In April 1886, one of New Zealand’s most famous female criminals paid Christchurch a visit, in handcuffs… When 25 year old Tasmanian born Amy Maud Bock arrived in Auckland, New Zealand in 1884, her father was attempting to protect her like he had always done. Since puberty, Amy had become mentally unstable, somewhat delicate and lost in flights of fancy – her behaviour questionable to all around her. At one point, she purchased an armful of books on her family’s credit – without permission -only to go out into the street and hand them out to strangers who passed her by. But now she was in real trouble, fleeing real prison time in her homeland. Amy was born on 18th May 1859 and from a young age Alfred Bock encouraged his daughter to take an interest in amateur dramatics. Amy’s mother died in an asylum when Amy was 16 years old and around that time, she began showing signs of mental illness. After the book incident, Alfred secured a job for Amy as a teacher in rural Gippsland, hoping this would help to get Amy into a routine. But it failed and Amy was arrested for acquiring goods by false credit. Before she could face court, she fled Australia, headed for Auckland where she got a job as a governess. She was soon accused of theft by her employer and Amy faced her first Judge. With a great display of tears and “…my mother died in an asylum…’ dramatics, the Judge felt sorry for her and released her. What followed was more trouble with her next employers; whether working as a cook or as a house keeper, she would come across as charming and diligent before lapsing into unpredictable and excitable behaviour. She would pawn her employer’s property and tell lies before fleeing without much effort to cover her tracks. In one instance, after house sitting, the poor owner came home to find his house completely empty – Amy had sold every piece of furniture. In April 1886, Amy was sentenced to a month of hard labour at Addington Prison. Again, she had acquired goods on a false credit. Just over a year later, Amy was sent to Caversham Industrial School in Dunedin. They found her so charming and intelligent that she was offered a role as a teacher. While she taught, she had also written to an aunt about her plans for an escape. I guess she had no clue that her outgoing mail was being read. It was in 1908 that Amy came up with her best and most damaging fraud of all: Frustrated at her lack of being able to stay one step ahead of the law, she replaced her petticoats for a pair of trousers. She became Percival Leonard Carol Redwood, the son of a wealthy sheep owner and nephew to an Archbishop. Loaded with quite a fictitious story, Amy arrived on holiday at Albion House, Port Molyneux, South Otago. She played her role so well that within a few weeks she was engaged to Agnes Ottaway – the daughter of the accommodation’s owner. Thanks to a few loans she took out before her arrival, she had money to show off and showered all those around her with nights out and personal gifts. With her reputation on sturdy ground, she began to borrow money from her friends, promising her family would settle her debts at the wedding. She and Agnes were married on 21st April 1909. Her father was alarmed by the no-show of the Redwood family – but did not want to cause an embarrassing scene – and was informed by his new son-in-law that the marriage was in name only until his wealth was proven. Four days later, Amy was arrested, saying to the arresting officer, “I see you know it all.” The marriage was annulled on 17th June 1909. Amy was paroled from New Plymouth Gaol just a short 2 years later and found work in an old person’s home. In 1914, she married Charles Edward Christofferson but he soon found her debts too much to handle. He left her a year later. Her last appearance in court in on was 28th October 1931 as she had attained money on false pretences. She was 72 years old. Amy received only a slap on the wrist. She remained a true darling of the press, her scams being entertaining and even confusing over the years and stealing things she didn’t even need – sometimes her scams didn’t even benefit her. Once she even managed to talk herself into the ownership of a chicken farm. She died on 29th August 1943 in Bombay, Auckland. *image courtesy of New Zealand Police Museum –*

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