Historical notes - Waihi Gold Bullion Theft Unearthed
William Duncan Smith was arrested for the alleged theft of bullion from the Waihi Gold Company 102 years ago today.
According to press articles from the time, Smith’s style of living was quite beyond that commensurate with his ordinary earnings.
The enterprising Smith had come up with an ingenious plan to steal cyanide solutions containing gold and silver by a cunningly concealed pipe that was attached to the main solution pipes at the Waihi Gold Company’s Waikino Mill.
Smith’s pipe ran underground from the mill to a precipitation box that was hidden in a drain, where Smith collected it.
It’s not known how long Smith had managed to steal regular amounts of the precipitate. He was put under surveillance and caught red-handed carrying off a billy containing bullion precipitate.
When his home was searched tins of precipitate of considerable value were found along with crucibles for melting the slimes and a mold for producing ingots.
William Smith appeared in Auckland court in July 1916 where he pleaded guilty to stealing bullion slimes valued at about 2000 pounds. Smith’s lawyer said Smith was undoubtedly a tool in the hands of a third party who disposed of the bullion giving Smith only a quarter of its value. Smith had rendered every assistance to the police to trace this man and 100 pounds had been recovered.
The Judge imposed a sentence of ‘reformative treatment’ not exceeding 18 months, saying the thefts had continued for some time and had been skilfully done with criminal intent.