Braithwaite’s fame rests on his unrequested and unwitting role as the victim in one of the first, if not the first, murders to be solved with the assistance of fingerprint evidence. The parallels with the later use of DNA as an infallible tool in criminal justice are uncanny.
On Saturday 13 March 1920 Augustus Braithwaite, the postmaster at Ponsonby, was murdered in his own house. His keys were taken and the Post Office strongroom was opened and ransacked. Fingerprints found on three cash boxes were sent to the Criminal Registration Branch (CRB) at Police Headquarters in Wellington for analysis.
Although the lawyer for the accused (Gunn) argued that the fingerprint evidence was inconclusive the accused did admit to a role in the robbery, but claimed that Braithwaite had been killed by an accomplice, Alfred (or Bonny) O’Meara. The jury was not convinced. After a five-day trial Gunn was convicted and sentenced to death on 28 May 1920. He was hanged in Auckland on 22 June.
Died 13 March 1920
aged 57 Years
Block F Row 42 Plot 80