Stop Thief! Remuera Bank Shooting

BNZ The Bank of New Zealand [1]

In 1931 there was an attempted robbery at the Bank of New Zealand in Remuera Road where the assailant walked into the bank about midday and attacked the manager Mr F W T Youngs.

Mr Youngs had been sorting money at the counter when a young man came in and presented him with a letter asking him to read it and forward Pounds 250 to the presenter of the letter. While Mr Youngs had his head down reading the letter, he was hit over the head with a sandbag.

As Mr Youngs went down dazed and confused, he grabbed a revolver which he kept on a shelf behind the counter and cried Stop Thief! As the assailant ran outside, Mr Youngs shot the would-be thief in the back and he died shortly thereafter.

A man had been reported in the vicinity that morning. One of those who identified the man as this street lounger was the small son of Mr. J. L. Hendry, jeweller, whose shop is only a few doors from the bank. “I saw the man walking up and down the footpath in front of our shop all the morning,” said the boy. “He was carrying a parcel, which he dropped, and then picked up again. I did not take any more notice until I saw him running away from the bank and Mr. Youngs holding on to the door.”

Plucky officer of the Bank of New Zealand [2]

Mr Youngs’s father said “I knew my son would always give a good account of himself in any emergency. He has always been courageous and determined. He is a crack shot, and as a boy he was expert with an air rifle. You can see some of the marks on the kitchen wall to-day. He was an expert sniper during the war, when he refused a commission.”

The would-be bank robber was identified as Oswald Laurance Coulton, aged 24. Recently he had been residing in an apartment house in Park Road. He came to New Zealand from Australia about 18 months ago. Coulton is known to have worked on a farm in the Papakura district for about 18 months. His employers speak well of him and he had endeared himself to those who stayed at the apartment house with him in Park Road.

Police discovered that Coulton had a fake Airman’s Certificate in his room and had been trying to get a film script accepted for making into a movie with promises of money to invest. He had also served time in prison in Australia for forgery and uttering i.e. publishing & communicating a forged document. Mr. Oswald Coulton, father of the dead man, said his son never missed a mail with a letter. He was a particularly bright boy at school, but became a visionary. He wanted to set the world aflame with his name as a writer or as an airman. He was always writing verse or little plays. As he seemed to have no success, he turned his attention to flying, and secured a second-class pilot’s certificate, but I was unable to finance his long flights. He possibly became despondent and now has paid a terrible penalty for this mad-cap thing in New Zealand.”

Bank robbery bid in Remuera bungled as job backfires NZ Herald [3]

This was not the only attempted bank robbery in Remuera. In 1975 a stick of gelignite was inserted into the thick brick wall between Anderson’s Garage and the Bank of New Zealand and exploded causing minor damage. However the gelignite had been badly packed and had backfired on the thieves. Rubble was scattered over the workshop floor but the hole made was no more than a few inches deep. A neighbour had seen a red car, possibly a Monaro, in a dirty condition being driven off by two men. It is unclear whether the police ever found the car and the men.

Pharmacy In Pacific Buildings Wellesley St where Mr A J Blomfiled was murdered [4]

2019 Update

In 2019 Martin Johnston of the New Zealand Herald explored the possibility that the murder of Auckland pharmacist Arthur James Blomfield may have been carried out by Coulton.

Johnson writes: – A fish and chip wrapper used by a bank robber was a key piece of evidence in the hunt for the murderer of elderly Auckland pharmacist Arthur James Blomfield, age 75, who was fatally bashed at Mackay’s Dispensary in Wellesley St near Queen St at just after 5pm on Friday, October 30, 1931. A customer walked in moments later, rang the bell, and watched as a man came around the dispensing table, said, “He will be here any minute”, and walked quickly out of the shop, disappearing among the many people on the street. After a few minutes a shop assistant, who had been out, returned and went into the back room where he found Blomfield lying injured and bleeding on the floor. The till was on the floor too and around £6 (about $650 today) was missing, suggesting the murder was a robbery gone wrong. [1]



BNZ Coulton Oswald Laurence [5]

Police went to great trouble to try and trace Coulton’s movements in the 25 days between the two incidents. It was ascertained that prior to the crime a young man had bought a parcel of fish and chips at a fish shop nearby. The woman who served the man after seeing a photograph of Coulton taken from the New South Wales “Police Gazette,” stated she was positive the customer was Coulton. After Coulton was killed neither the pharmacy customer nor the woman could identify the body when they were both taken to the mortuary to view it. [2] At Blomfield’s inquest, two months later, the lawyer for his parents said: “… I understand it is going to be put forward by the police that Coulton was the murderer. Coroner W. R. McKean replied: “You apparently understand wrongly.” McKean issued an open verdict: the evidence did not reveal the identity of the killer.