Mayor shoots poet

1920

Mayor shoots poet D’Arcy Cresswell

On 15 May, Whanganui Mayor Charles Mackay shot the poet and returned soldier Walter D’Arcy Cresswell. The latter, who was only slightly injured, alleged that Mackay had made homosexual advances to him in the mayoral office, then panicked for fear of public exposure. But Cresswell, who was homosexual himself, may not have been entirely innocent. Some speculated that he had been enlisted by others to blackmail the mayor into resigning. Either way, the incident brought Mackay’s 11-year career as mayor to a shocking end. He was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour and his achievements were virtually erased from the city’s history.

Released from prison in 1926, Mackay travelled to England. After a failed business venture he is thought to have become a journalist. In 1928 he moved to Berlin and worked as a reporter and English language teacher. The following year he was covering May Day riots for a British newspaper when he was shot and killed by a German police officer, who mistook him for a communist.

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