Thursday 1 August 2019

A consummate scoundrel

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 consummate Scoundrel.

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 Dean.

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 - 







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 quietly.”

 The Borough 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 avaricious ancestors. 

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 Davis."

 “Mr Dean, I have followed you from Auckland in the Southern Cross to arrest you. I am Detective Herbert."

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 the pseudo-priest.

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 issued.

Detective Herbert was greatly praised for the clever way in which he performed his difficult task and brought Dean back to justice.

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 forgery.

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 -

Sir, — 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.

Thames Star 27 Feb 1896

Thames Star 29 Oct 1898

Thames Star  27 Jan 1893

He appears to have separated from his wife, Marianne Sweeting Dean, who died at Parnell aged 70 in 1895 three years after his release.

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 licensing elections.

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 83.

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

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