Case 9: Joe Kum Young

WELLINGTON CITY, WELLINGTON. 24th of September 1905, 7.45pm. The now 68 year old Joe Kum Young, still recovering from his mining injury, was limping down Haining Street. Footsteps quickly approached him from behind. Young may have sensed a wisp of dread when he heard a revolver being cocked from the same direction. A loud gunshot quickly followed, followed by a quicker bullet. Joe Kum Young was shot in the back of the head. He fought his injuries in hospital for the next two hours, but later died at 10pm that night.

The unknown gunman slipped back into the nearby crowds. Escaping in the chaos. Police were lost. It was a random killing, they had no leads. The next day, a man walked calmly into the Lambton Quay Police Station; he placed a revolver on the front desk, then proclaimed proudly, “I have come to tell you that I am the man who shot the Chinaman in the Chinese quarters of the city last evening. I take an interest in alien immigration and I took this means of bringing it under the public notice.”

Visit for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.

Hosted by Jessica Rust
Written and edited by Sirius Rust

“Concentration”, “Day of Chaos”, “Despair and Triumph”, “Gregorian Chant”, “Myst on the Moor”, “Touching Moments One – Pulse”
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Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but we make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

DISCLAIMER: This episode deals with a race based murder. Therefore by nature of the story, deals with racist ideology and contains some xenophobic language. Listener discretion is advised.

WELLINGTON CITY, WELLINGTON. Joe Kum Young was born in Canton, China; in 1837. At 39 years old, in 1876, he migrated to Australia, to capitalise on the Victorian Gold Rush. Unfortunately, as of the late 1860s, the gold had already started to dry up

Hearing about another gold rush on the West Coast of New Zealand, just across the Tasman Sea. Joe Kum Young immigrated to Aotearoa in 1880. A mining accident, sometime later left Young with a broken leg and unable to continue mining. Whilst recovering in Greymouth Hospital, the local Chinese community raised money for the now elderly man; down on his luck. They thought with the funds he could return to China.

Evidently, even with the means of supporting himself financially in question, Young wanted to stay in NZ. So instead, he travelled to the North Island and settled in Wellington. Sadly, the capital was not kind to Joe Kum Young either, for the next years; he wandered the streets.

Haining Street is now occupied by mostly offices and boutique clothing stores. The street is located in what’s known as the CBD, or Central Business District of Wellington. But in the early 1900s it was known the ‘Chinese Quarters of Wellington’, and was infamous for tenacious rumours of illegal gambling and opium dens

24th of September 1905, 7.45pm. The now 68 year old Joe Kum Young, still recovering from his mining injury, was limping down Haining Street. Footsteps quickly approached him from behind. Young may have sensed a wisp of dread when he heard a revolver being cocked from the same direction. A loud gunshot quickly followed, followed by a quicker bullet. Joe Kum Young was shot in the back of the head. He fought his injuries in hospital for the next two hours, but later died at 10pm that night.

The unknown gunman slipped back into the nearby crowds. Escaping in the chaos. Police were lost. It was a random killing, they had no leads. The next day, a man walked calmly into the Lambton Quay Police Station; he placed a revolver on the front desk, then proclaimed proudly, “I have come to tell you that I am the man who shot the Chinaman in the Chinese quarters of the city last evening. I take an interest in alien immigration and I took this means of bringing it under the public notice.”


Edward Lionel Terry was born at Sandwich, Kent, England, on 6 January 1873. He became known by his middle name, Lionel. One of eleven children to Edward Terry and his wife, Frances Lydia Thompson

Lionel Terry was educated at Merton College, Wimbledon. Terry was described as an accomplished student who “could do anything”. At seventeen, he joined his father’s firm. Considered to be a successful businessman; Edward Terry was originally a corn merchant in Kent but by this time established a real estate firm in Pall Mall, London

Lionel’s father, Edward claimed to descend from the former French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte and was very proud those genes were passed on to his son, “the inflexible will of the conqueror of Europe has been reproduced in my son. I never knew him to turn aside from any course he started on. Popular as he was, no one could bend or break his will. He would have his own way.” 

Living up to that reputation, Lionel soon became unsettled with office work and without his father’s knowledge; in 1892, he enlisted in the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Three years later, his father purchased his military discharge in 1895.

Lionel Terry left almost immediately for South Africa. He joined the mounted police at Bulawayo and participated in the raids of 29 December 1895 to 2 January 1896. These raids became known as the Jameson Raid; named after British colonial statesman carrying out the raids, Leander Starr Jameson. The intention of the raid was to trigger an uprising by the primarily British expatriate workers, in the now bygone South African Republic. The raids were a failure. 

Lionel was also forced to work alongside Chinese immigrants; something he loathed. Lionel would later write “the morals, methods of living, religious beliefs and general customs of the black and coloured races are totally strange, and in many cases revolting, to the white race, and therefore alien immigration into British Possessions has a tendency to produce degenerate habits and to lower the moral standard amongst their white inhabitants.” 

Lionel Terry returned to London where he entered into partnership in the family firm. Becoming unsettled a short time later. He left once more to travel overseas and explore the world. His travels took him to the United States and then on to British Columbia

In both locations he worked alongside Chinese immigrants. He was upset that cheap Chinese labour was being hired instead of Caucasians. The experience engendered only deepening hatred of the Chinese. In a letter home to his father Lionel said, “the lack of employment was due to the unscrupulous actions and inordinate greed of the Premier of British Columbia, who would conceal beneath his much vaunted anti-Mongolian mask a despicable scheme to force, by means of poverty and starvation, the men on whom future generations of Canada depend to accept Chinamen’s wages.”

Before long this hatred had become an obsession. Lionel later wrote about this in his manifesto, in reference to the press not covering, what he describes as ‘corruption’, “Have they heard of the locked-out British workmen who were kept on the verge of starvation throughout a whole bitter Canadian winter in order to compel them to work for Chinaman’s wages? Did they read of the poor Scottish coal-miners who were enticed by false pretences to emigrate to British Columbia by the then Premier of that province, and who, when they discovered the cruel trick that had been practised upon them, with true British pluck preferred to wander penniless into a foreign country rather than work with Chinamen for wages upon which they could barely exist?… This, then, is the vaunted prosperity of Canada: Gold is pouring into her treasury from the Chinese head-tax; her great mining, timber, and fishing industries are flourishing under the cheap labour system; aliens of every colour, creed, and nationality, including the notorious capitalist classes of the United States of America, are swarming over her borders and seizing upon her resources with the avidity of vultures. And the best and most resourceful province in the Dominion of Canada is called British Columbia. But it’s true name is Chinese Columbia.” 

In 1901, upset with the state of British Columbia, he tried another British colony, one on the other side of the globe; New Zealand.


When Lionel Terry arrived in NZ, he worked as a fieldworker in Auckland, with the Department of Lands and Survey. When Lionel moved to Wellington in May of 1903, he worked as a draughtsman, drawing up maps and plans for the department. 

In 1904, Lionel was sent to Mangonui, Northland, to work as a surveyor. Here, Lionel Terry put some of his ideas down on paper. The result was ‘The Shadow’, a book of verse on the need for racial purity. 

After an opening prayer, the introduction for the book, sets the stage for Lionel’s ideology, “Although the question of alien immigration into the British Empire has been frequently brought into prominence during recent years, there are comparatively few people who realize its tremendous importance. This ignorance is partly due to the growing tendency of the majority of people to avoid great questions because they appear to be abstruse and complex, but the chief reason lies, undoubtedly, in the fact that the press, throughout almost the whole civilized world, is so completely under the heel of the capitalist that it dare not make the truth known. For it is the capitalist who is chiefly responsible for such immigration. It enables him to work his great industries with cheap labour, and, therefore, it is to his interest that the people should be kept in the dark as to the evil consequences arising therefrom.”

The book’s introduction continues for another eleven pages, making up almost half of The Shadow. Here, Lionel continues to propagate his position in plain English, what will be reiterated later in verse. The introduction calls for action on what he believes is corruption from the top down. He claimed that the government has been hijacked by outside negative forces, “I declare that the Government of the British Empire is Jew-ridden and corrupt… I declare that certain members of the House of Rothschild are, and have been for many years past, the private advisers of the British Cabinet… and the now pending importation of Chinese labour into South Africa, [is] attributable to the secret instigation of the Rothschilds, who are deeply interested in South African mining and land securities”.

The Rothschilds are a family at the centre of many conspiracies. In 1905, They were the wealthiest family on the planet. Money mostly generated from generations of Rothshilds working in the banking sector. Still to this day, over 100 years later, the family retains the wealthiest family moniker; with a fortune estimated in the trillions of dollars. 

The book’s introduction also lays out why each ‘race’ should only be working shoulder to shoulder with those that share a similar shade of skin, “Nature has distinctly demonstrated that the strength of any race, whether white, black, or yellow, depends upon its purity. The violation of the laws of Nature means death”. 

To support this point, Lionel Terry had ‘evidence’ which he believed validated his position, seven reasons why “the labouring classes constituting the British Empire must be composed wholly of British.” 

The Shadow concludes with Lionel’s believe that the continued Chinese immigration into the British Empire was really an act of war, “Amongst the ancient records of Chinese victories there exists one that possesses a terrible significance. The great battles of the hoary Chinese Empire were not always waged with the sword and spear, for at times its people would be commanded by the Emperor to enter peacefully the land of their enemies and to bow down to them and to become their slaves, tilling the soil and tending their sheep and oxen, building them great temples and palaces wherein they might dwell in great comfort. And in due time the people of that country, having violated the laws of Nature by neglecting and abusing the functions bestowed upon them by Nature, became weakened by luxury and idleness and by the vice and crime which are the offspring of luxury and idleness, so that their men became as weak women and their land became a portion of the mighty Chinese Empire.”


With his ideologies down on paper. Lionel Terry had to find a way of distributing his message. He advertised the book in newspapers but sales were poor. In an attempt to remedy this, in July 1905 Terry carried out a marathon walk of nearly 900 miles or 1450km from Mangonui to Wellington. Along the walk he distributed copies of The Shadow – at stops on his journey, he would lecture to anyone who would listen about the dangers of the ‘yellow peril’.

This stunt worked, at least in part. Lionel garnered some attention from the public, reports at the time state, that NZers who came in contact with Terry were impressed with his striking personality, conversational prowess and overall breadth of knowledge. A police officer who met up with Lionel on his immense journey was impressed with Lionel, he described him “He looked a perfect picture. As fine a man as ever I saw – bolt upright, and with as free an action as you’d see on an athlete”.

Lionel Terry arrived in Wellington on 14 September 1905. Lionel attempted to convince members of the House of Representatives and immigration officials that all non-European immigration should be refused entry to NZ. He had little success.


“On Sunday, the good people go to church, the roasts are carved, the children play in their gardens, warned to stay away from that street, where they will catch incurable diseases or disappear, into some Chinaman’s shed, never to see daylight again, destined, to become an example for other children. On Sunday, Lionel Terry went hunting for a Chinaman.”

Ten days later, Sunday the 24th of September 1905; Lionel, apparently frustrated that his ideas were not being given the weight he believed they deserved, made a decision to do something drastic. Terry wrote a letter to the governor, explaining himself, “I will not under any consideration allow my rights and those of my brother Britons to be jeopardised by alien invaders: to make this perfectly plain I have this evening put a Chinaman to death.”

That evening, 7.45pm; Terry entered the ‘Chinese quarters’ of the city; Haining Street. Picking the easiest target; a limping, elderly and unaware Joe Kum Young. Lionel crept up behind the 68 year old, placed the revolver to the back of Young’s head; and pulled the trigger.

“Some say it happened so fast – the piercing bullet and the flesh, the blood, the fall, the cordite stench. But for one soul it all plays out so slowly, as his shapeless form is lifted, in emergency and carried through the unkind night. The familiar sag of a hospital bed, beneath, his fallen weight. The silhouettes of the doctors’ hands at work. Everything fades – their voices, in fits of panic. Soon the memory of chance, will leave his body. Hold this moment, to collect, and accept.”

Joe Kum Young was rushed to hospital, two hours later he was dead. 

Monday 25th of September 1905 – the next day, the Evening Post headlines read “Street Murder in Wellington, A Chinaman Shot”. That morning, Lionel Terry visited a local bookseller on Lambton Quay, he asked about how The Shadow was selling, the clerk replied – it was a slow seller; to which Lionel replied “it will sell better tomorrow”.

Lionel Terry then strutted into the Lambton Quay Police Station; he placed the murder weapon on the front desk, explaining to the watch house constable behind the desk, “I have come to tell you that I am the man who shot the Chinaman in the Chinese quarters of the city last evening. I take an interest in alien immigration and I took this means of bringing it under the public notice.”

Lionel Terry repeated the statement in written form. The arresting officer explains the moments that followed, “Just before I charged him he handed me two books called ‘The Shadow,’ and he said, “If you read these you will understand the position.’”. Lionel Terry was charged with murder of Joe Kum Young.


21 November 1905, the trail of Lionel Terry commenced. Terry wasn’t denying he murdered Joe Kum Young that September evening. Only, that in his mind, it was justified, “whereas the British law is the law of a nation constituting a portion of the white race, and whereas the laws of all races are moulded according to the different characteristics of their respective nationalities, all of which vary materially one from another, therefore, inasmuch as it is naturally impossible for the people of two distinct races to possess the same characteristics, so therefore it must be equally impossible for the laws of a people of one race to beneficially control and govern those of another.”

Soon, the coroner present at the trial questioned Lionel Terry’s sanity, suggesting he may have been suffering from sunstroke. Something Lionel denied, “Although I believe that such rumours have in some instances emanated from those who were inspired by friendly motives towards myself, it is obvious that should they obtain general belief, the reforms which I am endeavouring to establish may be seriously delayed. I wish, therefore, to deny all such rumours or statements and to declare that I have never suffered from sunstroke or any other mental ailment.”

When given an opportunity to explain his actions, Lionel pontificated further on his ‘meritorious deed’, “My action was the result of careful deliberation and was impelled by merciful considerations for all concerned. In choosing as an example an old and crippled man, I realised that my purpose would be accomplished without the sacrifice of one whose existence was other than a painful burden. By thus quenching a flame which was already flickering towards extinction, I have not only conferred a merciful deliverance upon a world-weary man, but have also benefited those amongst whom he was living and the country in which he had come to live by an act designed to arouse its people from a state of callous indifference.”

The Chief Justice told the jury the only real question was whether Terry was sane, explaining that Terry himself said he was guilty, and there was no evidence to the contrary. The jury took 32 minutes to reach their verdict, “Guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy, on the ground that the prisoner was not responsible for his actions, as he was suffering from a craze caused by his intense hatred towards the mixing of British and alien races.”

Even with the jury’s recommendation, Terry was sentenced to death, he was reportedly without emotion as the punishment was read – then he was then taken away.


Apparently some agreed with the jury’s recommendation of leniency. It has been reported that a petition was circulated of people sympathetic to Lionel Terry, obtaining more than 1000 signatures. The petition asked for mercy, and for ‘medical treatment’, they argued he was suffering from temporary insanity, and he was otherwise a man of “high character and repute.” 

The Government, apparently taking all these factors into consideration, commuted Lionel’s sentence to life in prison. But, Terry then made such a nuisance of himself in prison, the prison personnel took these outbursts as evidence of his insanity. Medical authorities agreed, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. 

Lionel Terry was transferred to Sunnyside Mental Hospital in Christchurch. Evidently, continuing to be a nuisance; on the 29th of September 1906, Lionel escaped. Although, he was recaptured later that day.

In late December 1906, Lionel was moved to the mental health wing of Lyttelton gaol, known at the time as a lunatic asylum. Charles Treadwell writes about this transfer in his 1933 writings, ‘Famous New Zealand Trials — The Trial Of Lionel Terry’, “Terry went accordingly to Lyttelton gaol, but did not last long there. No doubt such an eccentric and unmanageable man in a building that was built for the detention of sick men only, was unfit for Terry… He [was] transferred to Sunnyside Mental Asylum, and on the 21st November, 1907, he eluded his attendants. There was always a lot of morbid sympathy or admiration for the man. Letters poured in to the newspapers calling Terry a patriot and a hero ad nauseum. However, the hero was caught on the 12th December, after three weeks’ liberty. He had built himself a home in a niche in a cliff and had been able to feed himself well. After his recapture the publicity continued, and reached such a fever that the Prime Minister thought it necessary to make a statement. The need of a strong asylum for criminal lunatics was strongly expressed.”

As a result of this, Lionel Terry spent most of the time between 1909 and 1914 isolated in solitary confinement at Sunnyside. In May 1914, Terry was moved to the historic Seacliff Mental Hospital; at the time of its construction in the late 19th century, the largest building in NZ. Famed at that time for its gorgeous gothic-themed ‘castle fantasy design. Unfortunately, history was not kind to Seacliff. Soon, It’s fame was garnered less from the stunning architecture and more from a series of unfortunate events leading to its downfall in the late 1950s. 

Firstly, the building was notorious for design flaws and only three years after opening; portions of the main building collapsed. Secondly, The hospital was also notorious for its extreme methods; including use of electroconvulsive therapy and lobotomies. Thirdly, perhaps Seacliff’s most ignominious occurrence; a tragic fire in 1942. The fire was in Ward 5, all 39 female patients inside the ward were unable to escape as they were trapped; locked inside. They all died of suffocation due to smoke inhalation. 

Back in 1914, Lionel Terry’s time at Seacliff was an improvement from his conditions at Sunnyside. He was given some privileges, including a suite – with a library and dining room. Lionel was able to write poetry and paint.

Around this time, Lionel turned increasingly towards religion, this manifested as referring to himself as the ‘Prophet’, ‘Messiah’ and ‘Superman’. He began wearing white clothes, he grew a long beard and wore his hair below his shoulders.

In 1940, Lionel assaulted a doctor who was trying to give him a typhoid vaccine. As a result he spent the last 12 years of his life in solitary confinement. Lionel Terry died at Seacliff Mental Hospital on 20 August 1952, aged 79.


24 September 2005, 100 years after the murder of Joe Kum Young, a plaque was unveiled on Haining Street. A memorial to a man who immigrated to NZ for a better life, only to befall to misfortune, the victim at the end of a Nationalist. Being murdered, as an advertisement for white nationalist ideology. 

If any of this is sounding familiar, that is perhaps the most disheartening thought, as of the horrific events of Christchurch mosque shootings on the 15th of March 2019. 114 years after the tragic circumstances of Joe Kum Young passing, this story in NZ – is more timely than ever.

“You wished for water and received a storm. And with want of sunlight the stars explode. They have shipped your body home, where proper respects will be paid and offerings made in remembrance. No longer will you navigate this shift solo, afraid of the thoughtless tides the future can bring. Even if his name still hooks to yours there will be voices to say your name to clear the way. The rest is up to you.”


The poems you heard during this episode were taken from Chris Tse’s book of poetry, ‘How to Be Dead in a Year of the Snakes’. There are many more beautiful poems in the book. Please check it out if you are interested. 


Te ara, Story: Terry, Edward Lionel,
Wikipedia, Lionel Terry,
State Library of Victoria, The Shadow by Lionel Terry,
Victoria University of Wellington Library, FAMOUS NEW ZEALAND TRIALS — THE TRIAL OF LIONEL TERRY,, Murder aimed to spread ‘yellow peril’ message,
The Spinoff, The land of the long white stain,
Wellington Chinese History, Joe Kum Yung,
Murderpedia, Edward Lionel Terry,
Wikipedia, Seacliff Lunatic Asylum,

Chris Tse, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, 2014

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