Death on the train tracks

17:00, Jul 24 2013

It was rail worker Andrew McKenna who first noticed things weren't quite right with a goods train as it slowly backed its way across a yard at the Auckland station late on the night of October 29, 1912.

He signalled the driver to stop after seeing the wagon wheels struggling to get past some sort of obstruction on the line.

McKenna went to have a look and was horrified to find the mutilated body of a man lying face down on the tracks.

The clothes on the corpse were torn to shreds and a foot was completely severed.

The remains were taken to the city morgue and identified a day later by the skipper of the fishing boat Albatross which was tied up at nearby Wynyard Pier.

Captain Robert Clark had sought police help after his first mate Angus Ferguson failed to turn up for work on the morning of October 30.


Ferguson normally slept aboard the boat so his absence was unusual.

Clark's concern turned to grief when he was directed to the morgue and given the unenviable task of identifying the dead man.

How Ferguson came to die in such horrific circumstances was not known.

His body was in an area that was out of bounds to the general public and not part of the route he generally took back to the pier after a night out.

A whiskey bottle located near the grisly death scene suggested he may have been drunk when he tried to take a shortcut through the rail yard. But the people who he'd spent his last hours of life with said he was not drinking when he left their home and the bottle, commentators speculated, could well have been thrown there by someone else.

A coroner's inquest failed to shed any light on the case and suicide, hinted at in passing, seemed unlikely - the deceased was, according to friends and family, in good spirits with no major woes.

Ferguson was buried at Waikumete Cemetery three days after his death.

Western Leader