckland, a bailiff
took possession of Dean's house at Parawai, for the non-payment of
his own bond of £200. The house and
furniture were the property of Mrs Dean, having been deeded to her 15
years ago. The conduct of the authorities was viewed as exceedingly harsh
towards Mrs Dean, but once proved beyond a doubt the property was
hers, the bailiff was withdrawn.
William Crick, one of Dean's bondsmen, was
arrested for not having paid the amount of his bond, and dispatched to Auckland
by the Enterprise en route for Mount Eden Gaol.
The Thames the Borough Council held a meeting at which a unanimous vote of thanks was accorded to Cr Mc Andrew, and Mr Patrick Mclntyre, Government Audit Inspector, for the valuable services rendered by them to the Council and ratepayers in detecting the forgeries and exposing the frauds.
Frank Dean was brought up before the Police Court, where numerous
charges of forgery and embezzlement were laid against him. It was intended to proceed with only a few of them
so as to ensure his committal to the Supreme Court Criminal Sessions.
When placed in the dock he appeared very careworn and
pale, but during the hearing listened intently to what was said.
Dean asked for permission to examine all books and
papers connected with the charges so that he could produce rebutting evidence
in the Supreme Court. He also intended to apply for the £71 that was found on
him when he was arrested at Norfolk Island to enable him to defend himself, as
he had no money.
Further charges were laid after around twenty people gave
evidence. Witness after witness testified to forged signatures, vouchers not paid, vouchers
paid twice, and accounts altered. A good
many Borough Council cheques were discovered to have been paid
into Dean's private account. Business stamps appeared on receipts
when they shouldn’t.
Dean was sent to Mt Eden Goal by the Rotomahana, in
charge of Sergeant Gillies.
On Monday 2 September 1889 at the Auckland Supreme Court Frederick Clarence Dean, the
defaulting Town Clerk of Thames, pled guilty to all charges of embezzlement and
His Honor said it was a very distressing case and he was
afraid that the sentence would be almost too lenient on a man who had used
considerable ability in carrying on an elaborate system of fraud. It was
painful to see a man at his time of life instead of maintaining that
reputation, which it should be such a man's duty to maintain in his old age,
placed now in his present position.
Dean was sentenced to four years penal servitude for each
offence, the sentences to run concurrently.
The sentence was viewed as too soft. Dean, said an
Auckland Herald correspondent, “had good reason for profound thankfulness when
he entered the dock at the Supreme Court . . . Four years' imprisonment for the
systematic practice of forgery on his employers, and embezzlement of public
money day after day for a long stretch of years! Why, there are scores of men
who, to have twelve or fifteen years unchecked plunder of a public purse, would
agree to take four years in Mount Eden. In little more than three years, with
ordinary good luck, Dean will emerge, improved in health and
condition. He will be open for another engagement as town clerk.”
As for the scandal of Dean being the son of the swindler, an outraged Edward D Paul, of 7 St George's Place, Hyde Park Corner, England, flew into print -
— My attention has been drawn to an article . . . respecting
the family of the late Sir John Dean Paul, which states that '
Mr Frederick Dean Paul, son of the late Bart, had been
swindling out in New Zealand.' As the only male representative of the family
now in England, I hasten to inform you that the Bart, never had any son but the
present Sir Aubrey Paul, who never was in New Zealand in his life, nor has any
other member of the family been there, and that there never was a Mr Frederick Dean Paul,
who must be an impostor in addition to his other offences. I shall feel obliged
if you will have this letter inserted in your next issue. “
On the 24th of August 1892 Dean was released
from gaol, having served two years, 11 months.
He returned to Thames by the Rotomahana.
In an interview, prior to his departure, Dean told a
reporter the prison system of the colony was extremely bad and a university for turning out finished criminals. The new gaol building
was unfit for habitation, and he had written a protest to the Minister of
Justice against prisoners being drafted into the new building. He proposed to write a pamphlet on the prison
system of the colony, pointing out the evils and suggesting reforms. He intended to reside at Thames, and planned
to disabuse the minds of the people regarding statements made about him, and
throwing light upon several matters of interest to the ratepayers.
Astonishingly, on his return to Thames Dean set himself
up as an insurance agent, a real estate agent and a money lender.
He appears to have separated from his wife, Marianne
Sweeting Dean, who died at Parnell aged 70 in 1895 three years after his
As the memories of his misdeeds faded, Dean slipped back into life at Thames.
He was a sporadic writer of Letters to the Editor regarding the sale and spoilage of milk on half-holidays, prevention of fires, the High School, Thames mining, the harbour, and drainage works.
By March 1900 he was a deputy Returning Officer for the
In 1902 he was assaulted when he came across two men
quarreling in Cochrane Street. Dean
kept walking but one of the men called at him, as if he were a dog, to “stay” several times. He
took no notice but the man followed him, and getting a few paces in front of
him turned round and struck him in the face, knocking him down. The man then
ran down Davy Street past the School of Mines. Once caught, the man was
sentenced to two months' imprisonment in Mount Eden gaol.
In 1904, at the age of 70, Frederick Clarence Dean
remarried. His new wife was Mary Jayne
Raynes. By 1905 he was secretary to the
Thames Harbour Board, but by now 15 years had passed since his conviction and
the news of his appointment caused no comment.
Sometime in 1907 or 1908 the Deans’ moved to Auckland and
started a stationery business in Karangahake Road. But by 1909 Frederick Dean was made bankrupt
after purchasing stock in excess of its value.
In 1917 Frederick Dean died at his Grey Lynn residence, aged
He was buried at Auckland’s Purewa cemetery.
The Thames Star somberly noted the passing of “Mr Frederick Clarence Dean, who
was well known in Thames, having been town clerk here for many years.
Mr Dean will be remembered for many activities and his undoubted good
qualities will now be held in chief esteem by the residents.”
Mary died in 1933, aged 71. She and Frederick are buried together.
References: Papers Past
© Meghan Hawkes 2021