Silence of the sheep: Ngapara massacre details revealed

Photos from a police investigation into the deaths of more than 200 sheep on a north Otago farm.

Photos from a police investigation into the deaths of more than 200 sheep on a north Otago farm.

This article contains content that some readers may find disturbing.

When death came to Ngapara, it came savagely and without warning.

Dozens of bloodied sheep, many with shattered skulls, were found piled at the bottom of a limestone rock at a North Otago farm.

Police officers at the scene of a sheep massacre on a Ngapara farm, near Oamaru in 2014.

Police officers at the scene of a sheep massacre on a Ngapara farm, near Oamaru in 2014.

And Peter Stackhouse blamed himself.

Ngapara community at odds with police over sheep deaths
Sheep massacre appals farmer
More sheep killed

"I thought I had poisoned them all somehow ... then I saw the holes in their heads," the farmer said.

The Ngapara community remains convinced more than 200 sheep killed on separate occasions in the district were not killed ...
Nicola Wolfe

The Ngapara community remains convinced more than 200 sheep killed on separate occasions in the district were not killed by dogs, despite police investigations finding they were.

"I just couldn't comprehend it."

And while he, like others, stop short of criticising the police investigation there was a thought in the small rural community that someone has gotten away with murder.

But now documents released under the Official Information Act reveal dogs were collared for the crime, despite police initially believing it was a gun that delivered death to the animals on the night of Friday, June 20, 2014.

But no obvious entry or exit wounds could be observed near the shattered skulls.

Ad Feedback

Nor were any bullet casings found, or gunshots heard on that night or the next when a further 120 sheep were found slaughtered.

Police returned to the scene and found two dogs: a nine-month-old Rottweiler pup and a terrier, in a nearby paddock.

The dogs had no blood on them, or signs they were involved, and were returned to their owners.

Police were now concentrating on the killing being the work of an offender. They allege the person placed a foot on each animal's head while they were held to the ground by a dog. The sheep were then shot.

An identity or motive of a person involved in the killing was unclear, with Stackhouse at a loss.

"It made no sense."

Nor could John Dodd offer any explanation when he found 28 dead sheep on his property the following weekend.

Police inquiries confirmed his sheep were killed in the same manner as those from Stackhouse's property, with no bullets, casings, tyre prints, or footprints found.

By this point police believed a suppressed rifle was used, due to the proximity of the killings to each property.

On Monday June 30, the same two dogs, a rottweiler and a terrier, were found walking along some disused rail tracks though the Dodd farm, near the paddock where the killing took place.

The dogs were again inspected, but no blood was found and they were once again returned to their owners.

The massacre of sheep on two Ngapara farms sparked "high emotion and anxiety within the community", and made national headlines, the official police report said.

"Ngapara sheep shooter 'pure evil'"said one headline, and "40-year trail of unsolved crimes under a full moon", said another.

And as pressure mounted to find the culprits, some residents even supplied the names of possible suspects to police, the report noted.

But police still had no motive, bullets/casings/gunshot residue, or even the sound of rifle shots heard at the time of both incidents.

That lack of evidence coupled with the same pair of dogs found near each scene made police re-examine their initial finding.

And that pointed the finger at the rottweiler and the terrier as the killers of the 215 sheep.


But while a dog would normally attack legs, throat/chest, it was "difficult to comprehend" how a dog's bite could take hold of the large area at the top of the skull, and crush it, the report noted.

Both dogs were not working or hunting dogs, but family pets.

However police also considered whether an offender used the dogs to capture and hold the sheep "before using blunt force trauma to kill" the animal with a heavy item.

Police believed this "would have been a very physical and tiring exercise for an offender or offenders and I would expect it would require the offender to have a very serious motive, which if it existed, the two families would know about".

Other officers from around New Zealand contacted detectives working on the case to say they supported it being the work of dogs after similar experiences.


A police armourer believed no casings were found due to full metal jacketed bullets being used, which did not break apart on impact.

That prompted a shooting test using full metal jacket, hollow point and soft nose rounds on sheep heads, in order to replicate the injuries.

That resulted in a neat entry wound and a much larger exit wound but no "consistent large scale fracturing of the skull as seen with the killed sheep".

Police also used a pipe to replicate blunt force trauma, and with three swings of "medium force" the officer was able to fracture the skull of the dead sheep.

Four sheep heads were taken to Invermay Research Centre, Mosgiel, to be examined by a veterinary pathologist who believed they had been killed by dogs only.

However no canine DNA was able to be obtained from samples sent to Australia.


Police interviewed the owner of the dog , and alibis were obtained for their time around the killings.

On both occasions the pets had wandered from the property on the same weekends as each sheep killing.

But police had no direct evidence linking the two dogs with the sheep killings, and after seeking a legal opinion, found there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution of the owners.

The dogs have since been voluntarily put down by their owner.

Stackhouse had talked to the owners of the dogs, who remained disappointed the pets were fingered as culprits.

"No one can believe they did that much damage."

People in the community were still concerned over the killings, but they acknowledged there had been no more incidents.

"There's a bit of doubt around because we haven't got a conclusion, police have closed their case but it is still a mystery about what happened that weekend."

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

Horse rescued from crashed float

The "horrible" crash occurred on the southern motorway near Pukukohe.

Jaws of life were used to free a trapped horse after "horrible" accident south of Auckland.

Along came a little lump

Dylan Bowman, 21, wants to try motivational speaking, to share his story and his outlook on life.

It all started with a few clumsy stumbles in the kitchen. Now, chef Dylan Bowman has a "nasty tumour".

Truckie thrown from vehicle

Westpac Rescue Helicopter is airlifting the truckie to hospital.

Man seriously injured after crash near Wellsford in Northland shuts section of SH1.

$500k crashed super car driver charged

The rare and exclusive McLaren super car line is named after New Zealand motorsport legend Bruce McLaren.

His rare and exclusive super car flipped on an Auckland motorway.


Gunner Billy's high-seas adventure

Cigarette-card portrait of World War I hero William 'Gunner Billy' Sanders.

The VC winner lived and died in a boy's own dream.

NZ seeks military craft

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes will replace a fleet of retiring P-3K planes.

Four airplanes from US would replace a retiring fleet of P-3K maritime patrols.

Woman hit by car dies

Churchill Dr, Crofton Downs, was closed for a while after the collision on Saturday morning.

Fatality in Gisborne while nasty crash in Wellington closes road temporarily.

Perils of duck hunting

Forty-one per cent of injuries associated with game-bird hunting occur during the opening weekend of duck hunting season.

Almost half of game bird hunting injuries happen during the opening weekend of the season.


Theatrical climate change march

The People's Climate Parade march towards the Avon River.

Key messages were expressed on stage in a "family-friendly" protest.

Small town Chinese garden scandal

The West Coast town of Kumara has a population of about 300.

Westland council allows tiny town's "nest egg" to be used for a garden many don't want.

Used office furniture glut hits Chch

Faced with four floors of surplus furniture to dispose of, Canterbury District Health Board services manager Pauline ...

Christchurch is the place for a bargain as tenants in new office buildings get rid of cast offs.

Deadly love triangle

Those on the outside described the McLeans as a "role model family".

Invercargill rocked to core after a love triangle turned fatal. Where did it all go wrong?


Architectural wonders revealed

The new law and management building at Waikato University was designed by Opus Architecture.

A lot of well known Waikato and Bay of Plenty buildings - and spaces - have earned accolades.

It's our turn to fix this

A medical school backed by Waikato Hospital, pictured, and Waikato University  seeks to train GPs to fill a critical ...

OPINION: The old boys have failed to fix New Zealand's doctor shortage, now it's our turn.

Join the fight for our med school

Waikato University vice-chancellor Professor Neil Quigley and Waikato District Health Board chief executive Dr Nigel Murray.

A proposed medical school in the Waikato has the Government interested.

Ref raids accounts

050711 NEWS. Robert Charles/Taranaki Daily News. Cheque/ cheque book. Money. Bank.

Colleagues blew the whistle on referee who swiped $13K and a video camera.


Faith in the future

Taranaki Cathedral of St Mary's, Bishop Philip Richardson, centre, blesses Dean of St Mary's Very Reverend Peter Beck as ...

New Zealand's oldest church is being strengthened and it's about more than bricks and mortar.

Mystery is solved 

An unusual search and rescue mission was launched on Mt Taranaki, after a backpack was left behind at Holly Hut.

Backpack sparked search and rescue mission after being left behind in mountain hut.

Campbell Lane opens

South Taranaki District mayor Ross Dunlop officiated at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

New development in Hawera gets the thumbs-up from residents.

To Hollywood by motorbike

Todd Holland's work appears on motorbikes in Hollywood movie Ghost in the Shell.

A small-town car painting shop has made it big, with its work featuring in Ghost in the Shell.


Tourism tips in the 1920s

Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles' wedding day.

Memory Lane: How to attract more tourists? The Standard had the answer 95 years ago.

13 reasons to watch

"13 Reasons Why" Star Gets A Tweet From Her Idol Lady Gaga!

Come on kids, time to watch controversial show dealing with suicide.

New act counters cyberbullying

The Harmful Digitial Communications Act was passed in July 2015.

Act helps as more than 20 people prosecuted for posting harmful content online.

NZDF civilians take strike action

Civilian employees of NZDF are on strike about pay.

Union accuses Defence Force of intimidation.


Not a house, it's a croquet shelter

Athol Turner has a few home comforts at the Hinemoa Croquet Club shelter, including coffee and a biography of Alec Guiness.

As the Nelson City Council looks to implement a new law banning sleeping in the city we meet a man who has made a croquet club his home.

Housing crisis help?

David Barnes, right, with his son Samuel Barnes who needs medical care, pictured with the dwelling David built for him ...

A Nelson man built a home on his property for his mentally-ill son. Could this solve our housing issues?

Guilty of murder

Philip Quayle died after being attacked on a street in Cairns, Australia, about 100 metres from home.

A man who choked a Nelson man to death during a random street attack in Cairns has been found guilty of murder.

Taking a leaf out of the future video

Nelson Mail Journalist Tim O'Connell with the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle(EV) that the Nelson Mail has had on loan from ...

Tim O'Connell shares the thrills, trials and tribulations of driving an electric vehicle.


Ophthalmology waiting list halved

The ophthalmology service at Nelson Marlborough Health has been remodelled which has cut the waiting list for those ...

The health board has remodelled its ophthalmology service and cut the waiting list for those needing follow-up.

Pokies accused 'collateral damage'

The Department of Internal Affairs said Mike O'Brien was "unsuitable" to be involved in the pokie gambling business.

Inquiry into who was behind pokie machine operations was flawed, says lawyer.

Old dog with new tricks

Vincent the retired guide dog plays Sandy in the new production of Annie.

A retired guide dog is treading the boards as the furry star of Marlborough's newest musical.

It's the climb

Blenheim cyclist Andrew Bidwell, 16, is aiming for a podium finish at the upcoming Age Group Road National Championships ...

When another cyclist said he was going to make Andrew's race hell, he laughed it off and smashed the pack by five minutes.

South Canterbury

Parents remember 'talented' son

Rowan Yeager died following a crash near Lake Ohau on Anzac Day. This photo, supplied by friend Andrew Weatherall, shows ...

Man killed in crash near Lake Ohau was just a week off moving into house he built by hand.

Cleverley 'exonerated'

Former South Canterbury District Health Board chair Murray Cleverley has spoken out for the first time about his ...

Former SCDHB chair Murray Cleverley says decision to resign as chair was tough.

'We have got a lot of work to do'

SCDHB chief executive Nigel Trainor says the DHB is going try and improve low rates of HPV vaccination by providing more ...

SC has a 'poor' HPV vaccination rate, prompting the DHB to turn to social media.

Strong winds lash SC

Police were called to the scene of a camper van crash on Friday afternoon, thought to be caused by the wind.

Tourists escape with minor injuries after two campers blown off road south of Tekapo.


'They thought it was a dolphin' video

The French tourist arrives at Dunedin Hospital by helicopter after she was attacked by a shark while bodyboarding in ...

A French tourist who survived a shark attack wrenched its jaws from her legs, a local surfer says.

Deadly love triangle

Those on the outside described the McLeans as a "role model family".

A city's been rocked after a broken marriage ended in death. Where'd it all go wrong?

Ocean swimming 'sharks' territory'

Lydia Ward holds her wetsuit with tooth holes and the boogie board she used to fend off a 1.5m shark that bit her on the ...

A former shark attack victim has urged a tourist bitten by a shark to stay true to her passions - including ocean swimming.

Rugby's presidential change

Outgoing Rugby Southland president Donald Hay.

One Eastern Southland rugby stalwart goes, another one replaces him.

Ad Feedback