Annie Aves

Isabel Annie Aves is a name most New Zealanders probably wouldn't recognise. This lady has an unusual claim to fame in that she was bought to trial for murder on four separate occasions. Each time the prosecution failed to gain a conviction as the all-male juries could not agree on a verdict.

Annie lived in Hastings during the Depression years and provided a service to the women of the community, with her abilities as an abortionist making her very much in demand. During an eighteen month period she dealt with 183 people, performing both early and late abortions. Few abortionists at the time would operate after the third month -- Annie was an exception. Though no one knows where she learnt her work it is known that she used the sea-tangle tent which, when inserted into the uterus, absorbed moisture causing miscarriage or premature labour.

In June 1936 the police raided her premises and discovered twenty-two separate collections of foetal remains buried in her garden. Several women also admitted they had used her services, however police could find no sign of sea-tangle tents in her house. Without the tents as evidence the prosecution would find it difficult to get a conviction, especially as the women who gave evidence were also considered accomplices to the crime. Juries did not like to convict abortionists when the women who used their services would suffer no penalty.

C.G. Barker, a former member of the House of Representatives, defended Annie Aves. Her trials were closely followed by the press and, when no verdicts could be reached, few people doubted that she would immediately return to work.

After the trials were over, and Annie was released, she moved to Napier. It was here, in September 1938, that she was approached by a woman wanting an abortion rather than a shotgun marriage. The young lady went in on a Thursday and left the premises a few days later on Saturday. By Sunday she was seriously ill and her boyfriend rushed her to the local hospital where doctors suggested his girlfriend, who he still planned to marry, might well die. He then collected a gun, went over to see Annie Aves and shot her when she opened the door. She died the next day. The young woman she had operated on survived and gave evidence against her boyfriend at his trial. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight-years imprisonment.