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Jonathan Roberts - was on the run in South Canterbury.
He got away from gaol in - Timaru & Ripi Island & escaped N.Z.
Dawn, 8 May 2011, Timaru. Winter and a faint glimmer of hope we may see the sun today. Photo by M.T.
"A brightness in the eastern horizon gave me indications of the approach of day."

From yesterdays newspapers on  

Roberts, who was born in 1861, in Cornwall, brought up in New Zealand. After leaving school held positions in the Bank of New Zealand. He joined the bank at Temuka on 11 December 1877, aged 17 years. From there he went to Akaroa (April 1880), Christchurch (November 1881), Timaru (March 1882), Christchurch (June 1884), Wellington (Dec 1884). In April 1885 he resigned from the Bank and in September, 1886, he was in Christchurch without occupation and was, therefore, 27 years of age when he became notorious. As might be expected he wrote an exceptionally good hand, and was an expert judge of calligraphy, as a matter of fact, it was through this, that, he found his first trouble, 28 Sept. 1886, in that he forged a cheque which a bank actually turned, and, on being convicted of that he received one years' imprisonment.
    On 5 January 1888 on occasion horse stealing charge Jonathan Roberts was called upon to answer. Roberts had put up at Hood's Hotel, Peel Park, Mt Somers, and had stolen a horse from the stable, riding into Washdyke at night and stabling it there. Subsequently he dispose of it by auction. The prisoner, on being 'found guilty' by the Jury, asked His Honor (Mr. Justice Ward) to take into consideration the fact that he had been already four months in gaol awaiting trial. His Honor said he would do so, and imposed a sentence of five years penal servitude but immediately after committal escaped from Timaru on 28 April 1888 while waiting transfer to Lyttelton and was recaptured shortly afterwards and sent to Ripa Island, from which he again escaped, by swimming ashore and has not since been recaptured.

The only prisoner to successfully escape from Ripapa Island Prison, Lyttelton Harbour..

NZ Truth 9 August 1924, Page 1
Once young and athletic Jonathan Roberts, has made good in the United States and is spending his later years, he is over sixty, in domestic happiness, on his own farm in Virginia. One point is that Jonathan Roberts as an escapee committed no fresh crime. Jonathan was not kept on the move. He kept quite quiet in the bush while his pursuers ran amok for months. Then, after a visit to Christchurch he met the Chief Detective, in the streets, he calmly left New Zealand as a first-class passenger. He says that the kindness of people he met kept him from crime. This remark of Roberts is worth a lot of pondering. His was angry because of an excessive sentence (five years) imposed on him by a Judge and increased by one year because of his first escape unsuccessful attempt. That is how things appeared to Robert stirring him into gaol breaking.


Otago Daily Times 2 October 1886, Page 2
Christchurch, October 1,
A clever and audacious forgery of a cheque for a large amount has occurred here. On Tuesday evening a boy called at Messrs Ballantyne and Co. drapers' shop and said he had been sent by a gentleman who wanted a cheque for £2 7s in exchange for cash, as the post office was closed and he wanted to send the amount to a person in Wellington. The request was complied with, and nothing more thought about the transaction. Yesterday a cheque for £76, signed by Ballantyne and Co., was presented at the National Bank and cashed. On inquiry it was found to be a forgery, and the supposition was that the cheque for £2 7s was obtained for the purpose of copying the signature of the firm, which was remarkably well imitated. The case was placed in the hands of Detective O'Connor, who went to work with a great deal of cleverness and astuteness. The result was that this afternoon he arrested a man named Jonathan Roberts, formerly a clerk in the Bank of New Zealand at Timaru and afterwards in Christchurch. Subsequently £64 in National Bank notes were found in a pocket of Roberts' coat at his lodgings; and a person who was in Roberts' company when he was arrested gave the police a letter signed by Roberts containing a request to bury the coat and a canvas bag in which the money had been sent from the bank in the sandhills. The detective has earned great kudos for his smartness in following up the case and bringing it to a successful issue so quickly.  Roberts stoutly protested his innocence. He was brought before the resident magistrate and committed for trial. At the Supreme Court he pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 12 months' hard labour.

Evening Post, 15 November 1886, Page 2
Christchurch, 14th October. James Henry Roberts, brother of Jonathan Roberts, convicted last session of forgery, has been arrested on a charge of forging the name of Mr. F. C. Murray to a cheque on the National Bank for �6 14s and uttering it to Mr. F. Gabites, draper. Other similar charges are pending against him.

Stealing one gelding

Timaru Herald, 25 April 1888, Page 3

His Honor took his seat at eleven o'clock. The following were the grand jury: — Messrs F. LeCren (foreman), E. G. Sterickor, J. D. Anderson, J. Ashwell, H. Ford, A. M. Clark, R. Foster, E. T. Rhodes, J. B. Little, W. M. Sims, J. E. Moorhead, A. J. Queleh, E. Pilbrow, B. E. Hibbard, E. B. Pitt, A. McLaren, J. B. Wareing, T. Jefcoate, .T. Young, G. Gabites, W. G. Drummond, E. Tipping, A. Crawford, J. Raymond. Mr J. H. Glasson was excused from attendance on the ground of his absence at the time the summons was served. His Honour charged the Grand Jury in very brief terms. He congratulated them on the lightness of the calendar and said the cases called for no special remark. His Honour then proceeded to briefly summarise the circumstances of the various cases, and dismissed the Grand Jury to their room.

Jonathan Roberts was charged with stealing one gelding, the property of John Hood, on January 5th, 1888. Mr White for the Crown, Mr Hay for the defence. Prisoner pleaded "not guilty," and the following jury was empanelled : Messrs J. J. Grandi (foreman), A. Coldwell, K. Kelland, A. L. Jackson, J. Laurenson, W. U. Wall, A. Shiers, J. Pearce, T. Green, J. Radford, G. Brown, W. O'Driscoll and J. Rogers. The Crown Prosecutor briefly opened the case and called evidence, which has already been published in these columns. The charge was briefly that prisoner had put up at Hood's hotel, Peel Forest, [sic] and stolen horse from the stable, riding it to Washdyke by night, and stabling the horse there and subsequently disposing of it at auction. The cross-examination of the witnesses by Mr Hay resulted as follows : John Hood, hotel-keeper, said on the day of the horse being lost there were several people in his house. He had lent and let horses to shearers and others. He had seen prisoner first about two months before the theft. Had never lent prisoner a horse, as far as he could remember, and did not know whether prisoner had seen this particular gelding. About 7.30 or 8 on that occasion the horse was in the stable. Access to the stable and paddock was easy. A man slept in the stable at night and kept the door barred. Knew the horse well by his general appearance and some special marks. Did not know of any of his horses having been removed before without his consent being obtained. Usually rode on the saddle taken with the horse. Could not say positively whether seen that horse on that special day. Re-examined : Had had the horse seven or eight years and knew him thoroughly well. Henry Davis, cross-examined, said it was 8 or 8.15 m the evening that he last saw the horse. Prisoner was walking about. Did not see prisoner leave. Barred the back door. Went to the stable later on, to see if any strange horses had been brought in. There were seven horses in the paddock that night, all the property of Mr Hood. Know this particular horse's distinguishing marks. Had known it a year and seven months. Albert Exley, groom at the Doncaster Hotel, Washdyke (who had not been examined before the R.M. Court) deposed to Roberts coming to the hotel at night and putting up. HE fully identified the horse. Cross-examination failed to weaken his evidence or elicit any fresh facts. Chas Sterling deposed to being sent in with the horse to Timaru, by the prisoner, and to handing the animal and the letter to A. Waugh, in the employ of Mr Jonas. To Mr Hay : Had no particular conversation with prisoner who was out by the stable when witness mounted. Got the letter from prisoner. Am quite sure of that. Took the horse in and returned at once. Prisoner was at the hotel and asked if he had brought the cheque. Told him no, it could not be had till 3 o'clock. Did not go back at that hour. Left the hotel to go in about half past ten. A. P. Waugh reported his previous evidence as to receiving the horse and letter from young Sterling. The letter was to Mr Jonas directing him to sell the horse, saddle and bridle, and was signed " Wm, Beatty, jr, Kakahu." The horse sold for £8 and the saddle and bridle for £1. Know of no Wm. Beatty of Kakahu. To Mr Hay : Know Kakahu; never heard of a Beatty there. Did not know the name of the farmer opposite the school there. Mr White said since the case opened ho had received information that a witness was available who could prove the handwriting in the letter to be the prisoner's. Mr Hay desisted from his cross-examination of witness. Joseph Ashwell, accountant, deposed that he had often seen prisoner's handwriting. The letter produced was in a hand very strongly resembling that, of Roberts. To Mr Hay : Saw this letter in the grand jury room to-day for the first time. Had frequently corresponded with Roberts. Could pick this out as very like his writing. Sergeant Livingstone gave evidence of the arrest. Prisoner said on being arrested "It's very strange ;" visited the lock-up next day and was asked by prisoner whether he would get out of this. Replied "don't know ; it looks bad." Prisoner said " Hood's a decent fellow. I was pushed or I wouldn't have dune it." To Mr Hay : Visited the prisoner two or three times. Had standing instructions to visit prisoners. Visited the cell first at half past ten. Had not gone there at eight. Prisoner began the conversation. Swear prisoner asked if he would get out of it. When arrested, prisoner said " its very strange " and did not say " the devil you do " Took all the words down immediately afterwards. Dale asked him if he had two horses and he (prisoner) said "d'ye think I'm going to answer in the presence of a policeman." This was the case for the Crown. Mr Hay addressed the jury for the defence. His Honor summed up and observed that there was apparently no difficulty in coming to a conclusion in the matter. The jury retired at 1.20 to consider their verdict and returned into Court at 1.30 with a verdict of " guilty." The prisoner was then formally indicted for the theft and disposal of the saddle and bridle and pleaded "guilty" as also to a further charge of being already under conviction for a previous offence. The prisoner on being charged said he had only to ask His Honor to take into consideration the fact that he had been already four months in gaol awaiting trial. His Honor said he certainly should do that but he must point out that prisoner knew perfectly well what the offence would lead to. He would be sentenced to five years penal servitude, for the horse stealing and two for the theft of saddle and bridle, the sentence to be concurrent. 

Tuapeka Times, 18 September 1901, Page 4
A diary that was kept by the convict for some time after his successful dash for liberty has come into the hands of the 'Lyttelton Times,' which promises that the story will be sufficiently sensational. All the public know of the mysterious affair at present is that Roberts slipped away from the working gang at Ripa Island during the midday meal, and disappeared as effectually as if he bad been swallowed up by the little channel that divides the spot from the main land. The only sentry was at the door of the shed in which the convicts were dining, and as Roberts escaped by moving one of the sheets of iron that formed the side of. the building, he obtained a long start before his absence was noticed.

The diary of Jonathan Roberts -bank clerk, athlete, convict and escapee.
by Roberts, Jonathan
Published in 1997, Kiwi Publishers (Christchurch [N.Z.])
Originally published: Christchurch, N.Z. : Lyttelton Times Co., [1895].


Star, 7 September 1901, Page 6 Diary Part 1
It was in October, 1886, that Jonathan Roberts made his first unenviable appearance before the public. On Oct. 7 the — formerly a bank clerk — was charged with forging and uttering a cheque for £76 17s 6d, drawn on the National Bank of New Zealand, and purporting to be signed by Messrs Ballantyne and Co. Roberts was peculiarly unwilling to go into the dock, but perforce had to obey the Magistrate's stern mandate. The evidence was complete and conclusive, and the prisoner was duly, relegated to the Supreme Court, then in session. Here Roberts saved further trouble by pleading guilty. Inspector Pender said that nothing was known against the character of the prisoner, who had been in banks at Wellington and Timaru, and the Judge, after taking time for consideration, imposed a sentence of twelve months' imprisonment, with hard labour. Robert's age at this period was twenty-five years. On April 24, 1888, in the Supreme Court at Timaru, Roberts faced his Honor Mr Justice Ward, this time charged with stealing a horse from Hood's Hotel, at Mount Somers, and, further, with the theft of a saddle and bridle. He pleaded for leniency, on the ground that he had been four months in gaol, awaiting his trial, but his Honor sentenced him to three years' penal servitude for the horse-stealing and two years for the theft of the saddle and bridle, the sentences to run concurrently. Four days later a sensational occurrence was reported. Roberts was in the Timaru Gaol, awaiting the Governor's warrant for his transference to Lyttelton, in company with one "Paddy Shaney," and it was recorded at the time that Gaoler Swann "felt keenly the responsibility of having two offenders of their calibre thrust on his hands." On a Saturday morning the warder opened Roberts's cell-door, in order that the prisoner might take his usual exercise in the corridor. Roberts, in his diary, tells the story of his bolt and his pursuit by the gaoler. Of course, the hue and cry was speedily raised, " there was mounting in hot haste," and the according of the country was begun. "He is quite an ignis fatuus," wrote one journalist, "and is leading the police a pretty dance. I hear that he helped himself to a milkman's horse, rode it at top speed some miles, and then let it go."
    On Wednesday evening, May 9, " there was considerable excitement in police circles in Timaru," for a telegram had come from Ashburton to the effect that the fugitive had been traced, and that his arrest would probably take place forthwith. On May 16 a "hark away" sounded from Makikihi, where a police sergeant on leave sighted, or thought he sighted, the tantalising quarry ; and about the same time it was reported that articles of prison underwear had been found at Mount Horrible. Roberts, it came to be known, had been quietly working for a space at a threshing machine, and so had acquired a little money to aid him in his wanderings. " Dearly delightful Jonathan," wrote the Timaru correspondent of the "Lyttelton Times," "he is the sole topic of conversation here, and it is astonishing — no, not astonishing, perhaps, but remarkable how the women pray for his escape. They actually go down on their benders and pray for ham night after night, and every morning laugh at the record of failure." But this particular man-hunt was nearly up. From April 28 till May 30 Roberts had enjoyed the sweets of liberty. On the latter date a constable espied the much-wanted man working on a road near Killinchy. Roberts took to his heels, and a few revolver shots whizzing about his ears brought him to a standstill ; assistance was at hand, the " bracelets " were speedily adjusted, and that night he slept in the Christchurch Police Station. On June 6 he was brought up at the Magistrate's Court, charged with escaping from legal custody, and was sentenced to a year's imprisonment in addition to the five years imposed in the Supreme Court. The community was destined to be quickly startled, and the whole country to be deeply interested. On Thursday, June 7, Roberts was sent for the first time to Ripa, Island, as one of the prison labour gang, and shortly after noon on the following day he was on the mainland, once more a free man. It was a daring deed, though there can be no doubt that convict freemasonry established him on good tea-ins with his "fellow prisoners, and that they aided and abetted him in his escape. It will be remembered that it was the custom to march the prisoners, for their midday meal and rest, into a corrugated iron shed. Roberts filed in with the rest. One sheet of iron in the back wail had been previously loosened. Through this opening Jonathan sped, and, making use of his splendid running powers, he reached  the strait, which is fifty or sixty yards across. An all-round athlete, he was a good swimmer, and to negotiate the distance would be mere child's play to him. " Meanwhile," the account published in this journal relates, "the prisoners, conscious of what had happened, were gleefully enjoying their rations, knowing well how their guardians along the table had been outwitted. Both warders and artillerymen were also enjoying their midday meal, in blissful ignorance of the fact that a man who had only come into their care the day before, after a month's stolen liberty, was giving them leg-bail with all his might over the Peninsula ranges or along the shores of the harbour." The only sentry was at the door of the shed ; there were none to see Jonathan's dash or to note whither he went: Presently, an artilleryman, his dinner ended, strolled round the shed, saw the displaced iron, and gave the alarm. There was trouble enough then. "The rage and chagrin of the luckless officials when they discovered their loss, and how these feelings would be given expression in some of those crystals of the Anglo-Saxon tongue that express so much in so little, may be imagined, but cannot be described." Of course, there was much speculation as to the route that Roberts might, take. He was at one time employed in the bank at Akaroa, he had friends on the Peninsula, and he knew the country uncommonly well. The search party hastily improvised on the day of the escape discovered Robert's coat, wet through, about fifty yards up the hill. " Only that, and nothing more." By the way, though, there were footprints in the snow high up on the hill, which might have been those of the fugitive, and next day a constable had the dubious satisfaction of finding a small white paper parcel, containing sandwiches and a card, bearing the inscription : "To Jonathan Roberts, hoping the enclosed will assist his weary body. — From a well-wisher." Truth to tell, Jonathan had a great many well-wishers. The police were kept hot afoot and active on horseback ; there were all kinds of rumours, more or less sensational, as to the man's whereabouts ; but for all practical purposes the earth might as well have opened and swallowed him up. Days grew into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, but from that day in June, 1888, until now no one has come forward to tell definitely what had really occurred. To the general public the disappearance of Jonathan Roberts, bank clerk, athlete, and convict, remained a profound mystery. Now, the man himself is able to raise the veil. He wrote a diary that came into the procession of the and forwarded to the editor of a newspaper.


On the run in South Canterbury.

Star 14 September 1901, Page 6 part 2 Jonathan Roberts ARRESTED AFTER HIS FIRST ESCAPE from Timaru.
However, to continue my journey towards Timaru. It was with reluctance I left that cottage. I didn't hurry off, as the papers say, but spent a good hour there, and it is the only place in all my wanderings where I would liked to have stayed. The papers also state that information reached Timaru from this family, apprising the Police that I was making my way north. I don't think I should be wrong in positively saying that no information whatsoever reached the authorities from that quarter.  Mary and Annie came to the gate and advised me which road would contain the most places where- a man might possibly find work. I followed their directions until I got out of sight, when I made for the plantations, through which I passed when I left Timaru. I arrived as near Timaru as I dared, then had to hang about until the day declined. As soon as practicable I passed the Saltwater Creek Hotel, and went straight through Timaru. Parsed on the footpath, saw two or three others I knew, and at length reached Washdyke, tired out and wet. The misty weather still continued, and made my lot somewhat more unpleasant. Passing through Timaru I received the first uncharitable look. I had had no tea, but "bought " a small loaf of bread from a cottage just past Woolcombe's Gully. I thanked that good body knew who I was, for when I tendered the money she looked at me very knowingly, and in, a half whisper said, " Oh, dear no ! We can do that much to help you on the way ! Good night!" I now wanted a drop of tea., so putting some tea, in the billy, I asked for a little hot water at a cottage a little further on. The woman looked at me as much, as to say, " Why didn't you ask for something more, so that I could say No! I can't very well say No to that." Taking the billy without saying anything, however, she brought me back scarcely a cupful. In fact, I didn't think there was any in it when I took the billy. However, I would make it up another way, and this was by helping myself to some milk from her cow tethered close to the house. Do you know, I enjoyed that tea in spite of the unpleasant surroundings. That night I camped in a straw stack, just past the Washdyke Hotel. I hoped to get past Temuka next morning before daylight, but I slept too well, and didn't wake until about 5.30 a.m., so had to leave the main road and make for a lot of bluegums at Seadown. A "snack" and snooze brought midday, but I was thirsty and cold, and could not find either water or a place where I could light a fire, so edged along the railway line towards Temuka. By four o'clock I had reached Arowhenua, when, coming across some water, I made for some scrub to boil the pot. This done, I was about to sit down and enjoy my crust when heard voices. "He came across here somewhere with a billy in his hand, as if he was going to boil it." My blood turned cold, but I never moved, and they had almost passed me. One was a man in his shirt sleeves. The other I did not know, but I think I did the former. If it was not I am mistaken; but whoever he may be he has my best for a hot climate in the next world. As soon as they saw me, the stranger came up and asked some question, took good stock, then turned off towards Temuka, making some remark about a greyhound. I suppose he had no arms, and seeing I looked big and able, he decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and went off to give information.  I watched them go into some scrub ; then, packing up my traps, started round towards the hills as hard as I could cut. Crushed through gorse fences, over the South Road, Waitohi Road, Point Road, and on to the river-bed. Night was now setting in, to my intense relief ; but I pushed on, forded the river by the Arowhenua Estate, and came out behind the manse. This led on to a footbridge, which I crossed, making my way towards the English Church. The alarm had been given, telegrams had been sent to Timaru and elsewhere, and such a rushing about you never saw in your life before. But it was no good. I made for my destination, and was received as I expected. They had no outbuildings, as I thought, so I was for making elsewhere, but they wouldn't think of it. And there I stayed that night, and the whole of next day. The Police were all over the country — Sergeant-Major Mason, Constables Kenny and Morton, and a few others. Their own horses got knocked up and others were hired, but of no avail. And I? I was sitting by the drawing-room fire, looking at them through the window. Poor Morton, his ambition was to catch the runaway Roberts. "Oh! if I could catch him, I think they'd make me a sergeant ; at any rate, I should get a rise of 6d a day !" But Morton's good spirit wasn't about. He didn't catch him. For reasons of my own, I wished to stay near Temuka for a few days, but, although I know I would have been welcome, and was warmly pressed to stay, my good friends had done their share, and I must go elsewhere. So I did that night, and the following. The real Mackay at each place. Saturday night came, and I returned to the house at which I stayed the first night, as arranged, but was disappointed. What I had remained for proved to be a myth.  In the meantime, however, inquiries ''had been made, and I received information that every road in or near Temuka had been ridden over again and again. All of no avail. To many friends about there. "Mr L., have you seen anything of Roberts up your way?" "I wouldn't tell you if I had."' '" I say, O____ , why don't you get sworn in as a special detective. You'd get 10s per day and found in a horse." "If I did, Morton, I'd give Roberts the first cheque I got if I found, him!" If that poor, forsaken constable had been wound up to a pitch two degrees higher, he'd have gone off like a ginger beer bottle. Only one out of the surrounding numbers who would have helped him if he could.
    Scene on the Milford Road.  The non - official; Constable Morton, the official. " Good day. Mr Morton !" "Good day." "What's, up down our road? After Robert's" '" Yes; have you seen him?" ''Bedad, no; and. what's more. I wouldn't tell you d__d two legged bloodlhounds if I had. Look here, Morton, if Roberts comes to me, I'll hide him, and if you come near my place to look for him I'll set the dogs on you. ' That was too much for the constable. "Those ignorant savages are the curse, of the country!" and he hurried on.
"I say, Jack, you'd better stay here for a few days. There is a policeman watching the Rangitata Railway Bridge; another on the traffic bridge, and another at the ford near, the beach. It is of no use going right into their arms. You may as well stay." "No, thank you all the same; I'll push on. So long as I know where they are I am all right. The Indian style is the best with the police. Watch them as they are looking for you. You then know how to avoid them. The information about the bridges is certainly of much use to me, but I can ford the rivers, and they can stick to the bridges." So, with their good wishes, at 9 p.m. on Saturday night I started for Rangitata by the " S_umps" Road. Passing straight across the Plains, taking everything as it came, I eventually reached the Rangitata River. I had heard it was very low, so, stripping, I started, and in due time reached the opposite shore, where a good cup of warm tea took all the chill off, and again I started. Passing the Hon W. Rolleston's I ate a raw turnip, and just after I had crossed the river it got very annoying; in fact, it quite doubled me up for an hour or two, and when I saw a straw stack in the distance I resolved to make it my camping ground. A man riding past saw me, but I was too tired and uncomfortable to mind him, so I took off my boots, wrapped myself up, and dozed off. I couldn't have lain there more than half an hour when I thought it might be risky, having been seen; and. as the pain in my digestive organs had quite gone. I picked up my things and pushed on. Mile after mile I trudged, with nothing but countless numbers of wet gullies with soft muddy bottoms, and a few bluegum plantations to break the monotony. The wind had now risen to a howling nor'-wester, but the big gorse fence protected me, until a turn in the road brought me face to face with it. Though dry, it was cold, and I could hardly keep myself warm. Frequently I rested under some sheltering bunch, but it was far too cold to camp for long. I walked and battled with the wind until I could hardly crawl, so, taking advantage of a big bunch of gorse inside of the fence, I put down a sack and my old things, wrapped myself up in the blankets, and slept. How long I couldn't say I awoke shivering. To go to sleep again was impossible, so once more I started. In a couple of hours I reached the Hinds, but feeling warm and comfortable I again got under a big fence and went to sleep. Rain this time roused me, and I sought shelter in a stable a little further on, in spite of the dog's strong objections. The manger was my next sleeping place, and here I dozed until aroused by the cocks crowing. Ashburton, i knew, could not be far off, so I pushed on as fast as I could, until it became too light for travelling, so after obtaining a loaf from a cottage, I got over the fence and made a detour round Ashburton. That day turned out beautifully fine, and getting out of the wind, I spread my blankets, and lay down to enjoy the warmth. I here obtained a few hours good sleep, and felt anxious to push on. Travelling along the lonely roads at night is anything but pleasant, and, besides, it is unnatural.  

Roberts was caught the next day by a Leeston bobby. Roberts wrote :Well, to make a long, story short, because I had a too heavy sentence, and it drove me to desperation and to gain any liberty by bolting, I got twelve months extra. ...continued VI 

He escaped New Zealand 

    1. John Hood was the publican at the Mt Somers Hotel.
            2. Stumps Road. The road is near "Stumps Farm" near the Orari township. About 1860 Thomas Dunn bought a farm at the junction of the Milford, Orari, and Upper Swamp roads. He called his property "The Stumps" because the land was covered in tree stumps.
           3. The Rangitata Railway bridge is located on the Main Road. The traffic bridge in those days would have been the bridge at Arundel
           4. The ford near the beach,  perhaps it is the ford the old Cobb & Co coaches used to cross the river. They came down the Old Main South Road, about three miles below Hinds, crossed the river and rejoined the State Highway just after the big S bend near the Orari Homestead of the Macdonald family. The Orari township was down the road maybe about two miles.
           5. There are cards for both Jonathan Roberts and John Hood among the Macdonald Biographical File in the Christchurch Museum.
              a.  Jonathan Roberts - a natural crook, aroused great sympathy. Card No. R-260.
              b. John Hood - publican at Mt Somers, later a farmer. Card No - H-727
          6. The Bank of New Zealand has very good archives, especially concerning staff. Maybe worth getting in touch

Photographer unknown :Portrait of the second house at the Stumps. Ref: PA2-2805. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22330398

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

Wanganui Herald, 24 January 1896, Page 2
Joseph Roberts, a brother of Jonathan Roberts, was arrested at Waipukurau on a charge of drunkenness, and was subsequently charged with stealing a watch and chain from a man at Hastings. He has been reprimanded till 24th inst.

North Otago Times, 10 March 1890, Page 4
Jonathan Roberts, is a young man of about thirty years of age, He was born in Cornwall, of respectable parents, and brought up to New Zealand, and after leaving school held positions in the Bank of New Zealand at Temuka, Timaru, Christchurch, Akaroa, and Wellington. He resigned from the Bank in Wellington, and in September, 1886, he was in Christchurch without occupation. About the 28th of that month a clever forgery was committed, which was ultimately traced to Roberts, who was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment with hard labor. The forgery was of a cheque for L 76 17s 6d, which he also uttered, purporting to be signed by Messrs Ballantyne and Co, on the National Bank of New Zealand. Jonathan served his term, and whilst in prison conducted himself in all respects satisfactorily. His next exploit was in January, 1888, when be appropriated to his own use a valuable gelding belonging to Mr W. B. Hood, of Peel Park, Mount Somers. He afterwards sold the animal in Timaru, and while waiting in the Washdyke Hotel for the money to be brought to him by a boy whom be had engaged, he was arrested, and then placed upon his trial, which resulted in a verdict of " Guilty," and a sentence of penal servitude for five years. The trial was on April 24th, and four days later Jonathan, thinking no doubt that the sentence was a bit too severe, accepted what appeared to him a good opportunity for escape. Stitching up some clothes which were handy he made a bolt past his warder as the prisoners were about to be taken into the yard for exercise, and being fleet of foot he successfully accomplished his escape. Meeting with a number of sympathisers be was enabled to put a considerable distance between himself and the gaol. He apparently travelled on foot through South Canterbury and made his way northwards, being subsequently recaptured at Killinchy by Constables Sipson and Waring. A farther sentence of twelve months' imprisonment was inflicted on Roberts fur his having escaped from custody. This was on the 5th of June, 1888. On the 18th of the same month he successfully escaped from Ripa Island, Lyttleton, where a number of convicts were engaged on the fortification works. He effected his escape by tearing a hole in the galvanised iron at the back of the men's room, being sheltered from the view of the warders by the other prisoners. Since then no authentic information has been obtained as to Roberts' whereabouts. It was generally supposed, however, that be had got away to Australia, and be is thought to be identical with a man named Faanery or Flannery, who a short time ago robbed a Bank in Western Australia. It has been known to the police here for some time that a man answering to Jonathan's description has been in Sydney.

Evening Post, 17 May 1894, Page 2
The case of Jonathan Roberts, the New Zealand "Jack Sheppard," is now definitely cleared up, and it is known that the man is in Valparaiso at the present time, editing a newspaper. It will be remembered that Roberts escaped no fewer than three times from gaols in New Zealand, and on the last occasion he succeeded in eluding the police and getting out of the country. Since then various rumours have been current as to his whereabouts, some of the Maoriland papers stating some two years ago that he was fighting with the Government troops in the Chilian revolution, and held a high command. Since then nothing has been heard of the clever gaol-breaker until a few days ago, when a member of the staff of this journal who knew Roberts in New Zealand received a letter from Chili giving a sketch of his career. It appears that the writer, who is the captain of a ship, also knows Roberts, and met him in Valparaiso. The escaped convict assured him that after breaking from gaol he reached Newcastle in a schooner from Lyttelton, and at this port he shipped before the mast in a coal laden vessel for Iquique, Chili. Roberts never fought in the war, and although his past life is known to a considerable number of people, he has many friends and lives rather a fast life. Newcastle Morning Herald.

Otago Witness, 24 September 1896, Page 38
Was Jonathan Roberts ever imprisoned in the Timaru gaol for horse stealing or did he ever break out of the prison there? Yes; he was sentenced by Judge Ward, we think, to three years for horse stealing at Washdyke, but immediately after committal escaped ; was recaptured shortly afterwards and sent to Ripa Island, from which he again escaped, and has not since been recaptured.

Timaru Herald,  Sept. 20, 2011. A full page article Past Times, with a large photo of Roberts as a member of the Timaru Boating Club in 1884 courtesy of the South Canterbury Museum (3211). In 1950, John De Renzy described to The Press how Roberts was sheltered at Temuka for a week by a doctor, then taken in a dog cart to the De Renzy farm at Winchester where he was hidden among the flax. De Ranzy's father William, had been farming his 445ha Hunnington farm since 1874 - Robert's sister lived nearby. Roberts made his way to Ashburton from there and then sent on to Leeston. Roberts could not find his connection there but a casual meeting with a local widow Mrs Crowe, of Killinchy, resulted in his getting work as a farm labourer for 10 shillings a week. On May 31, three police officers acting on a tip off, searched the district. Roberts offered no resistance after he was fired on and the party caught the train back to Christchurch. Roberts had been at large for a month.

Press, 21 June 1888, Page 6
A rather amusing story comes from Opawa which serves to illustrate the sympathy some people hold towards the escaped convict. A gentleman visited the suburb to bring his little child home from a rehearsal which was taking place there. Instead of walking right into the room containing the company of youngsters he peered through a window pane, and then through an aperture between two doors. His presence was perceived, and some boys were sent out to reconnoitre. They failed to discover the intruder, and returned indoors. The gentleman left the hiding place he had for the time made use of, and once more resumed his position at the door, when he was again perceived with the same result. The children became a bit frightened, as the words "Jonathan Roberts is outside" were passed round, and it was supposed that the redoubtable Jonathan had sought the sylvan groves of Opawa for protection. The master of ceremonies was equal to the occasion. "If Jonathan Roberts is out there bring him in; it's an awfully cold night," was the instruction which several of the older boys essayed to carry out. They then discovered there had been a mistake. The suspected person was not Roberts.

Since Then by Denis Glover, 1957

Young Roberts
On the twenty-fourth of April,
Young Roberts broke from jail,
And making for Saltwater Creek,
He gave them all leg-bail,
He took his Sunday clothes with him,
And changed them on the track,
and laughing up his sleeve, he said,
"They'll never get me back."
Next morning at the Washdyke,
We find this bold outlaw,
having breakfast at a farm house,
With a lady, Mrs. Dawe.
He went to ask
Could he get a cup of tea?
The lady asked "how many?"
Jonathan said "Only me."
"Come in and have some breakfast,"
Quite kindly said the dame,
She thought of Jonathan,
But had Roberts on the brain.
Her daughter had her suspicious
Of the stranger on his own,
And noticed as she filled his plate,
That his hair was shortly grown.
She told her mother quickly,
"Young Roberts it is, I am sure.
And if it's not, no harm is done.
-I'm going to get the law.
"For Roberts it was escaped from jail,
Heading down this way,
And women in lonely farmhouses,
he thinks are easy prey.
"You, mother, fill up his cup again,
And talk to him as before,
And I'll get father's shotgun,
Out from behind the door.
"Then with a piece of ploughline,
We'll truss him like a fowl,
For Constable jack to arrest him,
We shall be thanked by all."
"No , No" replied he mother.
"Shame on the name Dawe,
If harm were to come to any quest,
Before my own kitchen fire.
"What if it is Young Roberts?
He had behaved polite,
I could not wish any mother's son,
In such  an unhappy plight."
Young Roberts, he overheard it all,
And his face was sturdy.
he said, "I'll have to be going now,
Thanks for the breakfast lady.
"I may look like Young Roberts,
But hate I cannot stay.
Like any other mother's son
I'm off on the broad highway."

Having finished his repast, which he ate quickly and heartily, he moved to the door; he held the handle with one hand, while he peeked into the darkness and satisfying himself that his pursuers were beyond cooee.