THE ROYAL COMMISSION OF
The Royal Commission on the Police Force of Victoria started taking
evidence on Wednesday, 23rd March 1881. The commissioners
The Hon. Francis Longmore, M.L.A. a long time critic
of the police force since the days of Harry Powers escapades, and
particularly that of Captain Standish, as chairman. The Honorable J. H.
Graves, Esq., M.L.A., William. Anderson, Esq., M.L.A., George Randall
Fincham, Esq., M.L.A., James Gibb, Esq., M.L.A., G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,
and E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.
The inclusion of the
Hon. George Wilson Hall, M.L.A. was a particular interesting member of
the board. He was not only the editor of his own Mansfield newspaper and
owner of the Benalla Standard, but a staunch Kelly sympathizer, who had
only just been elected to the Victorian parliament. With Hall, and
Longmore in the chair, the police force was in for a torrid time.
Sadleir later wrote: ‘Mr. Longmore was eminently honest and
conscientious, but he went relentlessly for scalps.’
Not everyone was happy with the appointments to the board, the following
article appearing in the Ovens & Murray Advertiser, Saturday,
March 19, 1881:
THE POLICE BOARD.—”John
Peerybingle” has the following:—That Police Board that has been
appointed is a curiosity in its way. The selection is unique. The
chairman, for a start, is Francis Longmore, who declared last week that
our judges and juries were unfair. Then there is Graves, the man who
lays the charge against the police. He is to be judge, jury, witness,
and prosecutor. George Collins Levy, a very estimable gentleman for
trotting ladies round the Exhibition, but I shouldn’t think he would be
up to much as judge of police duties. E. J. Dixon, a disappointed
Radical, who was not selected for Parliament last year, finds a place at
the board. George Fincham, another Radical, has to sit in judgment on
the bobbies. In fact, taking the board all through, it is a regular
sham, and the public look upon the whole enquiry as a gigantic farce.
The Commission did not finish their
examinations until the 20th September, hearing evidence from
sixty-six witnesses, who were in total asked 18374 questions. (It
should be noted that this figure is 500 more than the total numbering
suggests, due to an error in the numbering system which occurred on page
POLICE FORCE OF
National Library of
Registry Number Aus
Registry in Australia
For transmission by
post as a book
Printed and bound at
The Griffin Press,
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE POLICE FORCE OF
PRESENTED TO BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT BY
HIS EXCELLENCY’S COMMAND.
JOHN FERRES, GOVERNMENT PRINTER,
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
TAKEN BEFORE ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE
POLICE FORCE OF
WEDNESDAY, 23rd MARCH 1881.
Hon. F. LONGMORE,
M.L.A., in the Chair;
J. H. Graves, Esq., M.L.A.,
W. Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,
G. R.. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,
James Gibb, Esq., M.L.A.,
G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,
E J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.
Captain F. C. Standish sworn and
think it would shorten proceedings if I read an exhaustive
statement, and was afterwards examined on that.
Commission specially adjourned from its last sitting in order to
proceed to-day, and it will be necessary to go on with your
am perfectly prepared to give any evidence I may be required, at
1. By the Commission.—How long have you
been in charge of the force?—I was appointed Chief
Commissioner of Police on the 1st September 1858.
2. Coming directly to the business that this Commission was
appointed for, have you formed any idea in your own mind of what
led up to the Kelly outrages?—For several years before
the Kelly outbreak there is no doubt that the North-Eastern
district was a receptacle for horse stealers and cattle
stealers, and that they gave the police force a great deal of
trouble. No outrages were committed in those days, but a
wholesale system of cattle duffing was carried on extensively.
This appears to have culminated in the disturbance at Greta,
when Constable Fitzpatrick went out to serve a warrant on Dan
Kelly for horse stealing. He arrived there, found Dan Kelly,
and, in my opinion, foolishly allowed him to stay and have his
dinner. In the meantime Ned Kelly, Williamson, commonly called “Bricky,”
and his brother-in-law Skillion arrived, with two or three
others of their confederates and friends. A disturbance
immediately took place between these men and Constable
Fitzpatrick, which resulted in Ned Kelly firing at
him, and shooting him through the wrist.
3. Shooting Constable Fitzpatrick?—Yes, shooting him
through the wrist. Fitzpatrick fainted, and lay there in a
semi-comatose state for some time while they cut
the ball out of his wrist; it had been under the skin, and they
allowed him to go. He rode off, and labored under the idea that
he was pursued by two of the outlaws, which I have ascertained
was not the case. Some months after this occurred, I had a
conversation, a long conversation, with Williamson, in Pentridge,
and he entirely corroborated every word of Fitzpatrick’s
evidence and he gave me some considerable information, and
volunteered to assist me in every kind of way. After this
outrage had been committed, steps were taken by Superintendent
Sadleir to apprehend the Kellys—the two Kellys and the two
others, who were then not known by name, and those efforts
having proved fruitless for a good many months, it was
ultimately determined, with my approval, to start two search
parties, well armed, in pursuit of the Kellys. One
started from Mansfield, under the charge of Sergeant Kennedy,
and the other from Wangaratta, under the charge of Sergeant
Steele or some other sub-officer of the police.
4. Was it possibly Senior-Constable Strachan?—I think it was.
5. Was Williamson in prison at the time he gave you that
information?—He was in Pentridge, with a sentence of six years
for that offence.
6. For being present at the shooting?—Yes; I think it was a very
severe punishment myself. A reward of £100 was also offered for
the apprehension of the Kellys. Late on the night of Sunday the
27th October, I received a telegram from Mansfield, announcing
to me that Constables Scanlan and Lonigan had been shot dead,
near Mansfield, by bushrangers. After communicating with the
Chief Secretary early the next morning, I took early steps to
send up reinforcements and special arms. We had a few Spencer
repeating rifles in store, and Mr. Berry asked me not to stint
me any expenditure in arming the police properly. I may state
that the regulation weapon of the mounted police has only been a
revolver for years. I saw a considerable number of the men off
by the 4.30 train the following day. I ordered Superintendent
Nicolson up to take charge of the special service men in the
7 Was that the first time he was sent there?—He was inspecting
superintendent, and had to visit the country districts from time
to time. I gave him authority to take any steps he thought
proper, and to incur any expenditure he thought necessary.
8. What date was that?—Immediately after I received the news. I
also obtained authority from the Chief Secretary to purchase a
number of breech-loading double-barrelled guns, to be sent up to
the district as soon as possible.
9. Then you consider that the original cause of this difficulty
was the lawlessness of the district?—I do.
Captain F. C.
23rd March 1881
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
10. In cattle stealing and horse stealing?—Yes.
11. And that the Kellys had been engaged in that for a length of
time?—For years. Before proceeding further, I wish to point out
to the Commission the very great difficulties which beset the
police in various directions. The Kellys, as is well known, had
an enormous number of sympathizers in the district, and after
their outrages there is not the slightest doubt that a great
many respectable men were in dread of their lives, and were
intimidated by a fear of the consequences from giving any
information whatsoever to the police. Not only their lives and
those of their families were in danger, but their cattle, and
sheep, and horses, and property were liable to be stolen or
destroyed; in addition to which there is not the slightest doubt
that there was an enormous number of tradesmen in the district
who were so benefited by the large increase of the police, and
by the consequent expenditure, that they were only too glad that
this unpleasant business was protracted for so many months. I
may also state that a great many of the local papers never lost
an opportunity of attacking the police in the most unjustifiable
manner and on every possible occasion; and remarks of that kind,
as I think any sensible man must be aware, were not only
calculated to do the police a great deal of harm, but to prevent
their receiving material assistance from anybody. On the 6th
November 1878 I proceeded to Benalla to confer with Mr. Nicolson.
I arrived there about eight o’clock, had supper with Mr.
Nicolson at one of the hotels at Benalla and, whilst we were
talking over matters afterwards, we received an urgent despatch
from Superintendent Sadleir, who was up at Beechworth, saying
that they had received information from a person in Beechworth
that the Kellys had been at Sebastopol, and believed they were
there now. I immediately ordered a special train, and proceeded,
with Mr. Nicolson, nine mounted constables, and one black
tracker, to Beechworth, which we reached soon after three
o’clock in the morning. We started at four o’clock a.m. with
these men and an additional body of men from Beechworth from the
railway station, and made at once to the house of the Sherritt
family, where it was stated the outlaws had been. We arrived
there very early in the morning, scattered our men all round,
keeping them in the bush, and sent a party of seven or eight
men, under Mr. Nicolson, to search the house. Soon after we had
searched the house we heard a shot fired. It was subsequently
ascertained that it was a gun that went off by accident. We all
rushed to the place, and found no traces of the outlaws there.
We then rode on to Mrs. Byrne’s house at Sebastopol, the mother
of Joe Byrne, and Mr. Nicolson and I interviewed her; but I need
not say we got nothing out of her.
12. She gave no information?—None whatever.
13. Did you form the opinion at that time that the information
might have been incorrect that Mr. Sadleir got?—I believe the
information was correct, but we were a day or two after the
fair; so after conferring with Mr. Sadleir and Mr. Nicolson, we
decided it was no use carrying on matters further, and we
returned to Beechworth.
14. As there have been reports made in which the officers have
to some extent given different versions of the matter, and in
some instances have contradicted one another, I am going to ask
you now if you had perfect confidence in the officers who had
charge of the district?—You mean Mr. Sadleir?
15. Superintendents Sadleir, Nicolson, and Hare?—I had at the
time perfect confidence in Mr. Nicolson, although I have not
now. I found very good occasion to doubt him before I left the
16. What tended to shake your confidence in him as an officer of
police?—I have ample proof here of his procrastination and
17. Could you give the Commission some idea of that proof?—I
have the papers here, but I think it would be better to continue
18. You desire to continue your narrative for the present, till
the Kellys were taken?—Yes, I think it would be better.
19. Very well?—About a fortnight before the Euroa bank was stuck
up, in December 1878, I received information from Mr. Nicolson
that a bank would be probable stuck up in the North-Eastern
20. A bank?—Yes. I at once issued instructions to Mr. Hare, who
had several stations on the line of railway, to warn him to take
the necessary steps to protect the banks in his part of the
district. Inspector Green also received similar information from
a prisoner in Pentridge. No provision was made whatever to
protect the banks at Euroa and Violet Town.
21. Whose district was that?—Under Mr. Nicolson, the
North-Eastern district; and as both those townships were close
to the Strathbogie ranges, it was almost sure that one of those
would be selected as the bank to be stuck up. On the 10th
December, shortly after I returned from a public dinner at the
Town Hall, I received information that the Euroa bank had been
22. What is the date on which you warned them to protect the
banks?—Immediately after I had received the information, a week
or ten days before the bank was stuck up.
23. That warning was simply conveyed to Superintendent Hare and
Inspector Green, believing that Superintendent Nicolson, having
given the information, would take the necessary steps
himself?—Yes, it was his duty to do so. At 11 p.m. on the night
of the 10th, I received information that the Euroa bank had been
stuck up. I rushed down to the telegraph office, and was there
most of the night telegraphing.
24. At what hour?—A little before 12 o’clock; and I was at the
office on and off nearly the whole of the night telegraphing.
Communication was interrupted with Benalla, and I had to
telegraph through Deniliquin and Albury; and having heard that
Mr. Nicolson had gone to Albury, I sent a telegraph to him
there, which, I believe, was the first intimation he had of it.
The ensuing day I had to remain in town to see the manager of
the National Bank, and to arrange other matters in connection
with the pursuit of the Kellys. I started the following morning,
the 12th, by the 6.10 a.m. train, and arrived at Euroa about 10
25. You started by the first train?—Yes, the early train. I
there saw Mr. Nicolson, found him very much knocked up in
appearance, and his eyes bad, and so I instructed him to return
to Melbourne to take temporary charge of the Police Department,
my office, in my absence, informing him that I should remain at
Benalla some time. He was very much knocked up physically; he
had had very hard work; that was on the 12th December.
26. That is two days after the robbery?—The robbery was on
the evening of the 10th, and I came by the early train
on the 12th. Mr. Hare came up, by my instructions, by the
evening train; I proceeded to Benalla by the evening train, and
the next day had a long conference with Mr. Wyatt the police
magistrate. Mr. Wyatt informed me that he was returning
from Seymour, or some town on the line of
the night the bank was stuck up, and that as the train
approached Faithfull’s Creek, near Euroa, they pulled up and saw
the telegraph lines on both sides of the railway had been
smashed up a couple of hundred yards.
27. They stopped the train to see that?—Yes; and Mr. Wyatt
informed me that he got out and picked out a bundle of broken
telegraph wires, and took them up with him. On arriving at the
Benalla railway station Mr. Wyatt met Mr. Nicolson and Mr.
28. Was that on the evening of the 10th?—Yes, on the evening of
the bank robbery. Mr. Nicolson and Mr. Sadleir were then
starting on some strange evidence; they had heard from a friend
of the outlaws that the outlaws were going to cross the Murray,
and Mr. Wyatt at once informed Mr. Nicolson of what he had seen
of the smashing up of the telegraph line, and told him that
there was no doubt that the outlaws must have been about there.
29. Where?—At Faithfull’s Creek, or Euroa, or somewhere in that
vicinity. Mr. Nicolson pooh-poohed this information.
30. Are you giving this as your information, or what he told
you?—What he told me; and I hope the Board will examine him. Mr.
Wyatt informed me he pooh-poohed this information, and not only
started away himself, but took Mr. Sadleir with him. On their
arrival at Albury, Mr. Nicolson received information which, I
believe, was my telegram—but I am not quite certain on that—that
the Euroa bank had been robbed.
31. Will you fix the dates?—That is on the 12th.
32. You said the bank was robbed on the 10th?—Yes.
33. You have given evidence that you were at a dinner party that
34. And after that you received a message to say the bank was
robbed, and you went up on the 12th?—Yes.
35. You are now giving evidence that Mr. Nicolson received a
telegram at Albury—I ask you to fix the date; did you telegraph
that night or on the 12th?—I was in the telegraph office all
36. Was it on that occasion you telegraphed to Mr.
Nicolson?—Yes, it was on that night, the night of the 10th, I
telegraphed to Mr. Nicolson, and the information was also sent
to Benalla by this roundabout way, because of the break in the
wires, and a party of men immediately started.
37. Sent by you?—Yes; and I arrived there some time during the
38. Whom was that party in charge of?—There was no officer
there. I think Senior-Constable Johnson was in charge. They
arrived there some time during the night, and they received a
telegram from Mr. Nicolson, telling them not to leave Euroa
until he got there.
39. That would be on the 11th?—Yes, the morning Mr. Nicolson
reached Euroa, on the morning of Tuesday; and after some hours
delay he started off with a party of police, and returned the
next day without any result.
40. You were not there yourself?—This statement can be confirmed
by Mr. Wyatt, Mr. Sadleir, and Constable Johnson.
41. Between the Saturday night that Mr. Wyatt gave you the
information and the time of your seeing Mr. Nicolson, this
information was supplied by some one else?—By Mr. Wyatt. I am
given to understand that, though Mr. Nicolson was aware that it
was intended to stick up the bank, he never gave information to
the local bankers that such a thing was meditated. It seems to
me that it would have been very advisable if Mr. Nicolson, when
in charge, had instructed the telegraph masters to give notice
where the lines were intercepted, whereby a splendid chance of
capturing the outlaws at Faithfull’s Creek was lost.
42. Would he know himself at this time where the interruption
had taken place?—That I cannot tell you. I proceeded to Benalla
on the evening of the 12th, and remained in charge of the
operations there for a period of upwards of six months. The
Government then decided to send parties of the paid artillery to
the various townships of any importance in the North-Eastern
district, where there was any apprehension of the outlaws
sticking up a bank.
43. Was that on your recommendation?—No, it was against my
recommendation. After I had taken charge and direction of
affairs in the North-Eastern district I at once sent search
parties in the various portions of the district where there were
some grounds for believing that the outlaws might be lying, and
where we received information of the possibility of their being
found. I never heard a rumor of the outlaws being likely to be
at any place without at once taking steps to send out police
either to find them or to ascertain the truth of those reports.
I need not say I was most ably seconded by Mr. Hare, who not
only never spared himself in any kind of way, but was most
indefatigable in the pursuit of the outlaws. Not only was he
most active and energetic, but he was so popular with the men
under him that they would have done anything in the world for
him. I fact, he treated the men under him like friends, not like
dogs—you can easily understand.
44. May I draw your attention to this? Was there another officer
of equal standing in the police at Benalla at the time?—Mr.
45. Was Mr. Sadleir of equal rank in the service with Mr.
Hare?—They are both superintendents.
46. Was Mr. Sadleir stationed at Benalla?—Yes, permanently.
47. Was his conduct different from Mr Nicolson’s?—I have made
no reflection on him; but he was in charge of the district.
He was not in charge of the special operations; that I had
to deal with. In addition to these search parties, which
were not sent out on what is called a bootless errand, Mr.
Hare and a certain body of very efficient men formed a camp in
the ranges, near Sebastopol, not very far from Mrs. Byrne’s
house, and where they remained hidden without the slightest
information being furnished of the outlaws or their friends.
During the night they came down and camped in a
sequestered place, close to Mrs. Byrne’s house, and by the
route it was quite certain the outlaws would have taken had they
come there. I went there one evening myself to see Mr. Hare
and confer with him, and spent the night watching with the rest
of the party. There is another very great disadvantage
under which we labored, viz., that the moves of the police in
Benalla, Wangaratta, Mansfield, and Beechworth were closely
watched by the numerous friends and sympathizers of the
outlaws—at Benalla especially; and I may state that if
I had determined, without consulting anybody, in the middle of
any night to come down to the barracks by myself and to start a
party of police, which I could have done in half an hour, I
firmly believe that before the men had left the barracks some of
those spies would have been galloping off to the
outlaws. I must say the
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
officers and men, whilst I was there, were most zealous and most
active, and they went through no end of hardships without a
murmur or a complaint; and whatever the outside public may say,
I can fearlessly assert that, as a body of men, those who were
serving under me there were everything that could be desired.
Some days before the 10th of February 1879 I received intimation
that it was probable that the outlaws would go and stick up a
bank in New South Wales, probably Albury. I gave immediate
information of this to the New South Wales police as well as to
the Inspector-General, and I took every step in my power to
enable the police on the borders of the Murray to give every
assistance to the New South Wales police. About this time it was
mooted by the press generally, and I believe by some of the
Ministers, that it would be very desirable to have black
trackers down from Queensland. I confess I was opposed to it,
being convinced that, though in a large uninhabited district,
where there is a scant population and little or no traffic, the
services of the black trackers, which are chiefly utilized in
pursuing and dispersing the native blacks, are of use, it would
be very little use in a district where there is a large traffic
on all the roads, and where the movements of the outlaws were
known to be wonderfully rapid. It is a well-known fact that they
often used to ride 50, 60, and 70 miles between night and
morning; and knowing, as they did, every corner and nook of the
district, and having their numerous sympathizers, who would very
soon obliterate their tracks, I thought, as I said before, the
black trackers would be little or no use, which certainly was
proved. However, I had to communicate to the Queensland police,
and the result was that Mr. O’Connor and six black trackers, and
a senior constable of the Queensland police, were sent by
steamer to Sydney, and from Sydney to Albury, where I met them
on the 6th of March. I remained the following day at Albury with
Mr. O’Connor, and we proceeded to Benalla on the 8th of March.
Though we had no information, still we thought it necessary to
obtain some indication of the way in which they could work in
our district; so on Tuesday the 11th March a party started for
the ranges — the black trackers under Mr. O’Connor, and several
mounted constables under Superintendent Sadleir. Mr. O’Connor
was anxious that only a couple of men should go with him; but as
we had no knowledge of their skill in tracking, and knowing
that, under the peculiar circumstances of the rapidity of the
outlaws’ movements, the trackers would not be of much use, I
would not consent to him going out alone, but sent Mr. Sadleir
with him. No doubt trackers can be utilized in following the
traces of men on foot, but for this kind of work they are really
perfectly useless, because their movements are so slow. I see in
the printed documents which were sent to me a letter from Mr.
O’Connor. I can merely say it is full of misrepresentations, and
I have not the slightest intention of taking notice of it.
48. Was it the latter of the 7th September 1880 or the one of
the 12th August 1880 you refer to?—It was the 7th September
letter I refer to.
49. That, you say, is full of misstatements?—Full of
50. And not worthy of notice?—Yes. I should only remark that Mr.
O’Connor states that, during the whole sixteen months he was
here, he was treated by me with the greatest discourtesy. To
that I give the lie direct. For several months when he first
came—for three or four months we lived together, and we were
always on the best of terms; but when I found out things about
him, which I do not wish to state before the Commission, I
ceased my intimacy, with him. In fact, if I were to state things
that I can prove by direct evidence, it would show you how
utterly unreliable a man he is.
51. He was in the service of the Victorian police at that
52. Was he a part of the police force of Victoria?—He was sworn
in when he arrived. With reference to a part of that letter
which refers to the expedition to the Warby ranges I must refer
you to Mr. Hare’s evidence, as he can give more satisfactory
evidence on that point. About the end of June, after having been
upwards of six months at Benalla, finding that all the business
in my office was being frightfully muddled, and that things were
going wrong both in Melbourne and the country districts, I
obtained the authority of the Chief Secretary for my return to
53. In June 1879?—Yes.
54. Was that Mr. Ramsay?—No, Mr. Berry, Chief Secretary at the
time; and Mr. Nicolson, being next in seniority, I had to send
him up, though I confess I had but little faith in his energy.
55. Was that immediately after your return?—Yes, immediately
after my return; and I instructed Mr. Hare to resume charge of
his district, which also required a deal of supervision.
56. What date was that?—On the 26th of June.
57. Did you send Mr. Nicolson up?—I sent him up immediately.
Shortly after my return I had several interviews with the Chief
Secretary, who was not unnaturally dissatisfied at the
continuous heavy expenditure of the police in pursuit of the
Kellys. I may here state that the great bulk of the expenditure
was caused by the new travelling allowances for the police,
which were amended and approved by the Government. I should
think considerably more than half the expenditure was travelling
allowances to members of the police force away from their
district, and it must be borne in mind that many of them were
married men separated from their wives and families. Mr. Berry
instructed me to do all I could to reduce the expenditure. I
conferred with Mr. Nicolson, and made reductions wherever I
possibly could; and with the view of making a large permanent
reduction in the expenditure, I permanently transferred to the
North-Eastern district all the members of the police force who
had been sent there. Of course this was only a temporary force,
but it was absolutely necessary to cut down the expenditure.
From time to time I used to meet Mr. Nicolson at Benalla and
used to write to him, but both on paper and verbally he was
always most absurdly reticent. During the eleven months he was
there he hardly ever sent out a search party except just before
he was recalled. I left the direction of affairs in his hands,
save and except when I was acting under the instructions of the
Minister. Mr. Nicolson, it seems, employed a great many agents,
some of whom were, to my knowledge, in the habit of
communicating with and meeting the outlaws. Mr. Nicolson
frequently received reliable information as to the whereabouts
of the outlaws, but he took no steps whatever to act on the
information, which I believe would clearly, in more than one
instance, have led to the capture of the outlaws. Mr. Nicolson
used to say to me on every possible occasion, “I have the
outlaws surrounded by my spies, and have my hands upon them. It
is not a chase of months or weeks, but of days and hours.” That
was his favorite utterance to me on every possible occasion, and
from information which I have received from time to time, I
believe there is no doubt whatever that nearly the whole time
Mr. Nicolson was in charge the outlaws were hanging about Greta
58. How far is that from Benalla?—They are about five miles
59. As you stated that during the whole time that the outlaws
were in the neighbourhood of Greta and Glenrowan, you had better
say how far those are from Benalla?—Glenrowan is about
twenty-five miles by rail, I think. Oh! No, it is a little more
than half way to Wangaratta.
60. What is the distance?—I cannot say exactly.
61. How far is Greta?—Greta is about ten miles, I think, from
Benalla; and Glenrowan, I think, is about fourteen or fifteen
miles. Whilst Mr. Nicolson was at Benalla, the following little
incident occurred. ——— was riding through the bush.
62. Who was he?—He is a connection of the Kellys. He was riding
through the bush, ten or twelve miles from Benalla, and he saw
the four outlaws on horseback together with Tom Lloyd.
63. Who is Tom Lloyd?—Tom Lloyd is a cousin of the Kellys. He
did not go near them, but rode straight home to his own place as
hard as he could go. When he got home, and went inside his house
about dusk, he saw Tom Lloyd go and look at his horse in the
paddock, and then take his place at the sliprails. He looked out
several times during the night and saw Lloyd still there. Next
day —— caught his horse, and while riding along the road, near
Wangaratta, he met Mr. Sadleir, who was eight miles from Oxley,
or somewhere in that direction.
64. What was the day?—I have not got the date, but Mr. Sadleir
and Mr. Hare will be able to give it. —— told Mr. Sadleir what
he had seen on the previous day, and described the spot to him.
Mr. Sadleir rode in as fast as he could to Wangaratta, and
telegraphed to Mr. Nicolson that he had some important
information, and to get everything ready for an early start, and
he (Mr. Sadleir) would be at Benalla by the last train. On his
arriving at Benalla he gave all the information to Mr. Nicolson.
It was arranged that the black trackers and a party of men were
to start away at one o’clock the next morning. Mr. Nicolson, Mr.
Sadleir, and Mr. O’Connor were to accompany the party. Mr.
Nicolson telegraphed to me to come up to Benalla by the early
train next morning. At one o’clock in the morning the men were
all ready, with their horses saddled. Senior-Constable Irwin was
in charge of the men. Mr. Nicolson turned up, and gave orders
for the saddles to be taken off the horses, and for the men to
go back to their quarters. Shortly after this Mr. Sadleir
arrived at the barrack yard, and found all the saddles off the
horses, and, upon asking the reason of this, was told that Mr.
Nicolson had given the orders. Mr. Sadleir then went to the
office, and found Mr. Nicolson and Mr. O’Connor there. He asked
him if any further news had been obtained to cause the change of
plans. Mr. Nicolson replied, “No; but I have been thinking about
the matter all night, and have decided not to disturb the
outlaws just now.” A telegram was sent to me at that hour not to
come up to Benalla. There is no doubt that though Mr. Sadleir
did not know of the exact spot, he could easily have obtained
information from ——.
65. Have you no general idea of the date at which this
occurred?—I have not; but I have a perfect recollection of it,
but I cannot fix the date. Mr. Hare will be able to fix it.
66. And the official records will show it?—Yes.
67. Was it in the early part or the latter part of the
search?—It was the early part of last year, 1880. I have ample
proof of still further acts of gross neglect on the part of Mr.
Nicolson. About the 25th of May last ——, one of the —— family,
was at Mrs. Byrne’s house, and, just before she left, Joe Byrne
and Dan Kelly came to the house, and subsequently Ned Kelly and
Steve Hart, and sat down to tea. —— walked home a distance of
about three miles.
68. While they were having tea?—No, after having had tea there.
She informed her mother, Mrs. ——, who went into Beechworth next
morning and told Detective Ward what her daughter had seen, and
no notice was taken of it at all.
69. That would be on the 26th?—Yes, the morning of the 26th,
about a week before Mr. Nicolson was removed from Benalla.
70. Can you fix the dates?—Much of this information did not come
under my cognizance at the time. The witnesses can prove the
dates. The persons referred to can prove the dates.
71. You gave evidence of what occurred on the 25th and 26th of
March, before the outlaws were captured, and you see Mr.
Nicolson was in charge on the 25th of May, but Mr. Hare
succeeded him early in June, therefore it is most important that
you should fix the dates, because you see Mr. Hare succeeded him
a couple of days after?—About a week before Mr. Nicolson was
removed from Benalla, Mrs. —— got up early to look for cows, and
when passing an unoccupied house, about six or seven miles from
Beechworth, she saw Joe Byrne getting on his horse. She said,
“What are you doing here, Joe?” and his reply was, “Looking for
Hare, to shoot him.” She had some further conversation with him,
and he rode away, and Mrs. —— made her way into Beechworth and
informed Detective Ward, who telegraphed the fact to Benalla.
The result was that that night Mr. Nicolson, Mr. Sadleir, and
Mr. O’Connor went to Beechworth without the trackers, saw Mrs.
——, who stated what she had seen, and decided it was no use
going after him, and they returned to Benalla next day. Towards
the end of April 1880, I had some conversation with the then
Chief Secretary, Mr. Ramsay, on the Kelly business. He asked me
my opinion how things were going on. I said I thought that
nothing was being done now, and that, beyond employing
unreliable spies, I did not see what good Mr. Nicolson would
ever effect. Mr. Ramsay told me he intended to consult his
colleagues on the subject, and a few days afterwards sent for me
and informed me that the Cabinet had unanimously decided that
Mr. Nicolson should be removed from his position, and that Mr.
Hare should be sent in his place, as they were of opinion that
Mr. Hare was the most able and efficient man for that duty. I
was requested to communicate the decision of the Government to
72. What position did Mr. Nicolson occupy at that time?—He was
in charge. I sent him after I returned to my duties.
73. Was he next in charge to yourself in the force?—Yes.
74. You said he was removed by the opinion of the Cabinet; the
question asked you is this, what position did Mr. Nicolson
occupy in the police force?—He was Inspecting Superintendent of
Police with the honorary title of Assistant Commissioner. It was
a title conferred on him by request of Mr. John Thomas Smith,
without my being consulted.
75. You gave in evidence that, in conversation with Mr. Ramsay,
he said he would lay it before his Cabinet, and that they
unanimously arranged to remove Mr. Nicolson from his
position?—From charge of the district.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
76. You said from his position, and I then asked you what you
meant by the position?—They unanimously decided to remove him
from the charge of the Kelly operations. I at once communicated
the decision of the Government to Mr. Nicolson, and got in reply
a request that I would arrange with the Chief Secretary that Mr.
Nicolson should have an interview with him. I met Mr. Ramsay at
Government House that day, and I told him, and asked him if he
would accede to it. Mr. Ramsay said he did not see any necessity
for seeing him, but if Mr. Nicolson wished it he would see him,
but he would only see him in my presence. I communicated this to
Mr. Nicolson, and he came down, and we had fixed a certain hour
next day—I think 10.30 a.m.—to see Mr. Ramsay, and I told him of
this. I also told him that Mr. Ramsay only wanted to see him in
my presence. I went to my office, as I always did, at nine
o’clock, and had occasion a few minutes afterwards to go and see
Mr. Odgers, the Under Secretary, when I saw Mr. Nicolson trying
to force his way into the Chief Secretary’s office. I am not
certain whether Mr. Ramsay was in or not. We went and saw Mr.
Ramsay in the course of the morning, and Mr. Nicolson spoke for
about three-quarters of an hour the most incoherent nonsense I
ever heard in my life. Mr. Ramsay decided that he was not to
remain there; but, at Mr. Nicolson’s request, and with my
concurrence, he was allowed to remain there another month. Mr.
Nicolson came down to my office afterwards, when I asked him,
“When are you going back?” He said, “I am going back by the next
train—the afternoon train.” He not only did not do that, but he
remained in Melbourne, and went to Sir James McCulloch to ask
him to go and see Mr. Ramsay, and intercede on his behalf. Sir
James McCulloch went there, but after a few moments’
conversation with Mr. Ramsay he withdrew his request. Shortly
afterwards Mr. Nicolson forced his way into Mr. Ramsay’s private
business office, and, as Mr. Ramsay told me, spoke of me in a
very nasty way, and abused me, whereupon Mr. Ramsay said, “Mr.
Nicolson, supposing you were head of a department, and one of
your subordinate officers came to me and abused you behind your
back, what would you think?” That day a telegram marked “Very
urgent” was sent to Mr. Nicolson; it was addressed to the
77. How long was this after the 26th of June?—This was early
in May. The following day a telegram marked “urgent” was
addressed to Mr. Nicolson at the detective office. I
thought he had returned, so it was brought to me. I
opened it, and I found by that he could not possibly have
returned, so on chance I went down to the railway station to see
if he was going off by the afternoon train that day. I waited
there for a few minutes, and just as the train was starting in
tumbled Mr. Nicolson. I only had time to hand him the
telegram and to give him a bit of my mind. In fact I
may say that on that occasion, and subsequently when he
was relieved, he behaved to me in a most discourteous, insolent,
and ungentlemanly manner; and if I had not been a man who
is gifted with not a very bad temper, I should not
only have given him a bit of my mind but I would have
suspended him from duty; but I had no animosity against
anybody in the department. Though I had a great contempt
for the man, I had no ill-feeling against him. On Sunday
the 27th of June 1880 I left my residence about a quarter past
two. A few minutes after I had left a telegram arrived from
Mr. Hare. I did not return to my abode till half-past four,
when I found this telegram. It was announcing the murder
of Sherritt by some of the outlaws. Mr. Hare requested me
to communicate with Mr. O’Connor, who had come down to
Melbourne on his way back to Queensland with the trackers, and
to request him and urge upon him the propriety of assisting the
department by returning at once to Beechworth. On the receipt
of this telegram I at once sent a letter out to Mr. O’Connor,
who, I heard, was staying at Essendon; sent him it by a hansom,
and immediately wrote a letter to Mr. Ramsay to inform him of
this. In my letter I said I had written to Mr. O’Connor;
that I was not certain whether he would consent to go or not,
but that if he did I should either send them up by the early
morning train or by a special train if necessary. Shortly
after Mr. Ramsay received this letter. In the meantime I had
been down at the telegraph office to communicate with Mr.
Hare, and I returned to the club and I found Mr. Ramsay
just arrived, and I talked the matter over with him; and I had
not seen Mr. O’Connor, and was not certain whether he would go
back; but he took me up to Mr. Gillies’ place, which was near
Mr. Ramsay’s, and got for me an order for a special train. I
returned to the club with this in my pocket, and just about this
time Mr. O’Connor turned up. I told him, and asked him
if he was willing to go up; said it was a matter of great
urgency; and he, in a rather haw-haw way, said he did not see
any objection, and said he would go; and I asked when he would
be ready to go, and he said he would go this evening. I told
him I had an order for a special train and I would get it at
once. He asked me to get the train to meet him at
Essendon, as his black trackers were at the late John Thomas
Smith’s place. I went down to the station and ordered the
special train, and he left about half-past nine or ten; I do not
know the time exactly. About twenty minutes to six the
following morning, Monday the 28th of June, I was asleep in bed
when I was knocked up. A telegram was handed to me, saying
that Superintendent Hare and his party would join Mr. O’Connor
at Benalla. Had encountered the outlaws at Glenrowan; that
Superintendent Hare in the early part of the encounter had been
shot through the wrist by the first shot. It was too late. I
could not have possibly caught the early train, so I
communicated at once with Mr. Ramsay, and got an order for a
special train to take me up about nine o’clock. An hour before I
was going to start I got a telegram announcing that Ned Kelly
had been taken alive. A few minutes afterwards I went down to
the railway station, and there I heard that Joe Byrne had been
shot dead. I started by special train, and got to Benalla about
two o’clock. There was an encumbrance on the line, and the
special train could not go on. I went to the hotel at Benalla to
see Superintendent Hare. I sat with him a short time, and then
went back to the railway station, and was detained there till
four o’clock. Just before the train left a telegram came down to
say that the whole thing was over; the house had been burned,
and the charred remains of Steve Hart and Dan Kelly had been
found in the house. I went on the special train, and when I
got there everything was over. I instructed Mr. Sadleir not to
hand over the charred remains of the outlaws. It is just
possible he may have misunderstood me, but I certainly did say
that to him; but it seems that possibly there was a
misapprehension. He allowed the friends of the outlaws to take
away those two charred stumps, as you may call them. I saw Ned
Kelly lying severely wounded, and the body of Byrne. I ordered
Ned Kelly to be brought down to Benalla at once, where he was
put in the lock-up and attended to. Byrne’s body was also
brought down, and photographed there the next morning without my
knowledge. An inquest was held on Byrne and I instructed him to
be buried straight off in the Benalla cemetery. After inviting
medical opinion, I found it was perfectly safe and advisable to
send Ned Kelly down to Melbourne. Having ascertained
there was no risk in having Ned Kelly sent down to the Melbourne
gaol, I ordered him to be taken down in a special carriage by
the afternoon train, I think it was. I stayed at Benalla that
day, and had an interview with Mr. Curnow, the schoolmaster, to
whom certainly we are indebted for saving the lives of all the
police, and for putting us on the track of the Kellys. I
returned to Melbourne the following day.
78. Is that all?—That concludes
my evidence. Of course, I am ready to answer any questions that
may be put to me.
79. By the Chairman.—I intend to ask you a few questions
upon your report of the 15th March 1880; and after that I will
ask Inspector Nicolson and Mr. O’Connor whether they have
anything to say, or any questions to ask you. In your report of
the 5th of July, you say—“It is asserted and implied that the
long-continued efforts of the police force to trace and capture
the outlaws have been characterised by supiness and apathy; that
the police have been, in many cases, influenced by a desire to
avoid rather than meet the offenders, while in connection with
the recent outbreak, which led to the destruction of the gang,
it is asserted that I have been guilty of most culpable
procrastination; that the police officers have shown a want of
generalship, and the conduct of the members of the force has
been, according to some, characterised by an inconceivable
disregard of human life, and, according to others, by an absence
of that courage and dash which every good constable should
possess. I have long felt the injustice of these reflections,
and I think the time has now arrived when I can properly ask to
have it ascertained whether they are deserved or not.” Now I
think that, in the evidence that you have now given before the
Commission, you have asserted that there was both supineness and
apathy on the part of Mr. Nicolson?—Certainly.
80. You must have been aware of that at the time you wrote
this—this is the 5th of July 1880, after the Kellys were
81. What was the period at which you lost confidence in Mr.
Nicolson?—During his last stay in Benalla. He remained there
eleven months; and, as I have stated in the evidence, he kept
saying he had his hand upon those outlaws.
82. That was before 1880?—Yes, that was the early part of last
83. During his last stay at Benalla you lost confidence in
him?—He was doing nothing.
84. We want to know the time you began to lose confidence in
him?—I cannot say the particular date; but if a man stays eleven
months without ever doing anything, and always saying he is
going to catch them immediately—has his eye upon them—I cannot
85. That was before June 1879, where you spoke of his being most
insolent to you, and but for your good temper you would have
thought of suspending him?—That was in June 1880.
86. We have it in your evidence here that, on the 11th December,
Mr. Nicolson went down and returned on the 12th; and you are
given to understand that Mr. Nicolson did not warn the bankers
that an effort was to be made to stick up a bank?—That is so.
87. You say he did not warn the railway telegraph people, and so
a splendid chance was lost to capture the Kellys?—Yes.
88. Had you confidence in him then. Can you fix about the time.
Were these the things that were leading up to the want of
confidence in him?—Well it rather shook my faith in him. I may
say this letter of 5th July was written after that. I wanted an
investigation into the matter, but that the Honourable Mr.
Service, who was then Prime Minister, in the election at Maldon
made a speech strongly reflecting on me, and the remarks were
most unfair and uncalled for.
89. Have you got that speech?—I do not know for what purpose he
turned round, and, pointing to his colleague (Mr. Ramsay), said
the fact is it was Mr. Ramsay that caught the Kellys. I think it
was a most unjustifiable proceeding on the part of Mr. Service,
and most uncalled for.
90. On the 5th July 1880 had you confidence in Mr. Nicolson?—I
did not refer to Mr. Nicolson in the letter at all.
91. Had you lost confidence in Mr. Nicolson on that date?—I had,
and long before.
92. How long?—Three or four months before.
93. What is the date of that?—Fifteenth of March 1880.
94. I refer to all these things you made reference to—first,
supineness and apathy; and, secondly, that they desired rather
to avoid than meet the Kellys. “That I have been guilty of most
culpable procrastination; that the police officers have shown a
want of generalship.” In what way do you desire to qualify that,
or can you qualify it?—You know the police are constantly
attacked in newspapers. Not that it ever affected me in the
least, and, being a public servant, it never affects me.
95. You say, there, “I have been charged with being guilty of
most culpable procrastination”?—That is Mr. Service’s statement.
96. “That the police officers have shown a want of generalship.”
Do you believe “that the police officers have shown a want of
generalship,” all or any, and, if so, particularise the ones, if
you do say they showed a want of generalship. Do you believe
they did or not?—None of those who were actively engaged in the
pursuit of the Kellys did.
97. Do you say Superintendent Hare showed generalship, and it
would be a false charge saying he showed a want of
generalship?—It would be. We could not have had a better
98. Do you say Mr. Sadleir showed want of generalship, you being
Chief Commissioner of Police at that time?—He never was at the
head of affairs.
99. You do not say he showed want of generalship?—No.
100. Do you think Mr. Nicolson showed want of generalship?—I do.
101. What were you in the service until you left it?—I was Chief
Commissioner of Police.
102. What was Mr. Nicolson?—Inspecting Superintendent of Police
with the honorary title of “Assistant Commissioner.”
103. Is that honorary title of “Assistant Commissioner”
recognised either by the police law or the regulations?—There is
no such title in the regulations.
104. What, by the regulations, are the duties of an inspecting
superintendent, which Mr. Nicolson was?—His duties are, by my
instruction as head of the department, to visit the districts,
and to visit all stations, and to make a special report on them,
and otherwise to be employed on such duties as the head of the
department might direct him to perform.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
105. I understand you to say that he was to act, under your
instructions, certain duties. Are these his duties:—“It is the
duty of the inspecting superintendent to proceed from time to
time, in accordance with such instructions as he may receive
from the Chief Commissioner, to the several districts, for the
purpose of minutely inspecting the force, and reporting on the
state in which he finds it, or for the purpose of investigating
and reporting on any charge of misconduct against the police, or
any other matter which the Chief Commissioner of Police may wish
to have enquired into”?—Those are his duties.
106. Who is the next officer after Mr. Nicolson?—Superintendent
Winch is the senior superintendent, who is in charge of the City
107. Who is the next officer?—Mr. Chomley.
108. The next?—I cannot remember all.
109. Is it not Mr. Hare?—No.
110. Is it Mr. Chambers?—I really cannot tell you. He is one of
the five first.
111. The Commission wish to know how the districts are situated.
Now in whose district is Melbourne and the suburbs?—Mr. Winch’s,
the superintendent of the City police.
112. And outside the city of Melbourne whose district comes
in?—Many of the suburbs are in the metropolitan police.
113. From North Melbourne, in that district called the
North-Eastern, what superintendent is in charge of the portion
between the Melbourne district north-easterly towards the
North-Eastern district?—That is what is called the Bourke
district. Mr. Hare is in charge.
114. Then Mr. Hare joins onto the Benalla district?—Yes, and the
115. Who is the officer in charge of the North-Eastern
116. Was he there at the time of the murders?—Yes.
117. Is he there now?—Yes.
118. Who are his inspectors?—Sub-Inspector Baber at Benalla,
Sub-Inspector Pewtress at Mansfield.
119. Taking the North-Eastern line, and commencing at Melbourne,
what station does Mr. Hare’s district stop at?—Avenel.
120. What is the next station?—Euroa.
121. Is that the station the bank was robbed at. Do you mean us
to understand that the banks along the line were notified up to
the boundary of Mr. Hare’s district?—I was informed that some of
the banks in the North-Eastern district were likely to be stuck
122. I understand you to say that the banks in the district in
which Mr. Nicolson was were not so informed. Is that correct?—I
believe they were not.
123. And then at Avenel Mr. Hare’s district terminates?—Yes.
124. And Mr. Sadleir’s commences?—Yes.
125. Mr. Nicolson took charge of Mr. Sadleir’s district, under
your instructions, after the murders?—He had charge of the Kelly
126. In that district?—In that district.
127. Those are the two districts in which all these matters
128. Did anything in connection with the Kellys that you have
told the Board of in your evidence occur out of the
North-Eastern district—were Euroa, Mansfield, Greta, and
Glenrowan in the North-Eastern district?—Yes.
129. Would Wodonga be in it?—Yes.
130. Did you mean to say in your evidence that Mr. Nicolson went
to Albury or Wodonga?—Albury.
131. That is out of the colony?—Yes.
132. In the sub-districts where the inspectors are you mentioned
Mr. Pewtress, where does his district go to?—From the Broken
River north to Wood’s Point south.
133. Where is Mr. Baber’s district?—He has no sub-district, he
is stationed at Benalla.
134. Was there an officer at Beechworth at the time?—Mr. Brook
135. And all those outrages have been committed in the
North-Eastern district—the murder of Sherritt, the Glenrowan
affair, the murders at Wombat, and the robbery at the Bank, have
all occurred in the North-Eastern district?—Yes.
136. What was the strength of the district at the time of the
murders, the number of the men?—I really cannot tell.
137. How many men was it increased by?—Well I think about a
hundred or a little over; a hundred and twenty men at one time.
138. Do you know the distance from the Wombat where the murders
were committed, known as Stringybark Creek, to the place where
the murderers were brought to justice, burnt, and
shot?—Glenrowan—I can put my finger on the map, but cannot tell
139. Is it under 30 miles?—I should think about 30 miles.
140. How far is it from Greta, the residence of the Kellys, to
the bank at Euroa?—I can spot them on the map, but I have not
noticed the distance exactly.
141. On the report you made certain recommendations. “I have
therefore the honor to request that an enquiry may be instituted
by the Government,” and before that you say “the conduct of the
members of the force has been, according to some, characterised
by an inconceivable disregard of human life, and according to
others, by an absence of that courage and dash which every good
constable should possess.” Now is it your opinion there is the
least want of courage or dash in the constables or sergeants of
police?—I do not think so.
142. Do you believe there was supineness or apathy in these men
as a body or in individual cases of constables shirking their
duty, or in bringing the murderers to justice?—I believe all the
police employed in the North-Eastern district were most anxious
to catch the outlaws and would have endangered their lives to
143. That is your evidence as the head of the department, and
after being six months with them?—Yes, I do not say that in the
force every man is a hero; there may be some perhaps who have
not much courage, but as a body I cannot speak too highly of the
men under me for the six months I was at Benalla.
144. You were in constant daily communication with the
sergeants, constables, and men at Benalla?—I was.
145. Did you ever see the slightest reluctance at any time or
period of the day or night to go out at once to perform their
duty?—No, on the contrary, a laudable anxiety.
146. According to that, you approve of the conduct of those
police who allowed the men to escape after the shooting of
Sherritt, was that courageous conduct?—My firm belief is that if
they had left the house every one would have been shot dead.
147. You ask that “the enquiry may be full and impartial, and
open to receive the evidence of all persons, whether members of
the force or not, who may have information on the subject to
communicate”—of course, that the country expect—but you say
“that the proceedings should not be open to the press, for
though the full details of what the police have been doing
should be known to the Government, it would be obviously
contrary to public policy that they should be published for
general information.” I suppose you are aware that all the
members on this Board are more or less identified with the
public, Members of Parliament, or otherwise; that they receive
no remuneration; that they have been severely criticised on this
Board; and do you think it would be fair to them that the press
should not be present?—My only objection to the press being
present has been entirely laid aside by the remark made by the
Chairman on the first meeting of the Board, which was to the
effect that those portions of the evidence which may bring
certain men into positions of annoyance and danger may not be
reported by the press.
148. Your number two recommendation you consider unnecessary
now, provided what the Chairman said is carried out?—Certainly;
I have not the remotest objection to it; the only thing is, I
hope the Commission will be good enough to exercise a certain
amount of discretion to prevent the names of people being
admitted into these proceedings to whom the consequences may be
serious, or even fatal.
149. Then you wind up your report with this remark—“They report
of the gentlemen making the enquiry should, I think, be all that
should find its way into the hands of the public.” Now, provided
that the names of the parties who would suffer in their persons
or their property by giving information or evidence here are
protected by the discretion of the Chairman, do you consider it
at all desirable that the public should not have the fullest
information upon it?—I think not. Might I be allowed to suggest
that some names I mentioned to-day should not appear upon the
mentioned the names of several people named in his evidence
which he wished to be left blank.
requested the shorthand writer to comply with Captain Standish’s
150. Did you approve of the burning of Mrs. Jones’s hotel, while
the outlaws were there?—I was not there.
151. From what you have since, do you approve of it?—There is
one matter to be considered, whether the outlaws were burnt
152. I mean, taking the evidence as we have it, from what we
suppose, whether they were dead or alive, would that action meet
with your approval?—If I had been in charge of the operations, I
should not have had the house burnt down.
153. Who was in charge at that time?—Mr. Sadleir.
154. I suppose, after all, there is a certain amount of latitude
allowed to men of the force who are in danger?—Yes.
155. What was the nature of those instructions communicated to
the police officers in the North-Eastern District regarding
their actions, should they receive any intelligence of the
outlaws. Were there any special instructions?—Every member of
the police force was, if he heard any information, to
communicate at once with the officer in charge of the district;
but if there were good grounds for believing they were in a
certain place, and he could get a few men to go with him, he
could go at once; but that in urgent cases——
156. They had liberty to take action at once?—Yes, if they had a
sufficient body of men to warrant their going out, but if one
man heard the outlaws were a few miles off, of course he could
not go himself.
157. I ask the question, because it was stated they were limited
by certain regulations, and complaints have been made about
red-tapeism, that they had good information, but that they could
not act upon it without first communicating with the Police
Department, and great delay, in consequence, ensued?—If the
officer at Mansfield had information, it was his duty to
telegraph it at once to the head of the district, and if he had
sufficient men, to proceed at once. If he has only one man he
could not go out himself.
158. What number would you consider it prudent for any man to
start with?—Four men.
159. Then any petty officer in charge of any three men would be
justified, as soon as he had telegraphed the news to his
superior officer, in starting at once in pursuit?—Yes.
160. Was there any instance of such a thing, where men receiving
such information, did not proceed?—I cannot bear in mind any
case of that kind.
161. No similar case occurring at Mansfield?—No; because you
know there were no end of reports and rumors flying about, a
great many false reports circulated, and if we had sent the
police after every shadowy report of that kind, we should have
worn the whole of them out to no purpose.
162. I mean from the officer in charge?—If the officer in
charge, or the senior sub-officer in charge saw his way to catch
the outlaws, it was his duty to do so.
163. Mr. Hare in his official report says, “I also told them
that at each of these towns I would have a full party of men
stationed, so that, if any information was received about the
Kellys, they would be in a position to go in pursuit at once;
and all I wished them to do was to communicate by telegraph with
me previous to their starting off, so that I might know in which
direction they had gone.” The question is this, if Mr. Hare gave
that instruction in June when he resumed the command, is it
within your knowledge that that was not the rule prior to his
assuming command. It has been stated in the public press and
elsewhere that there was a regulation in force, presumably
through you as the permanent and responsible head of the
department that, if the Kellys were heard of by the police,
under no circumstances were they to go after them unless they
had communicated with the head of the department; and the
question I ask is, as Mr. Hare in his official report gives
certain instructions, therefore it looks like a different
instruction from those previously acted on, was it or not?—I do
not know what regulations Mr. Nicolson may have issued when in
charge of the Kelly operations; I can say I never issued any.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
164. If there were regulations of that sort, they were not in
accordance with your instructions as the responsible head of the
165. At the time you took charge of the Benalla district you
stated you organized search parties?—We had search parties.
166. How many did those search parties generally consist of?—No
fixed number, it differed.
167. From six to——?—Nine or ten.
168. In the event of those search parties being sent out, if
they obtained what they believed to be reliable information,
were they allowed to proceed without waiting for any orders or
instructions from you?—Certainly.
169. Those parties were not instructed to go a certain distance,
and then if they had obtained no information to return at
certain fixed periods?—No, they had instructions to act
according to the best of their judgement generally.
170. Was there no limitation as to the time they were to
return?—When they were to return?
171. Were they under the charge of officers?—Some were, and some
172. There was always some recognised head to each party?—Yes.
173. In asking about the districts, I neglected one station, I
recollect now—was there not an officer at Kilmore, the nearest
station to Euroa, in the Bourke district?—Yes, Mr. Baber was
174. The Chairman (to Mr. Nicolson).—Do you desire
to ask any questions?—I do.
I to submit to be cross-examined by anyone who is called here?
(to Mr. Nicolson).—Any question you ask now must arise
out of the evidence just given.
175. By Mr. Nicolson.—Of course you know the difference
between what is evidence, and what are mere statements?—I know
what is the difference between what is speaking the truth and
telling a lie.
175a. That is not my question; you are aware of the difference
between the two——
176. By the Commission.—The question asked is, do you
know the difference between direct evidence and hearsay
evidence?—Everything I have stated is not exactly from my own
knowledge, but I know it is true.
177. You stated about Mr. Wyatt?—Mr. Wyatt told me it.
178. By Mr. Nicolson.—Is not a great portion of your
evidence mere hearsay, and not what came within your own
knowledge?—I know it is true.
179. That is not an answer to my question?—I have no other
179a. Is there not a considerable portion of the statements you
have given just now hearsay?—Some of it, but I know it to be
180. You were asked about the cause of the lawlessness at
Beechworth, and you spoke of the wholesale system of
cattle-stealing there; are you not aware that there are other
causes of lawlessness in the North-Eastern District?—That was
the principal crime of the district.
181. Are you aware whether there was any other reason for the
Kelly gang taking the field?—I believe these outrages would
never have happened if it had not been for the shooting of
Constable Fitzpatrick, and the consequent anger and indignation
of the Kellys at their mother having received that severe
sentence, and at their associates having received the sentence
of six years.
182. Were you aware before this man Fitzpatrick was sent there
that he was a man of bad character?—I was not; he was strongly
recommended to me by Mr. C. A. Smyth.
183. Had you not occasion to remove him from Schnapper Point up
to the North-Eastern District?—No; the incidents that came to my
knowledge afterwards occurred at Schnapper Point, but I never
had information of them till after he was sent to Benalla.
184. Are you not aware that for some years, a considerable
number of years back, the Beechworth district has been
unfortunate through various circumstances, in the officers
stationed there, officers dying, and through frequent changes of
officers, peculiarly so?—I do not know what you are talking
185. Are you not aware that for some years, a considerable
number of years back, the Beechworth district has been
unfortunate in the officers stationed there, officers dying, and
through frequent changes of officers, peculiarly so?—There were
one or two; Mr. Barkley, in charge, died. What has that to do
with this case?
186. By the Commission.—Was it more so than any other
district?—I am not aware of it. At one time it was necessary to
remove one or two men from a certain part of the district, but
there was not a general removal of all hands.
187. By Mr. Nicolson.—Were there not officers removed
from time to time?—So they are in any district; state whom you
188. I refer to a series of officers?—Then speak out; none of
your mysterious hints about officers.
189. Are you not aware—I have a delicacy in mentioning the
officers, because many of them are dead, but I will furnish a
list of them—you know Whom I refer to?—I do not know, that is
utterly untrue. I do not know whom you refer to; mention the
name, then I will admit it. Why not speak out like a man,
instead of hemming and hawing and hesitating?
190. Who was the superintendent of the district previous to Mr.
Sadleir?—Mr. Barkley, of the Beechworth district. You know all
these things. Why cannot you mention them yourself?
191. I am examining you. I cannot?—You are talking nonsense.
192. Who was there before Mr. Barkley?—I cannot remember.
193. Was there not a Mr. Wilson?—He was there after. I do not
believe it was immediately before Mr. Barkley.
194. Was there not a Mr. Purcell there?—He was, but not in
charge of the district.
195. By the Commission.—Was he superintendent?—No.
196. By Mr. Nicolson.—Was there not one superintendent
there for twelve months—I mean Mr. Chomley?—He was there.
197. Do you remember my making an inspection of that district in
1878?—I remember you made an inspection of the district some
time before this happened, but I must say I did not attach much
importance to any of your reports. They were all merely twaddle.
198. Do you remember my reporting Greta station to you?—Yes.
199. What did I recommend?—I cannot remember. I have not seen
200. Do you remember my reporting the men and recommending their
201. Did I recommend Thorn’s removal?—Yes.
202. Do you remember the establishment of the Glenmore
203. Do you remember the proposal to abolish Glenmore?—It was of
very little use that station.
204. I am not asking that. Do you not recollect it being
recommended to break it up?—Yes.
205. Do you remember my protesting against it?—No.
206. Do you remember Mr. Montfort protesting against it?—No.
207. The station was broken up?—The station was broken up.
208. Was I communicated with or consulted with about the
breaking of it up?—I cannot remember.
209. Are you aware that at the time I went up to inspect that
district the Glenmore station was abolished?—I cannot tell.
210. Do you remember my reporting to you the occasion of that
visit that there was a system of horse and cattle stealing
carried on uninterruptedly in that district by men from the
Greta district?—I was perfectly well aware of that before your
211. Why was no step taken to put a stop to it?—I decline to
212. Did I not recommend that the arrangement should be made
through the Inspector-General and with the police of New South
Wales for the police of one district to communicate with the
other, establishing a system of communication?—I do not remember
your ever doing it.
212a. It was done——
By the Chairman.—In
213. By Mr. Nicolson.—Do you remember the arrest and
conviction of the Baumgartens?—Yes.
214. Were you made aware who it was that brought the horses to
Baumgarten on which they were committed—that they were reported
to the police?—I was made aware of that.
215. Who was it?—I decline to answer.
216. Why?—Because I won’t.
217. By the Commission.—You decline answering that
question. Of course the Commission thoroughly understand the
grounds on which that would be reasonably objected to in your
mind. Do you think it would be injurious to the safety of that
person of his family by your giving that information?—I decline
to answer the question unless ordered by the Commission. Allow
me to observe that I have been asked a lot of questions which
have nothing to do with the object of the Commission. I do not
know whether it is intended on the part of Mr. Nicolson to annoy
me or worry me.
instructed Mr. Nicolson to confine himself to cross-examining
the witness on evidence having relation to himself, Mr.
218. By Mr. Nicolson.—Did you consult me in the abolition
of the Glenmore station?—I would be guided by the opinion of the
officers of the district rather than the inspecting
219. You say that, about a fortnight before the Euroa bank was
stuck up, you received information from me that the bank was to
be stuck up?—I did.
220. In what form did you receive such information from me about
the bank being about to be stuck up?—I cannot recollect; it may
have been a letter, or it may have been a telegram.
221. When I was sent up to the North-Eastern District the
officer there was Mr. Sadleir?—Yes.
222. You are aware that Mr. Sadleir was convalescent, after
severe rheumatic fever?—He was all right when I was there.
223. And that he was unable to go out of camp—to go out with
search parties?—I was not aware of that.
224. Are you not aware that I had no officer at my disposal
there excepting Mr. Sadleir?—There was only you and Mr. Sadleir
there, the officer in charge of Mansfield.
225. If Mr. Sadleir was recovering from fever, and was only
convalescent, was he fit to go out on duty?—Two months after he
was in capital health.
226. That was two months after. Are you not aware that I had to
go out on search parties myself?—I know I went out a great deal.
227. Had I any leaders to take charge of parties of men in that
district to go out on search when I went up on the 28th October
1878?—You had several sub-officers in the district—Sergeant
Steele, and that kind of men.
228. By the Commission.—Was not there Mr. Brook Smith at
Beechworth; was there not Mr. Pewtress at Mansfield?—Yes.
229. And the superintendent of the district, Mr. Sadleir, at
230. By Mr. Nicolson.—I spoke of the men to go out as
leaders. What is the quality of a leader to go out; is he not
only a man in a proper state of health, fit to take charge of
men, but a person particularly with a knowledge of the
230a. Who, when I went up there, were fit in that way?—There
were lots of men who knew the country.
231. Were they senior-constables or non-commissioned officers
who also knew the country?—I do not know what you are driving
232. Who were fit when I went up there?—Sergeant Steele.
233. Who else?—There were other good men.
234. There was Senior-Constable James?—Yes, he was a good man.
235. By the Commission.—Was Strachan fit?—He was a
236. Was Senior-Constable Kelly?—He was a good man in some ways.
237. Was Whelan, of Benalla?—He was foot, not mounted. He was a
most excellent sub-officer.
238. Was there a man in Beechworth fit to take charge?—Mr. Brook
Smith was in charge.
239. By Mr. Nicolson.—Was there not an entire absence of
men fit to be leaders?—We sent up a lot of men immediately after
the outrage. There were a number of very excellent men sent up
immediately after the murder of Scanlan.
240. You say I was out a great deal on search parties?—Yes.
241. Did not that necessitate Mr. Sadleir staying at home?—I
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
242. Was not the result of that that I was compelled to go out
instead of remaining at home at head-quarters, managing the
business. Did it not cause me to leave the office, so that I
went out and left another officer to carry on the business and
correspondence?—The correspondence of the office was carried on
by the officer in charge.
243. With whom had you correspondence?—I had correspondence with
244. Was it not mostly with Mr. Sadleir?—I do not think so.
245. If the circumstances of the case compelled me to go out
into the bush, and go into the Kelly country, and so on, whose
duty was it then to carry on the correspondence?—The officer in
246. Would you expect that I would do both at once at the same
time?—Of course if you were in the bush you cannot be in the
247. You made the remark here, you never omitted to take steps
to do everything. When you were up there Mr. Hare was very
indefatigable, and so on, and popular with the men, whom he
treated like friends, not like dogs. What officer did you refer
to that treated them like dogs?—I merely stated that Mr. Hare
treated the men like friends, not like dogs.
248. By the Commission.—The clear inference left on my
mind was that, if Superintendent Hare had not treated the men
like dogs, some other officer had?—I did not say so.
249. The clear inference from the statement and your manner was
that someone else did—
250. By Mr. Nicolson—When you came up to Euroa, on
hearing of the robbery there, on the 11th, you stated you found
me ill, and sent me to town?—Yes.
251. Are you sure it was not the day after?—I could not say
whether it was that day or the day after.
252. You stated that you despatched a party away out to the
Strathbogie ranges on that occasion?—I never made such a
253. You stated you despatched a party from Euroa in pursuit in
the ranges when questioned just now in your evidence?—I never
made such a statement.
254. Did I come down to town, or was I sent down?—You were
relieved by me.
255. To get medical attendance?—As I was going to stay up
permanently at the time.
256. Did you, at any of your visits previous to the Euroa
sticking up, make remarks about my remissness?—I never made any
statement about you. The first two months you were there, you
were very active rushing about the country, morning and night—in
fact, rushing about too much I thought.
257. You say you came down to town, and you found things in a
mess in your office?—Yes, very muddly.
258. Did you ever express anything of that kind to me?—I did not
see the use of it.
259. You did not?—No.
260. Can you give any instance of what you mean by “things being
muddled” in the office?—All the matters which are generally
disposed of in five minutes you used to keep over five days.
261. Did you find that?—Yes.
262. Did you find any files in your office, left behind there,
that were not kept behind for a purpose?—I cannot recollect
263. Was it on all occasions when you came to town—you came
several times?—Three times I came.
264. On those occasions did you find anything wrong in the
office?—I did not do any business in the office.
265. Did you not find everything in order in the office?—I never
did any business in the office.
266. When you returned?—There were a great many things held
267. Were they not files held over for you as the head of the
department, as I, as your locum tenens, did not feel justified
in dealing with them myself?—I always heard that you were most
procrastinating, and delayed matters most frightfully when you
had charge of the office—that is your nature, to be a
268. You say, when I succeeded you in July, I employed spies and
agents?—Yes, you told me yourself.
269. You said I must have known they were sympathizers with the
Kellys. What class of people do you suppose you could obtain the
information from people who knew anything about the Kellys
excepting that class?—Exactly; but you must not allow yourself
to be made a fool of.
270. How was I?—I heard that some of the men whom you employed
used to take your money and laugh at you behind your back and
tell the Kellys.
271. You were told that?—Yes, by three or four people.
272. Is it fair to make a statement of that kind without
evidence. Do you remember the first visit you made to Benalla
after I took charge?—Yes.
273. Do you remember an agent, whom I obtained, coming and
meeting me with you privately?—Yes.
274. Do you recollect that man receiving a considerable sum of
money, from £25 to £30?—From whom?
275. Do you recollect his receiving money?—No, not from me.
276. Do you recollect his receiving some, said to be for the
purchase of a horse—do you remember giving that man an order to
any telegraph master, on a slip of paper, in writing, to all
telegraph masters—“Permit the bearer to send any messages to me,
277. Do you remember giving a sum of money on that occasion?—No.
278. Did you give the money or I?—I had no money with me.
279. Did the man not receive a sum of money from you that
night?—Not to my knowledge. I do not remember giving the money.
280. You did?—It is possible I may have; I do not remember it. I
am not at all guided by your statements.
281. Do you recollect that that document you gave in that order
to the telegraph office was, instead of writing to the telegraph
masters, to allow him to send any information to Mr. Nicolson,
that you told him to send it to you in Melbourne?—Do not get
excited; I have some recollection of giving an order to send
282. To send the information to you in Melbourne?—I do not
283. You speak from hearsay?—I speak of many things I heard from
your own mouth.
284. You received a report on the subject where information was
given by ——, that he had seen a man on horseback, and so on?—You
telegraphed me to come up, and telegraphed me not to come up.
285. Did I not send a report to you?—I do not remember. The
report will be in your office.
286. By the Commission.—As a matter of fact, evidence was
given by the party named, and the result of that was that it was
decided by the police to take action on that evidence, and when
the horses were saddled when Mr. Sadleir came back, and without
his being consulted, he found the pursuit was abandoned?—Yes.
287. Was there a subsequent explanation, of why that took place,
to you?—I do not remember. I remember his telegraphing me not to
come up. Mr. Nicolson can produce the papers.
288. You do not know that there was?—I do not remember.
289. By Mr. Nicolson.—I can put a different complexion on
that when I make my statement. As to insubordination at the
railway station, do you recollect sending me a note requesting
me to come down to town, that you wished a conversation with me
about various matters?—Yes.
290. To come down on Thursday?—Yes.
291. I had to come down on Friday night, so as to come to your
office on Saturday morning?—Yes.
292. When I came to your office on Saturday, what did you
293. The first interview, did you first say, “Mr. Nicolson, I
have to say the Government have decided to relieve you, and to
send up some one in your stead on Monday morning”?—Yes, I think
I wrote to you on the subject.
294. Where was the conversation you wrote me we were to have
together?—In my office.
295. Was that the first thing you addressed me?—If my memory
serves me, I think I wrote you.
296. You wrote me, but not telling me I was to be superseded?—[The
witness looked for the letter.] I thought I had
written to him to tell him he was superseded, but it seems I
wrote him to come down. This is the letter—“26th April 1880.
Confidential. My dear Nicolson, I should be glad to see you down
here on Thursday to have a chat with you. Please come down by
the evening train, and come to my office the following day as
early as convenient. I had a long interview with —— this
morning. He is of opinion that the outlaws are at present
between the 11-mile and the scene of the murders on the Wombat
ranges. I did not gain much intelligence. He spoke very frankly
to me on various matters.”
297. Had we any conversation about that on that occasion?—Not on
that occasion you came down. Our whole conversation was about
298. By the Commission.—It was in consequence of that
letter Mr. Nicolson came to town. Was the occasion you told him
they had decided to remove him?—I think it was.
Cross-examined by Mr. O’Connor.
299. Do not you remember saying to Mr. Sadleir that although he
was superintendent he was to be under me for that
300. Do you remember some time about May 1879 receiving a letter
informing you that four persons answering the description of the
Kellys were in a hut near Benalla?—I remember receiving certain
information about the outlaws from a certain source.
301. I will bring it to your recollection—you were dining at Mr.
O’Leary’s?—I remember receiving that letter.
302. By the Commission (to Mr. O’Connor).—Is that
what you refer to in your printed letter?—There were two
occurrences—[examining the paper]?—Yes, that is.
303. By Mr. O’Connor (to the witness).—When you
retired from Mr. O’Leary’s you then went to the hotel, did you
304. To interview Mr. Hare?—Yes.
305. When I joined you some two hours afterwards, and asked you
what the contents of the letter were, did you tell me?—No.
306. To whom did you communicate the contents of that letter?—It
is no business of yours.
307. The Commission are asking you—it is for their
information?—Mr. Chairman, do you wish me to answer that.
308. What were the contents of that letter—I want to show that
that letter should have been communicated to me?—(The witness
made an impatient gesture).
309. You may sniff, but that will not alter it at all?—I have
not the slightest objection to answer the question to the
Chairman of the Commission. I communicated to Mr. Hare.
310. You consider the information contained in that letter was
very important?—The information was discussed by Mr. Hare and
myself, and we determined to adopt a certain course.
311. That is not my question—did you consider it important?—I
312. That is what you ought to have answered first?—Will you
conduct yourself like a gentleman?
interposed, and requested both Captain Standish and Mr. O’Connor
to restrain their feelings.
is so insolent in his manner.
313. By Mr. O’Connor.—Why did you not inform me, or order
myself and the boys to pick up the tracks?—Because if we had had
you and your numerous baggage, horses, and trackers, we should
have been known some hours before we got there.
314. How many men accompanied Mr. Hare in that party?—Seven or
315. By the Commission.—You took immediate action in the
316. By Mr. O’Connor.—Why were we sent for and our
services not made use of?—They were sent for against my
317. Do you ever remember saying to me that you would endeavor
to get the Kellys without my valuable assistance?—I never said
any such thing.
318. From the outset you were jealous of my trackers finding the
outlaws?—That is absolutely untrue.
319. What was the result of Mr. Hare’s visit to this hut?—You
had better ask Mr. Hare.
320. Is your memory so bad?—He went with a party of men and
ransacked the hut.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
Captain F. C. Standish,
23rd March 1881.
321. Did Mr. Hare meet a man coming from the hut?
(to Mr. O’Connor).—You had better for the present confine
your questions to any personal matters you wish dealt with at
this sitting. The witness stated he had heard things about you
he would not like to mention.
made some reflections about my private character, but I do not
care a fig about it from a man of his private character, but I
should like him to state what he alluded to.
322. The Chairman.—Captain Standish referred to your
letter in which you said you had been treated in an
ungentlemanly, ungenerous, and discourteous manner by him
throughout the whole sixteen months you were under his command,
and he said he gave that the lie direct, and further that he
found out things that made him keep out of your company; do you
desire to say anything about that?—Captain Standish’s knowledge
of my private character is very limited, and all I can say is
that if he has so low an estimate of my character I care very
little about it, considering the character of the man who
judges. He said I was not a fit and proper person; I say that of
323. By Mr. O’Connor (to the witness).—Did you
allude to my private character?—No; I said things came to my
knowledge that shook my faith in you.
him say it.
324. By the Commission (to the witness).—I think,
in fair play to Mr. O’Connor, you ought now to state what you
refer to?—You (Mr. O’Connor) told several people that you were
engaged to be married to a certain lady, and I remember asking
what day, and you said on the anniversary of your birthday, the
10th of February, and I found that you were married all the
give that the lie direct. I say that is a falsehood, and I am
ready to prove it. On one occasion when I dined with Captain
Standish, he said, “I noticed you were making love to a certain
young lady;” and I said, “That is nonsense, it is only fun;” and
I thought nothing more about it until I received a letter
congratulating me. I immediately wrote back and said there was
not a word of truth in it.
was driven to say this, and Mr. O’Connor was married a few days
after he came to Benalla.
everything was quite correct.
I ask for all that to be withdrawn. I request, as a particular
favor, you allow the whole of that to be expunged from the
am sorry for my loss of temper, and will be glad if this matter
be not reported.
observed that as the earlier statements of Captain Standish’s
had already been printed in the Herald newspaper he did
not see how the latter remarks could be withdrawn.
The witness withdrew.
Adjourned till Eleven o’clock to-morrow.
Hon. F. LONGMORE,
M.L.A., in the Chair;
G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,
J. Gibb, Esq., M.L.A.,
G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,
E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.,
W. Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,
J. H. Graves, Esq., M.L.A.,
Charles Hope Nicolson sworn and examined.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
325. You are desirous of just making a statement now?—Yes.
326. To be cross-examined upon hereafter?—I am just ready for
both statement and cross-examination.
327. What is the position you occupy?—Acting Chief Commissioner
328. Since when?—About the month of July 1880.
329. What was your position in the police prior to
that?—Assistant Commissioner of Police, and Inspecting
Superintendent; when I was appointed the former it was stated
that that was the more appropriate appellation for the duties I
was performing—I mean the Assistant Commissioner of Police, to
which my grade was changed, as it better expressed my duties.
330. How long?—I was appointed Assistant Commissioner a very few
months before that.
331. About that time?—A few months prior.
332. I think it will be better for you to take the course that
Captain Standish took yesterday, and just explain your
proceedings in connection with the Kelly outlaws?—Yes. On the
28th of October 1878, Monday, I received instructions from
Captain Standish to proceed at once to Benalla as some news had
arrived of the murder of a constable, Constable Scanlan, and
some other serious catastrophe had taken place. I arrived at
Benalla that evening. I found that evening the town of Benalla,
and even people along the railway line, in a state of great
excitement. When I reached the station Mr. Sadleir, the
superintendent of the district, was away on duty in the north of
the district towards Shepparton, I believe. Next morning Mr.
Sadleir, in the course of the forenoon, arrived on horseback.
333. Will you fix dates?—That was the 29th. Mr. Sadleir had very
little news of the matter at that time. He rested for an hour
and proceeded on horseback to Mansfield, the scene of the
outrage. On the 29th some police had been sent up, but the
police were a very small number there.
334. About how many?—Throughout the district there were not
about 50 or 60 mounted men, exclusive of 40 or 50 foot
335. For the whole district?—Yes, at that time, but more men had
been sent up, and along with me some foot police were sent up
and a few mounted men.
336. How many?—I am not aware how many. They were not sent to
Benalla, or with my knowledge. They went in the train with me
and went on, having received their routes to other parts of the
district. In the course of the next day, and very soon
afterwards, reinforcements arrived. It was the time Sergeant
Kennedy’s body had not been found, and Mr. Sadleir returned to
Benalla after despatching the search party from Mansfield which
found his body.
337. How long was that after he went up?—About the 30th. There
were also two other parties at first when I arrived, which were
unaccounted for, about which there was considerable
anxiety—those two parties of police that went out at the same
time that the other was out.
338. They went out at the same time as Kennedy went out?—Yes,
and there was considerable anxiety about them. When Mr. Sadleir
went up to Mansfield there was another officer there, Mr.
Pewtress. It is the custom, I may say, and the duty of an
officer in charge of the district, to proceed to the spot as
soon as possible, when any very serious crime occurs.
339. What was Mr. Pewtress?—A sub-inspector. Those two parties
that I allude to, I cannot give the days, but they turned up in
a day or two, one of them coming into Benalla. I formed a search
party, and sent out parties on the 29th—parties of men that I
could muster together to look those men up—to search for them.
340. In charge of whom?—One party in charge of Senior-Constable
James, and the other party I cannot say in whose command—I do
341. How many in each party?—Not above four or five in each
party at that time.
342. Those started from where?—From Benalla. On the 30th instant
by the last train I went to Wangaratta to see the state of
things there. I then went on alone down to Myrtleford, through
that country. On the 29th—I must go back again to that date—I
had by correspondence, not being on the spot, organized, with
Sub-Inspector Smith and Sergeant Steele, and despatched two
search parties from Wangaratta. All those parties came in in a
343. How long after—within a week?—Yes, within a week, they
having scoured the Kelly country away behind on the south of the
North-eastern and Beechworth road one way and another. Before
coming in they had got news of those other two missing parties
having turned up, and further particulars of the murders—the two
parties that went from Wangaratta and the two parties from
Benalla. At this time it was not known who the two murderers
were beyond the two Kellys. It was not known who the third and
fourth murderers were. Do you wish me to go on from day to day?
344. Just as shortly as you can put it?—I quite understand. The
next incident of any importance that occurred was the rumor,
about the 1st November, of a man having been stuck up by the
gang on the Murray flats near the Baumgarten’s place. On hearing
that, I and Mr. Sadleir consulted together, and I had a great
deal of experience in police matters of this sort, particularly
through having had charge of the detective force for fourteen
years; we were hearing wild rumors every day, but there was
something in this that struck me as correct. We thought there
was something in it. I despatched a party that same night to
Wodonga, with orders to make their way to this spot, find out
this man, and to enquire into it.
345. Who had charge of that party?—Detective Kennedy, now
Sub-Inspector Kennedy. The following day I was very anxious, Mr.
Sadleir and I did not hear from them. Hearing nothing from this
party and no further news from Wodonga, I took the train to
Wodonga myself and met the party. They reported to me they had
seen the man, found him out. He was a farmer down there, and
they were very doubtful about the truth of his statement. He had
been drinking, and his statements were wild and doubtful.
346. What was the name of the man?—Margery.
347. Are you quite sure it was at Baumgarten’s that the
sticking-up was?—It was by the river side, about a mile or two
from the Baumgartens’. I was not satisfied, and I went myself
with the party back the next day, went back to the spot to see
the man Margery who said he was stuck up. I found the man was
not then raving or anything of that kind. He evidently had been
drinking, but it appeared to me to drown his fright, and when I
saw him he was clean and cool and able to give a coherent
account, and from the account he gave to me I had no doubt he
had seen the outlaws. We ran down the river calling at huts and
examining many places till I came to Baumgarten’s. I went to
Mrs. Baumgarten’s house, the wife of a man convicted of
horse-stealing—a man who was connected with the Kelly lot. I
learned that on the previous day the outlaws had come out from
the lagoons, off the island right under her house, about one
o’clock, camped till sunset about 200 yards off. I found that
they had camped there and had disappeared at sunset.
348. Did you find their camp?—Yes, found their camp.
349. What date was that?—I will tell you exactly—[examining a
pocket-book]—2nd November, Saturday.
350. You say it was on the 2nd November you saw the man?—Yes,
and it was on the same day I saw this. I had with me one good
blackfellow—a Darling black-tracker—who traced them up within a
quarter of a mile of Barnawartha. By that time—the time we
reached there—it was dark, and the tracker could proceed no
further, but the tracks were leading away to the right.
351. Towards where?—Towards Indigo Creek. I found that they had
passed through Wangaratta and Everton on the Sunday, the third
352. Had you good proof then that you were on the track of the
Kellys?—Yes, up to reaching the common.
353. You are satisfied they were the Kellys?—Decidedly.
354. That was their camp you came across?—Decidedly, and their
horses—from the description of both Margery and Mrs. William
Baumgarten they were decidedly the horses and the dress of the
men, and the arms that had been taken from the police. There was
no doubt about that whatever. They passed between Wangaratta and
Everton, upon the 3rd, on their return. Between the interval
before the return, and before I heard of this, I spent some time
down there fruitlessly searching, to the punts and other places
to see if and get traces of them crossing the river by
Baumgarten’s, and I found they could not cross the river, and it
was evident their intention was to cross the river, but the
river had risen very high—the greatest flood that had taken
place for a very long time—and they were baffled and could not
cross. I do not think since the river has been so high, but you
will observe that it appears I lost the trace of them when it
got dark on the 2nd; they passed through Wangaratta and Everton
the following night, the 3rd.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881,
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
355. How far distant is that?—I should say 60 or 70 miles. They
had just ridden straight back without a halt. They had rested in
the lagoon, and rested their horses there, and ridden straight
back without a halt.
356. Then did you ascertain they had passed through
Everton?—Yes, they called at certain places, and were
recognized. I need not repeat to you the next event.
357. Anything of no importance you can pass over?—I had also the
country about there, Rats Castle, and all the ranges, thoroughly
searched by the party under Sergeant Harker of Wodonga.
358. Did you lose all trace of them?—Yes; after I heard they had
passed through Everton on the night of the 3rd.
359. From that point did you lose all trace of them after they
passed through Wangaratta?—Yes.
360. For how long?—The next trace of them was sometime
afterwards. Captain Standish came up 6th November.
361. The black-trackers were not then engaged?—No; we had a few
black-trackers picked up here and there, and that man I had then
with me was a really skilled black. At that time we could get
little or no assistance from the inhabitants, and the people
were all through the country in such a state of terror. Civility
was shown us in every town in the district, but no information
given. The people seemed to be more afraid of the gang than
confident in the police. The next time that I heard of them was
on the occasion, about the 7th of November, when Captain
Standish happened accidentally to be up in Benalla with me. He
came up to talk over matters with me, and we went up to
Beechworth that night as related by him. I may state that on my
arrival there—we arrived at dark—and when daylight broke I found
a very large number of police collected together, upwards of
fifty mounted men, that had joined us, and we had a great
362. Was that the time the force was increased?—In the interval
reinforcements had been sent. Did I mention that on the morning
when we were proceeding to that place the police poured in a
363. Search parties returning?—No; they had been gathered there
364. By your orders?—No.
365. Was it gathering by accident?—No; orders that had been
issued. I took up a few police and a black-tracker myself, but I
found this large number of police about Beechworth and the place
we were going to. They were sent into the district. I merely
mean to show that this collection of men was improper, and
calculated to defeat the object we had in view.
366. Who was responsible for that?—I cannot say by whom they
were collected. It was not by me. It interfered with my
arrangements. As we went along we had to cross some very rough
country, great ranges of granite, and the rumbling noise that
the party made was simply just like thunder, and the people
heard us a mile off.
367. Under whose orders were those men at this particular
time—under you or Inspector Sadleir?—No. I know nothing about
the particulars of this occasion. Mr. Sadleir met Captain
Standish and myself. They left together talking, and Mr. Sadleir
telling him all as we went along. We gathered all the police,
till there were upwards of fifty. I could not tell what Mr.
Sadleir was talking about. All those arrangements were made
before I arrived.
368. You were not responsible, and disapproved of it?—Yes; and I
was perfectly ignorant of it.
369. Under whose orders were they?—Of course, when Captain
Standish came, he was in command, he being the Chief
Commissioner of Police, otherwise I would have been, otherwise
370. Were those men gathered at this particular point by the
order of Captain Standish or any officer you know of?—I do not
think they were gathered by Captain Standish.
371. Was it merely by accident—what was the occasion of
meeting?—That some important information had reached the police
at Beechworth about the Kellys, and something likely to come of
372. This was not at the time of the sympathisers being
arrested?—No, it was on the 7th of November.
373. Nothing came of that gathering of the police?—Well, I will
go on to mention about that. Very shortly we came in sight
(after we got on some low ground) of what I was told was the
374. “On 6th November 1878 I proceeded to Benalla to confer with
Mr. Nicolson, arriving there about eight p.m. While we were
talking we received an urgent despatch from Mr. Sadleir, then at
Beechworth, that the Kellys had been at Sebastopol.” That was
given by Captain Standish. Is that what you refer to?—Yes; I
have been reflected upon and attacked about this matter, and I
wish to speak about it.
375. How near were you to Sebastopol when this meeting of police
took place?—We were all gathered within three miles of
376. You do not know by whose orders?—No, I cannot say. I must
say about Captain Standish that he had nothing to do with those
orders. If anyone had to do with those orders, it would be
Superintendent Sadleir. Captain Standish came up and was a
stranger in the matter, until he was informed by Mr. Sadleir.
377. You were the responsible officer?—And I was perfectly
ignorant of the matter.
378. You were in charge of the district?—Yes, but Captain
Standish came up into the district.
379. You had that district under your special command for the
380. I think a misapprehension has arisen: the district was
locally under the charge of Mr. Sadleir, and you were superior
officer when you arrived to take charge of this particular
business, and when Captain Standish came, he took charge of
those fifty men?—He did not come to take control on that
381. Did they come without orders?—I cannot say.
382. Under whose directions did those fifty men appear?—When
they made their appearance at daylight I saw them, and they fell
in under Captain Standish; but I did not know who summoned them.
383. Cannot you tell, from information since, as to under whose
directions those men came on; surely some officer ordered
them?—Well, Mr. Sadleir did, I believe, give orders in some
instances; but I do not believe he did in all cases.
384. Who did in other cases?—I cannot say; the men sometimes
385. Was Captain Standish at the head of those men?—No.
386. Were the body of men under anybody as they came in?—They
came trooping in.
387. You admit you were the responsible officer there—that you
arrived at this spot with Captain Standish, and you do not
attach any blame to him since he was not aware of this being
388. You arrived there and met the fifty men, and you found this
condition of things you disapprove of; did you remonstrate with
the officer under you for this mistake?—Not at that time and at
once; Captain Standish and Mr. Sadleir were very much engaged
talking; I could not hear what they were saying; I could not
hear what they said, there was such a confounded noise. I saw
the men riding together, and I devoted myself to knocking the
men into some order. I went to the various sub-officers and
asked, “Where are your men?” and I said, “Keep them together;”
and that is how I occupied myself.
389. You desire us to understand that you were interfered with
and men brought there without your knowledge who should not have
been?—No, I merely mention that as an instance. I am coming to
something more important. I have been attacked about this, and I
was going on to tell what I saw. We then came to a hut, called
Sherritt'’, and, as related by Captain Standish, the hut was
empty. I would not mention such a thing as I am going to
mention, except that insinuations have been made that I had
almost avoided meeting with the Kellys—it was insinuated
yesterday. I knew nothing about what was going. I was riding by
myself with two or three men near me, when Mr. Sadleir came up
and said to me, “Now, Mr. Nicolson, this is the house of the
Sherritts;” you will do this and you will do that, and the
outlaws are said to be here. This hut was backed by a large
paddock. I turned to Mr. Sadleir and said, “You send some men
into that paddock, and see the men do not escape by the back;”
and I said to two or three men about me, “You” (mentioning their
names) “come along with me;” and I galloped with those men to
the hut at full speed. I found the cavalcade was so noisy—we
were expecting to get these men asleep—and I called to the men
to come with me, and I galloped to the front.
390. You singled out a few others to go with you?—Yes.
391. Where did this information come from?—Mr. Sadleir got
392. You knew nothing about the object of your ride that morning
until just when you came in sight of the hut?—No, excepting that
the Kellys were about; but I was told nothing about where we
were going to or were likely to find them.
393. You did not know where you were going, and what was the
object of the ride that morning, until you were told that was
394. Were you then acting under the control or under the orders
of Captain Standish or Mr. Sadleir? Captain Standish says as
follows:—”At 4 a.m. we started from Beechworth, and made at once
to the house of the Sherritt family, where, it was said, the
outlaws had been. Arrived there very early in the morning,
scattered our men around in the bush, and sent a party of seven
or eight men, under Mr. Nicolson, to search the house.” Were you
under his control, or were you not?—I received no instructions
from Captain Standish.
395. Did he send you with eight men to search Sherritt’s
396. Then he is incorrect?—That may be his impression, but it is
not the case.
397. Who was in charge—you stated just now that Captain Standish
did not take charge, but came to consult, and you went out, and
he was consulting during the ride. Who was in charge—you, Mr.
Sadleir, or Captain Standish, on that morning—there must have
been one of you?—I never thought of taking charge. I left the
matter with Captain Standish and Mr. Sadleir.
398. I want to clear this up. I understood you had no
information of what was being done that morning until you
received information from Mr. Sadleir—was Mr. Sadleir in charge
up to that point?—Yes. I did not interfere with him, as this was
his information that we were out upon.
399. Were you amenable to any instructions that would be issued
by Mr. Sadleir?—No; he was my junior officer; but I would never
think, on an occasion of that kind, of disputing. I was thinking
only of what ought to be done. I never gave any thought about
etiquette or rank. I did what I thought was best under the
circumstances when he came and spoke to me.
400. When he came up and consulted you in that manner, would it
not have been your duty to have taken charge of the party and
directed the men, or failing that, to have given him charge?—I
401. You gave him instructions to take command—I understood you
to state you considered the noise to be detrimental to the
object you had in view, you consequently rushed with a few men
to search the hut?—I turned to Mr. Sadleir, and I said, “You
look to the back of the hut with some men, and put some men in
that field, and see to the outlaws not escaping there.”
402. You looked upon Mr. Sadleir as the commander at that
time?—Well, I gave him his orders then when he came to say, “Mr.
Nicolson, you look to this and that.” I said to him, “You look
after the back and I will look after the front.”
403. There was no misunderstanding at this time; you mutually
agreed as to the course to be taken. There was no dissension
between the officers?—None whatever. I went into the hut. We had
to turn a short turn to the left to make for the hut. I rode
down the entrance passage, about that breadth—[spreading his
arms]—which I did full speed, threw my legs off my horse,
and burst in the door, one of the men—Constable
Bracken—attempted to pass in front of me. It has been my
custom—a well-known custom in the police force—that no one
should go before me on any occasion of this kind. I pushed this
man aside and his gun went off. I went suddenly from room to
room. I have been accustomed to that sort of duty. I rushed into
the next bedroom, whipped off the clothes, and ran to the next
room and did the same, and so all through, and I found the whole
thing was nothing.
404. At what distance could a man have heard that noise of the
police you spoke of?—One man told me afterwards he heard us a
405. Giving plenty of opportunities of escaping?—We went on
after that to another hut, and galloped up to that in the same
way, and the man said he had heard us a mile off. We went on
till at last we came to Mrs. Byrne’s hut, and found it empty
too. Subsequently, at some distance off, I observed Captain
Standish surrounded by a number of men, in conversation with a
slip of a lad, a young native of the same class of youth as I
supposed the Kellys to be, because I knew Ned Kelly very well; I
had been previously acquainted with him. I came up to them, and
I found Captain Standish was making proposals to this man to
help him and to betray the Kellys. This was in the presence and
in the hearing of a lot of mounted constables.
405a. Was there more than one of those men of the character of
the Kellys?—Only one. I then went and remonstrated with Captain
Standish for making such proposals to a man like that in the
hearing of others, of any person whatever.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
406. Can you give the names of any present then?—I think
Detective Ward was one who was present. It would be quite easy
407. Did this whole body of men remain together after you had
searched the hut?—After Mrs. Byrne’s; after searching three huts
the men dispersed; but I remonstrated with Captain Standish, and
no person with any experience in police duty would have done
such a thing. It was contrary to all practice to make proposals
to a man like that, especially in the state of terror the
country was in, to make proposals of that kind to anyone.
408. Did you believe from what you saw that the Kellys had been
in that immediate neighborhood?—From what I have heard since I
believe they had. I will come back to that. The information that
was acted on, on that occasion, was given by a laboring man, who
had been stopping back amongst those ranges in the neighborhood
of Mrs. Byrne’s house. Several days after he came into
Beechworth, and got drunk, and began what is termed “blowing”
about this. The matter came to the knowledge of the police on a
day that Mr. Sadleir happened to be at Beechworth, and the
action I have described was taken on that.
409. Was that some days after this raid you have told us
of—after that those men came back?—Some days previous—this was
410. It was his information that led up to the proceedings you
have described?—Yes; but it was too old.
411. Did you remonstrate with Captain Standish after searching
Sherritt’s hut about keeping that body of men together before
you went to the other?—No, I did not. I did not know what was
going to be done.
412. This was all done without your knowledge?—Yes. The next
thing that occurred was about the 12th of November. I had come
down from Beechworth to Wangaratta, and a messenger came in at
night to tell me that a party of police under Sub-Inspector
Brook Smith had traced the outlaws from Lake Rowan and
Ryan’s from along the Wallaby ranges, and had tracked them with
blackfellows, and had recovered one of the police horses, which
had been taken from the murdered police by the outlaws. I sent
back word to them (they were undecided whether to come into
Wangaratta or to remain where they were) to remain where they
were, and by all means to keep the fact of their finding the
horse secret. An hour or two afterwards I heard a party of
horsemen riding into Wangaratta in the dark, about eight o'clock
in the evening, and leading a horse.
413. Were those the police?—Yes.
414. And leading this horse you have referred to?—Yes, I
ascertained that was the horse. I remonstrated with Mr. Smith,
and he stated that he found himself within five or six miles of
Wangaratta, that the men were hungry and fatigued, and that he
thought it as well to come in and sleep there and rest and feed
the horses as to remain out, and that he would be at the spot
where he stopped by daybreak in the morning.
415. Had he a black-tracker there?—Yes, two—one an old man, a
good tracker, from Coranderrk, one of the old blacks, and
therefore possessed of more skill than the present lot, and a
young man who the old fellow called his pupil, named Jemmy, a
very inferior useless fellow. Next morning I found Mr. Smith had
not started. I got him up, went and roused him up, and sent him
after his men. I examined the horse either the night before or
the next morning with Sergeant Steele of Wangaratta, and we came
to the conclusion that the horse must have been dropped about a
fortnight from the appearance of the animal, his having been fed
on grass, and from the swelling of his fetlocks that he had not
been ridden for a week or more. Inspector Smith returned to his
party, and his report to me was not satisfactory. Mr. Sadleir
and I happened to come up to Wangaratta, and I went out with
this party back again to the Wallaby ranges to see to it. We
took one part of the country—Mr. Sadleir and I; and Inspector
Smith and to the other Sergeant Steele, in whose experience and
ability I had reason to have great confidence. We came back
without any result. Then I sent Inspector Smith back to
Beechworth with instructions to attend to the duties of his
district and not interfere with the Kelly business any more.
416. Was that a sort of rebuke?—Well, I did not feel confidence
in him; and that was the only occasion that came under my notice
in which the men showed dissatisfaction with their officers.
417. What sergeant was with him?—Senior-Constable Johnson.
418. Is that the same man that set fire to the hotel at
Glenrowan?—That is the same man.
419. What was the nature of the dissatisfaction?—The men were
dissatisfied that they had not stayed there all night and
followed up those traces in the morning; they were very sanguine
about the gang. They had found what appeared to be a ramrod made
from the branch of a tree, and whittled; they picked this up—a
very good substitute for a ramrod; they had very great
confidence that they could follow it up and find
420. Did the men under this officer's charge, by word or any
expression they made use of; lead you to believe that they had
not faith in him—that he displayed indiscretion or
cowardice?—Not cowardice; a want of discretion, and a want of
bush ability for work of that kind. No man said such a thing to
me, but it was conveyed to me.
421. What opinion did you form of the case, from what you heard
expressed by the men—did you form any opinion yourself on that,
as to whether it was a want of judgment, indiscretion, or from
any other cause?—Want of judgment, and general unsuitability for
that sort of duty.
422. Why did you consider him unsuitable—what was the
cause?—Well, I consider he had made a mistake in coming in that
night. His convictions were not firm and decided enough; he had
not decision of character enough.
423. You said you sent a message to a body of men to instruct
them to remain there?—Yes.
424. Had those men then received your message?—I believe so.
425. Are you quite positive on that point?—Yes, I am
quite positive on that point.
426. In coming in, he was guilty of insubordination and
disobedience to a superior officer’s orders?—Yes, and I told him
that; and he gave his explanation.
427. Was that in writing?—No, orally.
428. From your own knowledge of what happened, do you think he
was near the Kellys at the time?—I have very much reason to
doubt it, because my inspection of the horse showed it had been
left a week.
429. You said they picked up a ramrod?—That may have been lying
there three or four days.
430. You did not consider his excuse sufficiently satisfactory
to warrant him in disobeying your orders?—No.
431. And therefore sent him back to Beechworth, telling him to
have nothing more to do with the Kellys?—I sent him back, not as
a punishment, but because I did not feel confidence in him.
432. If you can, will you make matters as brief as possible?—I
can give the name of the man at the farm, Margery was the name.
433. What was the name of the farm?—I do not know, simply
434. Is it near to Barnawartha or Wodonga?—It is nearer to
Barnawartha, within seven miles of Barnawartha. The strength of
the North-Eastern district in September 1878, that is just about
two months before, was three officers, nine sub-officers,
forty-three mounted constables; then of foot, nine sub-officers
and fifteen constables.
435. That is sergeants and senior-constables?—First and
second-class sergeants and senior-constables.
436. An officer to every two men?—Yes; the senior-constables are
merely men who get sixpence a day more than the constables, and
they get charge of the stations. That was just a month before
the Wombat murders. I have just shortly to say that during that
time, and subsequently down to the Euroa robbery, I was engaged
forming search parties, dividing the country off into sections,
and going out myself with them in turn—not all, but some of
437. Were you out at the time that information was given that
the bank was likely to be stuck up?—I am not aware of hearing
anything of the kind. I have not come to that yet. During the
time I was compelled to go out, my colleague or subordinate
officer in charge of the district, Mr. Sadleir, had just
recovered from rheumatic fever, and was a convalescent at the
time, and he was unable to go out at that time. He had resumed
his ordinary duties, but he was not fit for extraordinary
duties—travelling from morning to night through that rough
country, and camping out.
438. The last date was the 7th November—what date do you fix for
forming those search parties?—I was frequently—several times—out
with search parties before then, but not for any length of time.
On the 20th November 1879.
439. That was the time that Mr. Sadleir was not sufficiently
strong, in consequence of his recent illness to be able to do
bush duty?—That is it exactly. I had to go out with several
parties, and I was out first with one, and then with another;
and when I was not out with parties actually, I was continually
travelling from one place to another; and when out with these
search parties at that time we could not get any guides or
assistance from the inhabitants, with the exception of one man,
who is now a mounted constable, Dickson at Wangaratta, who
joined us as a guide. He was taken into the force since, and
there was a man picked up at Mansfield, named Nicholson, a
native of that place or Gippsland, I believe, a resident there
at any rate. After travelling through these ranges and that
country, when we would come to a halting-place; we were in the
habit of camping first and having tea, and placing sentries, and
having supper, and then select a place to sleep in, leaving the
fire, of which we had very little, and move on to another place
to sleep. I, then, instead of being able to lie down to rest
with the men, at that time generally had to go with two or three
men to places from one to four miles off on foot—huts of
suspected persons and so on.
440. What number of men would those parties consist of?—At first
from six to eight and nine; but I used generally to go with as
few men as I possibly could—small parties, in fact, of about six
or seven. I would not get back to the camp after visiting those
places until about twelve or two or three o’clock at night. I
had to lie down to rest till daybreak, which at this time
(November) was very early. This had a serious effect upon my
strength. It reduced my strength. It also affected the whole
party; we would come in very much fagged, horses and men. The
young men used to recuperate in a couple of days; but it took
me, at my time of life, and the other members of the force,
mounted constables and others, more than that; but I had to go
out notwithstanding at once.
441. As a matter of fact, is it not the hardest duty that a man
can do?—It is the hardest duty one can experience. I have
experienced duty of all kinds in the colony. I had experienced
similar duty in that part before in 1852.
442. What sergeant had you?—I have been obliged to go out with
different men, Senior-Constable Strahan and Constable Flood.
443. Where is Strahan’s station?—He was then stationed at Greta.
444. What length of time would those search parties be out
before returning to head-quarters?—At first a very short time.
Myself, or James, or Steele did not remain out for very long;
but on those occasions we went out for a fortnight or more,
prepared for that. We had to go out as secretly as we could to
avoid notice, because any movements of the police always created
a sensation amongst the inhabitants and got spread all over the
445. What were the general instructions you gave to those search
parties?—They had particular districts, and Mr. Sadleir and
myself, with the assistance of Constable Wheelan, of Benalla,
and Sergeant Steele of Wangaratta, mapped off this mountain
country into districts; then each party took a certain district.
446. Have you a copy of that map, as marked at that time?—I left
the map up at Benalla.
447. And the names of the various parties?—No. Those parties
were told off, not in writing; they were all arranged, and then
instructions were given to start.
448. Were any particular instructions given to those parties in
writing or verbal?—Mostly verbal. I was out with one party, and
Steele was out with one party, and James with one, and
Shoobridge (Senior-Constable) with one; and those at a distance
would be written to. Those at hand would get the instructions
verbally, and they would put that down.
449. Would they give a written report on their return?—Yes.
450. Those reports are in existence?—I should think so.
451. They should be in existence at Benalla?—Yes.
452. Was the Constable Flood that you have now spoken of as in
charge of one of the parties the constable that originally was
in charge at Greta?—I believe so.
453. Whose name has been connected with this from the first?—He
went out with me from the first.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
454. Did you give sectional plans of the country they were to
cover?—No; because they knew country; but they got a description
of the country, hills, and creeks.
455. Officially, did you give them any sectional plan or written
instructions?—Yes, written; and of course, the men who were with
me down at Benalla got verbal instructions. I went over the
matter with Sergeant Steele himself.
456. In visiting the station you would be aware of the
instructions issued by the Commissioner of Police?—What
457. To the police officers, if they received any information
about the Kelly party?—The Chief Commissioner of Police had
really nothing to do with that. I was in charge of the district,
and the men received full authority to act upon their
discretion, and representations to the contrary are not correct.
458. Then it is not true that the officers had to delay matters
till they had telegraphed to the Chief Commissioner before they
459. Not from the commencement?—No, not from the commencement,
never. When I took any important step, of course I communicated
with the Chief Commissioner in writing or telegram.
460. They were to follow up anything?—To use their own
discretion. When they were out in those parts of the country
they were allowed to do anything they chose.
461. Was your plan of operations ever interfered with by an
order from your superior?—Not at that time.
462. Not up to the period you are describing?—No. On coming in
one morning from a search party, on Monday, 9th December 1878, I
arrived at Benalla; and from the statements and reports of the
other parties, I was satisfied that the Kelly gang were not in
the Kelly country.
463. What do you mean by the Kelly country?—That back country
behind Greta, extending away up on the east side behind
Mansfield and Benalla, right down nearly to Omeo, and from there
right across east. The country had been so thoroughly searched,
and none of the search parties had obtained any traces whatever.
After the murders we found their old tracks, and
Senior-Constable James discovered their camp, and recovered a
number of horses there—the camp they occupied before the
464. At what place?—Called the Germans’ Creek.
465. In the Mansfield district?—Yes, Mansfield sub-district;
there were no traces discovered after.
466. In giving that evidence, is your reason for concluding they
were not in the country because you got no traces of them, or
from your knowledge that they were elsewhere?—No, because there
were no traces.
467. You came to the conclusion from that that they were not in
the Kelly country?—Yes.
468. Is that bounded by railroad that runs north-easterly up to
Strathbogie and towards the Omeo country?—The Kelly country I
particularly designate is not as far as Strathbogie; east of
469. Northerly and easterly, about the division of the Mansfield
coach-road; that is what you call the Kelly country?—Yes.
470. Your information was they were not in that country?—Yes.
471. You did not include in that the Mansfield country?—Yes;
from what Senior-Constable James said, I was of opinion it was
very improbable they were there.
472. In speaking of the Kelly country, did the Commission
understand that you designated the Kelly country about the
division of the Mansfield coach-road and northerly and easterly
up to Omeo?—Due east from Omeo to the New South Wales boundary;
then due north to “the Heads of the Murray river”; then westward
as far as Wodonga.
473. That would exclude the Strathbogie ranges?—Yes; a party of
police had been stationed at Broken River, on the Benalla and
Mansfield road, under Constable Irwin, for the express purpose
of searching the country—the Strathbogie country—and back from
there to the road from Mansfield to Longwood. There is a road
runs right up to there. On that very occasion—I would not like
to swear positively, but I had very little doubt of it
whatever—a man named ———, who has been alluded to by Captain
Standish yesterday—(I am quite certain that it was on that
Monday—9th December)—came into the yard in the afternoon, soon
after we had arrived, and told me he had got information, and
requested me to take a party along with him, or rather to meet
him up at the head of the King River, in a basin, about seventy
miles off Benalla. I believe he subsequently took Superintendent
Hare there; but he asked me to do that. I knew the man’s
character very well; he is a man of a very treacherous
474. Can you tell what connection of Kellys’ he was?—He was Ned
Kelly’s uncle. He is married to an aunt of the Kellys. He was
much distrusted by the Kelly gang, and also by the people of the
country. I distrusted him at once. When he came he saw our
horses—this was in the barrack-yard—the horses fatigued and
jaded; and I said, “How can I bring these men up seventy miles
by to-morrow night in the state they are in. You see the horses,
and see it is impossible for us to arrive there in a condition
to go in pursuit of those men.”
475. Was this the first information you had received from
him?—Yes; he promised to give information and to write, and
promised to do a great deal, but did not come. I declined to go
with him. I also spoke to Mr. Sadleir of the matter.
476. What was the intimation he gave?—That they were living up
there; but at that very time they were down at Euroa.
477. That has been proved since?—Yes; they were at Faithfull's
Creek station on the Monday, and they robbed the bank on the
478. You consulted with Mr. Sadleir about it?—Yes.
479. And you both agreed it was inexpedient?—Yes.
480. You thought his object was to lead the police off the
track?—Yes. Previously, this man had promised to send for us, or
to come, on certain dates on one or two occasions, and lead to
where the outlaws were; and could have done so, I think, if he
chose to. Still I thought his position and information
untrustworthy, because I distrusted him; and I know they all
481. Was this man recognized as an informer, and in the pay of
the Government?—No, he was not.
482. Was “Wild Wright”—Isaiah Wright—ever engaged by the
police?—Never, to my knowledge. There was also received, a
considerable time previous to that, a letter sent by
Senior-Constable Kelly from Hedi, a letter that had in some way
or other fallen into his hands; and it revealed, apparently, a
plan on the part of some persons on the River Murray to help the
outlaws over to escape into New South Wales.
483. What date?—I forget the date. No doubt the letter is
producible amongst the others; but it was previous to this. As a
matter of form, this was sent on to the New South Wales police,
as we were in close communication with them, giving them all
this information. Great importance has been attached that that
was the cause of Mr. Sadleir’s starting up to Albury that night.
Now Mr. Sadleir and I had come to the conclusion that the Kellys
bad been baffled in crossing the river; further, the opinion of
all our best assistants, all the respectable portion of the
community and the most experienced, was that the Kellys would
make another effort to escape across the Murray at that time.
Mr. Sadleir and I concluded that we would run up to Wodonga and
Albury, as we were assured that the Kellys were not in the Kelly
country, to warn the police all the way up and down as to the
likelihood of their trying to cross. We two went up by the last
train at night, and were to return by the first train in the
484. Was this the time when Captain Standish said you
pooh-poohed the information that was given to you about
Faithfull’s Creek, and started off with Mr. Sadleir to
Albury?—Yes, that was the occasion.
485. Was that the occasion of —— giving you the information that
Captain Standish referred to when you had all the horses
saddled?—No, another occasion altogether. We reached the railway
station, and at Benalla were just getting into the carriage, and
the station was crowded. We saw Mr. Wyatt, P.M., in the crowd.
486. His station is at Benalla?—It is one place he visits.
487. Is that his head-quarters?—I am not aware he has any
head-quarters. He visits almost any part of the district. Mr.
Sadleir remarked to me, or we remarked together, his
carrying something in his hand like a bouquet of flowers.
488. What train was that?—The last train at night, eight
o’clock; it was quite dark, and Mr. Sadleir said, “I will go and
see what is the matter.” So he went up and spoke to him. Mr.
Wyatt and Mr. Sadleir then joined me; this was just as the train
was starting, or just about two or three minutes before, and he
told us that at Faithfull’s Creek, just as related yesterday——
489. Try and repeat it as closely as you can, because you can
see a great deal depends on this evidence?—He told us that at
Faithfull’s Creek, opposite Faithfull’s Creek station, a
squatting station, it was observed from the train that a
considerable portion of the telegraph wire had been broken
down—in fact one or more of the posts had been broken; and he
produced from the end of one of the posts an insulator, a group
of insulators, two or three that he had in his hand; he might
have had some wire; I do not recollect it, but have no doubt he
will tell you himself about it. I sent Mr. Sadleir down to see
the guards and the drivers of the train, with the view of asking
if they had seen anything peculiar at Euroa, and also any of the
passengers he knew. Mr. Wyatt merely said, as far as I can
recollect, that his opinion was there was something wrong; Mr.
Sadleir came back and stated that the railway officers that were
on the train at Euroa had landed their passengers, and that they
had the usual delay, and that everything was going on all right
as usual at Euroa.
490. They had not observed it?—They had observed nothing
491. You do not recollect Mr. Wyatt saying more than that?—I
have perfect confidence in what Mr. Wyatt will say about it. I
do not remember any more that he said.
492. We understood from Captain Standish that you had received
information that the bank was to he stuck up before this?—I had
493. Did Mr. Wyatt tell you on this occasion that Euroa had been
494. Captain Standish stated that Mr. Wyatt told you a bank was
to be stuck up, and so on?—I do not know on what ground Captain
Standish says that.
495. This is a portion of the statement made—[quoting the
Newspaper report]:—“On arriving at the Benalla railway
station, Mr. Wyatt met Messrs. Nicolson and Sadleir. That was on
the evening of the 10th. They were then starting for the Murray,
on the strength of some strange intelligence they had received
from friends of the outlaws, that the outlaws were going to
cross the river. Mr. Wyatt at once informed Mr. Nicolson of what
he had seen, and told him there was no doubt the outlaws had
been at Faithfull Creek or Euroa. Mr. Nicolson pooh-poohed that
information, and not only started himself for Albury, but took
Mr. Sadleir with him.” In giving your evidence (because this is
most important) you said that when Mr. Wyatt showed you this
group of insulators that he said there was something wrong; did
he connect with that wrong anything about the Kellys?—Yes.
496. Why did not you tell that at once?—I was interrupted.
497. Did he infer anything wrong with the Kellys?—I believe he
498. Is that statement of Captain Standish substantially
correct?—No. It is not a fair statement.
499. In what particular does it differ—tell us exactly what took
place at this station?—I am doing so. I am only too glad to do
so. Whatever Mr. Wyatt said, I understood that he believed that
it was in connection with the Kellys. Whether he said so I am
not prepared to say, but I took it in that way, and I replied to
Mr. Wyatt. All the time I had in my mind that the men were
making for the north, and I was going up to warn the police on
the New South Wales side, and at Wodonga, to be on the look out,
as I used the words, and you can ask him. I said, “Very well;
even suppose they have gone, and pulled down those wires at
Faithfull’s Creek, that does not affect what I am acting upon,”
or words to that effect.
500. In point of fact, you thought the information you were
going to give at Albury of more importance than the information
given by Mr. Wyatt?—That was it exactly.
501. Why did you think that of more importance if he gave you
actual information, and showed the wires affording proof; why
would not that be sufficient to lead you to go and trace it at
once?—I thought there was a possibility of the Kellys having,
for some reason or other, cut down the wires at Faithfull’s
Creek on their way, fearing information might be sent along.
502. But the bare fact of the wires being destroyed, and you
getting the information a few hours after, would you not have
stood a good chance, by acting promptly, of following up the
tracks and catching them?—No; the breaking the wires in that
country is very common, not at all an unusual circumstance.
503. Was the impression on your mind on the information given by
Mr. Wyatt that the wires had been destroyed by a storm, or by
some other means than by the outlaws?—I did not think it was
done by the Kellys.
504. You discredited the idea it was done by them?—Not
altogether; but I considered if they were making north to cross,
that my course going up there that night and giving information
that it would be too late to pursue them from where the lines
were broken down, and that it was the better way to intercept
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
505. Suppose it was correct information, would you have
succeeded better than the other way?—I would not, because this
information was given in the dark; we could do nothing till
daylight—until morning—and those men could ride all through the
night, and be at the Murray by morning.
506. What was the information from Faithfull’s Creek?—The
communication was cut off at Euroa.
507. Would they be likely to destroy the wire, to destroy
communication with the border?—They would.
508. As I understand you, you looked upon this injury to the
wire as proof of the plan that you surmised was being attempted
by them in escaping?—I did, rather than otherwise.
509. Therefore you pursued the object you had in view—to get to
the boundary as quickly as possible?—Yes.
510. Was it substantially necessary for both yourself and Mr.
Sadleir to go?—It was not.
511. But, on the information you obtained, would it not have
been wise for you to have remained at Benalla, or remained at
Faithfull’s Creek with a party of men, and the other proceeded
away?—Certainly, If I had remained, it might have been wiser;
but if I had remained at Benalla I would not have taken out a
party when there were police at Euroa, and I would have waited
for information by the next train, or sent a mounted-constable
to enquire; but you must remember there were police at Euroa.
512. In point of fact you took no steps to ascertain whether the
information furnished by Mr. Wyatt was of any value or not?—No;
I had no time then; in fact my last words to Mr. Wyatt were as I
was getting into the carriage—we were just in time to catch the
train, and all this occurred in say about three to five minutes.
513. Under the circumstances of the nature, would the
station-master, at your request, delay the train to Benalla?—I
do not know whether he would or not. I know we always met with
every facility from the railway people.
514. It might have been a mail train?—Even if it was a mail
train, he would have done it, I think. There was a train in at
half-past eleven, that brought up a constable from Euroa.
515. Then the first actual knowledge arrived at Benalla of the
occurrence at Euroa?—Yes.
516. How long elapsed?—The outlaws left at eight, that would be
three hours and a half.
517. Did you not get the telegram from Captain Standish?—I did,
by way of Deniliquin. I was at Albury when his telegram reached
me, and I had made all the arrangements with Albury and Wodonga
police, and I returned on receiving his telegram at Albury. I
got back with Mr. Sadleir to Wodonga, and went down in the same
train in which we had come.
518. Can you fix the time you received that telegram from
Captain Standish?—It was within an hour after our arrival at
519. What time did you receive that telegram of the 10th from
Captain Standish in Albury?—It was very late—I believe it was
after twelve o’clock. It was shortly after the train arrived.
520. Had you liberty to use the telegraph wires at any time, day
or night?—Yes, at all hours. There were certain times fixed at
which the Railway Department’s lines were at our disposal—extra
521. What distance is it from Faithfull’s Creek to Euroa?—Four
to six miles.
522. The outlaws left Faithfull’s Creek at eight?—Yes.
523. And what time did you first hear of it at Euroa?—On the
return of Mr. Scott, banker, who was taken away with others,
between nine and ten, and had been kidnapped at Euroa and
carried away to Faithfull’s Creek; and the robbery took place at
Euroa in the day—the people were moving backwards and forwards
quite unconscious of it, and a lot of carpenters working at a
house on the railway reserve, opposite the bank.
524. The police officers had liberty to send all messages in
preference to any other messages that the telegraph masters
might have—do you know that such an order was issued?—I am not
aware, but I never found the slightest delay; we always received
the utmost assistance from the Telegraph Department. We got a
spring-cart at Albury, and went across, and got back to the
train; we went down in the train as far as Wangaratta, and
stopped there. I ran from there to the hospital to get that
black I had before—the Queensland black that I had before at
Baumgarten’s. I found him too sick, and I was sorry I was
obliged to come away without him. Mr. Sadleir, by agreement with
me , remained there to take out the party of police. I proceeded
on to Benalla, and made my way as fast as I could down to the
station, and got my horse, and despatched a telegram from
Benalla to Mansfield.
525. What men had you with you?—I had no men; and then I went
away off as quickly as I could back to the train that was
waiting for me, and got into it, and Mr. Wyatt accompanied me.
526. What was the nature of the telegram?—To Mansfield police,
telling where I had gone; that I had gone down to Euroa, and
that I wished them to send down two trackers from there to me to
Euroa—They had three, I think.
527. What hour would that be?—Just before I started.
528. Was it before ten o’clock?—Yes, long before; it was early
in the morning—I came down express.
529. And the trackers were to go to Euroa?—I believe that is it;
but the telegram can be produced. I also indicated to the police
up there which way I thought they should move—what direction the
search party should take.
530. In this special telegram?—In this telegram, it has been
said that I telegraphed (something monstrous was conveyed about
me) that I sent to the Mansfield police—“You have got your
orders, go on.” I sent no such telegram.
531. What direction did you give to the police?—I believe, as
far as I can recollect, it was to move down the back road from
532. A copy of it will be available?—I believe so, and the
original in my handwriting in the office, but I do not like to
touch it or interfere with it.
533. How can the copies of those telegrams be obtained?—In the
Benalla telegraph office. I warned the telegraph master to take
great care of all telegrams. From the road between Mansfield and
Longwood, I think that was it, searching the country towards
Strathbogie; I do not recollect exactly, but I indicated the
possibility of their making into the Strathbogie ranges. It has
been said that I sent orders to the Euroa police to wait until I
arrived—as a fact, there was a party at Euroa.
534. Who was in charge of that party?—Senior-constable Johnson
and Detective Ward.
535. How many were in Euroa at that time?—Six or seven, that was
Johnson's party. I am not aware and I do not believe that I ever
said anything of the kind, as expressed. As I was coming down in
the train—Mr. Wyatt was with me—I expressed the fear that I
would be too late, that the police would be gone; and Mr. Wyatt
told me that he did not think so, something to the effect that
the men did not wish to go, they were sure to wait till I came.
536. And that was his opinion?—That he had heard so.
537. That was next morning?—Yes; I reached Faithfull’s Creek,
pulled up the train when we came opposite the creek, and left
Mr. Wyatt there, and did not see him again; and I went and
joined the party at Faithfull’s Creek.
538. At Euroa?—No; I never went near Euroa; I went direct to
Faithfull’s Creek on the Benalla side, and joined the party that
were waiting there, and started from there as soon as I possibly
539. At what hour?—I could not say.
540. Mid-day?—No; in the morning.
541. Between eleven and twelve would it be?—Oh, earlier than
542. What distance had you travelled then?—I merely had come
down by train; I was in sight of it from the train—the
Faithfull’s Creek station is in sight of it from the train. I
had come right through from Albury.
543. From Benalla you came down, by train, after sending the
telegram, and arrived at Faithfull’s Creek—what time did the
journey occupy?—About 30 miles.
544. About one hour and a quarter?—Yes.
545. Did you arrive before the ordinary train at Euroa or
afterwards?—I arrived at Faithfull’s Creek before every train.
546. The ordinary is ten minutes past ten, therefore you must
have been before that?—I was some time before that.
547 Then it must have between ten and eleven you started?—It
must have been much earlier.
548. Can you trace the lime at each point in the journey?—I was
at Wangaratta soon after sunrise; that would be about five
o'clock. I was then only about an hour going down to Benalla;
that would be about six o'clock. Then I suppose I had a long way
to go from Benalla to the railway station and back, and it would
be perhaps over two hours—half-past eight when I arrived at
549. When you received, at Benalla, this information from Mr.
Wyatt, could you not have communicated with the Euroa
police?—No; the line was broken between Benalla and Euroa; it
had been cut off at Faithfull’s Creek, and there was no
telegraph station there. There was a little delay at the
station, owing to a gentleman who had nothing to do with the
matter, and I would rather not mention it—it did not make more
that ten minutes’ delay—and we got away from him.
550. In Captain Standish’s evidence he said there was a want of
judgement or procrastination on your part, therefore we are
desirous that you should give the exact information as to what
occurred, and fixing the dates and so on?—There was a gentleman
there, the overseer of the Faithfull’s Creek station, who had
been amongst the party stuck up, and he knew the country very
well. I picked out the man, an overseer on the station, whom I
subsequently employed, named Stevens.
551. He had been a groom?—Yes; and I saw the housekeeper, an
elderly sensible woman, there, who had been there, in the
matter, who had been stuck up all night, and I just asked her,
“In what direction did you see the last of the dust of those
men’s horses?” She pointed the road going down to Violet Town.
The men had been looking for traces with a black fellow name
Jemmy—a very useless fellow—and they had seen some tracks, and
we followed those. We rode ultimately in that direction, and got
rid of that troublesome gentleman I spoke of. He had a fall from
his horse, which I was not sorry for, and we went on with this
groom, who knew the country. Well, we got in, and at last we
crossed the line and re-crossed the line, and we got on the road
running to the Murchison road, to the Strathbogie side of Euroa,
and there we found what we believed to be the traces of the men.
They turned down towards Euroa. We followed those traces right
down. I was riding on the right, with some of the men in front
with the blackfellow. Stevens and I were riding together, and
there were a number of fine young men in the police party, and
they were also observing the tracks too. The spur ran down from
the Strathbogie range right down into the road, and the main
road was a mile from it, and the paddock rail ran right into
this part, leaving the face of the spur the boundary of the
road. The blackfellow turned off, and said there were the tracks
of two mounted men who had gone off the face of the road on to
the range. He pretended to trace them along this spur about half
way, and then lost them, and said there was nothing. In the
meantime, myself and Stevens, the man from the station, and the
others, kept our eyes upon these two tracks remaining on the
road. Bye-and-bye we lost the whole altogether. After a little
pursuing on that road, trying to pick them up, the road at this
time being very dusty, we satisfied ourselves there was nothing
down on that spur at all, and the young men were the first to
discover and pick up the tracks again on the road, at the side
of the road, some distance down. The tracks led to an open space
on the right-hand side, and then going towards the gate leading
into a paddock alongside the railway; the men got off their
horses and traced them in a very clever manner; and they
branched off into the paddock. In the centre of the paddock
these traces were lost. I halted there, and I made two or three
of the men gallop round; I did so in order to see if the fellows
had taken off, if they had jumped their horses over. There was
no trace of any such thing. All this time we were in sight of
Euroa, and all trace was lost; it was about mid-day. I brought
the men down and could not make anything more of that. I brought
them down to the village of Euroa, took them to the police
station to put their horses up, and we came into Euroa; and then
the enquiry was made, for the first time, at the bank, amongst
all who could give any information or throw any light on the
matter. At the same time I ordered dinner for the men at the
hotel; and we had something to eat whilst the horses were
feeding. The men were overpowered at this time (it was a very
hot day) with fatigue and the heat, fatigue particularly,
because most of them were the same men I had with me just two or
three days before; and at the table the men actually fell asleep
over their food (there is no exaggeration in saying this) with
fatigue, in all sorts of attitudes, not drinking a drop or
anything of the kind. Johnson, who was the strongest and
hardiest man of the party, a most energetic man, went to sleep
on the bush sofa at the side of the room, and the old man of the
house—that is, the Euroa hotel—thought Johnson had a sunstroke,
and he began practising upon him for that. The man was so
dead asleep that he was not awaked, though they poured
water over him. I could not take the
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
men out then. I got the men wakened up; I got them into a large
barrack sort of room, and allowed them to sleep there for an
hour or two. It was bright moonlight weather; and about six
o’clock had tea ready for them, and as soon as that was over we
started away down the Murchison road to a place we had heard of
that they were likely to go to—two or three several places. It
seemed when they were at Faithfull’s Creek that they were asking
from one or two persons—a boy particularly—where a certain boy
was living; and they learned this. I was pretty sure they had
gone north towards Murchison—due north. We searched all the
suspicious places without any result.
552. Then you absolutely deny there was any procrastination?—I
do most decidedly.
553. Were the members of the artillery force then stationed?—No,
not until after. When I returned to Euroa—I had been very ill
all that time, I mean nearly blind and suffering great pain from
my eyes. We got in about six in the morning, and I got the men
all to bed, and I lay down myself, but I got no sleep. I could
not sleep, and in the course of the morning Captain Standish
arrived by the morning train, on the 12th, and he consulted me
about what was best to be done, and we decided to start off a
party into the Strathbogie ranges, but I told him I was quite
unfit to join the party. I was almost quite blind at this time.
I was suffering great pain. We agreed to despatch a party that
night into the Strathbogie ranges, and Mr. Hare was sent for to
relieve me in consequence of the state I was in.
554. Was it your impression at this time that the sympathizers
of the outlaws were watching the movements of the police
wherever you went through the Kelly district?—Yes; I had no
faith in anything that was done by the police except it was done
in the most secret way possible. I have evidence to prove that
at this very time I had no faith in the matter. I wrote a letter
at that time to town that this galloping after these men—
555. To the department?—No, a private letter stating that we
would get these men no doubt, but this galloping after them
through the country was perfectly useless.
556. Because your movements were watched by sympathizers?—Yes,
and I knew those fellows were too clever to be caught by a party
galloping after them.
557. And that is how they got their information, by their own
558. To whom did you write?—Well, it is a very delicate
matter—it is a letter I wrote to my wife.
559. Did you write to Captain Standish or any officer to the
560. Irrespective of this private letter, will any document be
found showing that you stated that this system of galloping
about would be ineffectual?—No. I had hardly any correspondence
with Captain Standish at that time; I was doing the outdoor work
and Mr. Sadleir did the correspondence.
561. You still continued that system of galloping?—Up to the
time of the bank robbery; after that I did not. I did so because
there was such an outcry at that time about search parties, and
about the police not doing anything, and I knew at that time it
was no use attempting to confine our efforts to secret work, we
must have made some demonstration because of public opinion.
562. I understood you had supreme control of all the operations
placed under your charge?—Yes.
563. If there was anything to complain of with regard to
tactics, were you not solely responsible for any mistake
564. Then wherein lay the necessity for any complaint; if there
was anything wrong with the proceedings, were you not
responsible, and independent, and equally capable of carrying
out any other plan?—I was responsible distinctly; the Chief
Commissioner gave me carte blanche.
565. Why did you not alter the plan?—I would have done so, but I
was removed; but what I wrote at that time was the conclusion I
had arrived at then from the experience I had gained.
566. At what time did you arrive at that conclusion that it was
useless?—[The witness looked for a letter.]—I can
567. Could you fix about the date you had made up your mind to
alter the plan of operations of which you had full control?—I
cannot say; I made up my mind to alter the operations. The last
party I came in from was that Fern Hill party, and it was about
that date; that was about the 10th.
568. You made up your mind about that time to alter?—Yes.
569. Was that feeling growing upon you?—It was.
570. That was the process?—Yes.
571. You found that you were wasting strength and could not
572. How long had you been in charge of the Benalla
district?—Then about six weeks.
573. Only six weeks?—That is all.
574. Did you, at the interview with Captain Standish on the
12th, communicate verbally that it was a mistake to follow out
this system of search parties?—No, I do not think so.
575. Did you to any other officer subordinate to yourself?—No;
at this time I was taken up talking of other matters.
576. You intended to reverse the policy; you were in continual
communication and conversation with Mr. Sadleir?—Yes.
577. Have you at any time in conversation with him expressed the
opinion that an alteration should take place in the mode of
procedure?—I have no recollection of it, but I think it is very
578. Can you say you did?—No; I think it is very possible I did.
579. I suppose on the morning of the 12th a general conversation
took place between you and Captain Standish when you met at
Euroa?—No, not much.
580. I suppose there would be some conversation?—Yes.
581. Relating to the mode that had been pursued before?—No.
582. This is important. The conversation of necessity would not
have been, “How is Mr. Jones, or Mr. Brown,” but naturally
confined to the Kelly business?—To this Euroa outrage.
583. During that conversation did you say, “I am very unwell,
and I have arrived at the conclusion that we ought to alter the
procedure”?—I cannot recollect.
584. Then, as far as you recollect, you never communicated your
determination to anyone in the police force?—No; I do not say
the determination, I say the opinion; and on looking at the
letter I find I used that expression. I felt quite
heart-broken—our work and worry, and no result from it.
585. Had your state of health permitted, and you had not been
removed by Captain Standish, in all probability you would have
continued the same mode of operation for some time after the
No. I would have continued this pursuit until it was exhausted,
and then I should have proposed to Captain Standish another
586. What do you mean by “exhausted”?—Pursued the party into the
Strathbogie ranges, given them a thorough search, as was done,
and if any information had come in about their being anywhere, I
would have sent the police in search of them; but I intended
then, if no result occurred from that, I should have proposed
587. Then you were consulted about this special party that was
despatched into the Strathbogie country?—Yes.
588. And at that time you had your mind made up that if that
resulted in no special effect —?—I did not say my mind made up,
but the opinion I had formed.
589. I understood you to say that you would exhaust that system,
and you explained what you meant by that, and you had made up
your mind that when that party went out, that was to be the end
of that system of procedure—is that so?—Yes.
590. You would have thought it wise not to communicate what was
existing in your mind at that time to Captain Standish?—My mind
was not so completely made up as to arrive at any definite
conclusion as to what I would do; but that is what I felt, that
a lot of this was a useless system, galloping over the country.
591. You say that you had written to a private friend to say you
considered the system hitherto pursued by yourself, from your
experience, was inoperative. You came to that conclusion about
the time of the bank robbery?—Yes.
592. And you wrote that to a private friend?—I can produce the
593. When you were relieved from duty in consequence of your
eyes being sore and this tremendous hardship you had to undergo,
when you came down you did not communicate to Captain Standish
about this conversation?—No.
594. Can you say whether you did to your successor, Mr. Hare,
then or at any subsequent period?—I had no communication with
595. Did you go on leave when you came down here, or go on duty
at once?—I went on duty from the day I came down from Euroa; I
arrived in the evening, and I went next morning.
596. Had you interviews with your chief after you arrived from
Euroa, and while Mr. Hare was in charge in your place?—No; the
Chief Commissioner came down two or three times from Benalla to
Melbourne, and he never spoke to me about what was going on—he
was exceedingly reticent.
597. You did not carry on a correspondence with him while you
were in Melbourne doing duty, telling him verbally or by
official communication that you considered the system of riding
after the Kellys would be inoperative?—You had better ask him,
but I have no recollection of it. When I came down to town—when
I was in town in charge of the department, on every occasion
that Captain Standish was called down to town by the Government,
and it was very often he would be in my office, and he was most
remarkably reticent, and never would give me the slightest
information—I would not ask him. At the same time, I always
asked him, “Do you wish me to go up, I am ready to go at any
time?” That was all that passed between us, and he would shake
his head and say nothing, and I knew nothing from that time of
what was going on in the country.
598. You then resumed duty in that district yourself, relieving
599. Did you then continue the system you considered would be
600. You carried into effect what your feelings were as to what
ought to have been done in the first instance?—I did so; but I
may explain that I began in this way, that the force was reduced
by a very considerable number; that was when I resumed duty.
601. When was that?—About the 6th July 1879.
602. Did you make any private reports during the time you were
on duty here. You left on the 13th of December, and you resumed
duty in the district in the following July; did you, in the
meantime, communicate either by official communication to the
head of your department, the Under Secretary, or to the Chief
Secretary any opinion as to how these men could be brought to
justice?—I did not; I had no conversation with Sir Bryan
O’Loghlen on the subject, because I could see he was in
correspondence with Captain Standish.
603. Was Captain Standish then discharging the duties?—Yes, in
pursuit of the gang; I was acting as Chief Commissioner.
604. When he took charge himself he assumed the position you had
605. And Mr. Hare was acting under him?—Yes.
606. And when you came to town you did the ordinary routine
office work of Captain Standish?—Yes.
607. Had you then in any official communication with the Acting
Chief Secretary, Sir Bryan O’Loghlen, suggested how the Kellys
might be brought to justice?—No; I knew at the time I had no
knowledge of what was going on, and all communications at that
time with the Government were with Captain Standish.
608. Directly with him and not through the office?—Yes.
609. At the time you left Benalla from ill-health, and having
gained the experience which you necessarily must have had as a
vigilant officer, does not it strike you now as extraordinary
that you did not advise with your successor or with your
superior officer as to the best course to be adopted in the
interests of the public safety?—My relations with Captain
Standish at that time, when I was in town, were against my doing
610. They were strained?—They were strained, and any expression
of opinion by me was treated with I would not say almost
contempt, but something very near it; I was not in his
confidence at all.
611. At what period did that strained relation begin between
you?—At intervals for some years past.
612. Under what circumstances—did that arise more particularly
out of your official position?—Yes.
613. And the discharge of your public duties?—I had never any
disagreement about the discharge of my duties, but frequently in
other matters, and, now I think of it, perhaps in the discharge
of my duties there may have been.
614. Would it be for the public interest to know the
particulars?—I would not like to give a positive answer that
some of our differences may not have been about public matters.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
615. At any time were your public functions interfered with as
the officer second in command by Captain Standish?—Not up to the
time of the Kelly business.
616. On any other occasion?—Subsequently; not up to that period.
Our relations were strained previous to the Kelly outrage.
617. But up to this period, officially, do you wish the Board to
understand that you and Captain Standish worked in harmony in
your respective positions?—Yes, we did, especially during the
Kelly outrage; and, as far as I am concerned, I maintain that on
every occasion I worked in harmony with him up to that period. I
had no serious difference with him until afterwards.
618. Then, at the period when you were taken ill, and it was
necessary for you to leave for a time, do not you think, in the
interest of the public service, it was absolutely your duty to
communicate with the gentleman who took your position and your
superior officer as to the best course to be adopted?—No
encouragement was ever given me to offer suggestions.
619. No, but did not you think that to the Government, of which
you were a very important officer, it was essential for your own
personal safety and the public security to advise as to the best
course to take from the much larger experience you must have
acquired through being in that position?—Yes; I was quite ready
to do so, but any advice I offered on the strength of my
experience was pooh-poohed, previous to that and on that
620. On this occasion you left no record, neither did you
verbally express to the gentlemen with whom you were associated
as officers the importance of following out any course you
thought best adopted for the object you had in view, neither in
writing nor verbally?—No. The day I left was upon that occasion,
the 12th. I was, as I tell you, when I came in from that party,
completely prostrated; in fact when I was going about the street
I had to be led about, and take the arm of someone.
621. Your answer is that you were too incapacitated at that time
622. And Captain Standish did not ask you?—No.
623. Subsequently you say you performed all the functions
pertaining to the Chief Commissionership of the colony?—Yes.
624. You were in constant communication with the Government on
625. After you had time to recover your health, did you not
think it of sufficient importance then, from the position you
had occupied and the important position you then occupied, to
consult with the Government, and to advise as to the best
course?—I did not. Captain Standish at the time was in direct
communication with the Government himself, and I was not. I did
not know what course he was pursuing at all, and he never
invited me to give any opinion. I gave an opinion once or
twice—a suggestion—but on all those occasions he treated me with
coldness and repelled me.
626. In your opinion, do you not think it probable that to the
want of harmony that should have existed between the officers at
the head of the police force at this time that failure which
occurred is to be attributed more to that cause than any other
cause?—Not up to then—not at that time.
627. How many years have you been in the service?—Nearly thirty
628. What position has Mr. Hare among the superintendents?—There
is Mr. Winch, Mr. Chomley, Mr. Chambers, and then Mr. Hare—he is
629. You being, up to this time we speak of, Inspecting
Superintendent; that is the legal term of your position under
630. Did you, in that position, constantly visit and inspect the
stations under Mr. Hare’s charge, and were you in constant
communication with him?—No.
631. Were you on unfriendly terms with Mr. Hare?—No.
632. Was your position with Mr. Hare as strained as with Mr.
Standish up to that time?—No, Mr. Hare was a man (excepting
about ten years ago) that I had very little communication with.
I only inspected his district once.
633. Did you communicate anything about your opinion on the
Kellys to Mr. Hare on his assuming your place, or at any
subsequent time?—No, I had no communication with Mr. Hare.
634. There has been a strained feeling between you and Mr. Hare
for some time?—No; we had been as acquaintances friendly enough,
but no intimacy.
635. Did you accompany Mr. Hare to capture Power?—No, he
accompanied me; I was the superior officer.
636. And you went there—that is some years ago?—Yes, that is
about ten years ago.
637. In this same district?—In the Benalla district.
638-9. You did not communicate with Captain Standish, the
Government of the day, or Mr. Hare any information that you had
learned by your experience as to how the Kellys would be best
captured till you resumed duty?—I did. Any information that came
to me or I could gather I forwarded them on to Captain Standish.
Some of this used to be returned in a contemptuous manner, and
often the only allusion he made as to some information I had
sent him would be to sneer at it.
640. That was between the 12th September and the 6th July?—Yes.
641. And during the whole time, in any of those communications
you had with Captain Standish, you never expressed the opinion
that they were pursuing the wrong course?—I did not do so
officially. It was not an uncommon expression on my part on that
642. Was it in consequence of the feeling between you and
Captain Standish that he abstained from communicating with the
Government the opinion he had formed as to the mode of
procedure?—It was not; nor from any feeling between Captain
Standish and myself that prevented me from communicating with
him; but at the time that I left I was too prostrated to do so,
or to think of it; and from Captain Standish’s manner towards me
when he visited town it drove anything of the kind out of my
head. I would not have presumed, under the circumstances, to
have offered any suggestion whatever, as it was subjecting
myself almost to insult.
643. Then there must be something in that question I asked you,
that it was in consequence of the discourteous manner that you
withheld the information?—I say I might have thought of it, and
would have been only glad to give the benefit of any thought
that came into my head, but that prevented it.
644. You had arrived at a certain
conclusion before you left on the 12th, that if the search party
had failed you would take another course?—I did not say that
exactly. I would have tried something else.
645. For a long time it was your impression that the operations
to capture the Kellys were futile?—I will not fix the date.
646. When the parties were out searching for the Kellys you had
the impression for some time that the operations of the police
were futile?—Yes; it must have been I was disgusted with the
mode of procedure.
647. I would like to ask now, as it seems to my mind
important—you have now, in the course of your evidence,
intimated the position that some of the officers held, and to
use the expression that it is strained, that there was an
unfriendly feeling, a want of the usual co-operation, between
you and Captain Standish, and between you and Mr. Hare?—No; I do
not say so at all. There is not that feeling; but Captain
Standish exhibited towards me that feeling on frequent occasions
for a considerable time.
648. Now between you and Mr. Hare what is the position?—Just
649. For some time you say you had not much communication with
him?—I have not. There are many officers I do not have
650. Up to the 12th December was there any unfriendly
651. Looking after the efficiency of the force was your special
duty under the 36th section of the regulations, and I want to
know from you what was the feeling between other officers of the
force—was there a friendly feeling between Superintendent Winch
and Captain Standish?—Mr. Winch and Captain Standish were on
very good terms. I do not know now—I believe they meet and speak
with each other.
652. Do you believe that Captain Standish and Superintendent
Winch are on friendly terms with each other, such as would be
between a senior superintending officer and his chief?—Well, it
appears that just about the time of the Kelly business at Euroa,
but nothing to do with that, there was some feeling between the
653. Then would you say at the time of Captain Standish leaving
the service that there was a strained relationship between
Superintendent Winch and Captain Standish?—No, not at that time.
654. Is there now?—I am not aware.
655. Is there a strained feeling between you, the next under
Captain Standish, and Mr. Winch?—No.
656. Not in the least?—No; I am not on intimate terms with or in
the habit of associating with any of them.
657. It is not a question of intimate terms?—I meet Mr. Winch on
duty, and he meets me, on the same intimate terms as I met all
the others, with one exception.
658. Who is that?—I would rather not mention it.
659. Is that with Captain Standish?—He is not in the force. I
say, with one exception, I am on friendly terms with every
officer I come in contact with in the force, especially those
who are well conducted.
660. You do not think there is a strained feeling between
Superintendent Winch and Captain Standish, or between any
officer and yourself?—I do not know about the feelings between
Superintendent Winch and Captain Standish; I do not want to know
anything about them.
661. It is important to see we have got the right statements
before us; it is important to see what is the feeling of the
brother officers; and, as the Acting Chief Commissioner, I
thought you could have formed an opinion and could have told us
what is your feeling with regard to the feeling of one officer
to another. Is it one that is advantageous to the public
service?—I believe the feeling between the officers is
662. You say between the officers, one with the other, that the
feeling is extremely good?—Yes, I do; but officers come very
little in contact with each other now. Some do not come in
contact for years, and they get strange to each other.
663. Was that the cause why you did not give your information to
Captain Standish?—On my honor, I never kept any information from
Captain Standish or Superintendent Hare; I gave them every
information I could; and that suggestion that you have spoken
of; if it had occurred to me, I would have given it; and it is
only since I came to town, and looked among the papers for the
Commission, I found the expression I used in the letter to that
664. You only desisted in tendering that information when you
noticed Captain Standish’s manner to you?—I did not desist in
tendering information to Captain Standish; I did not keep
anything back; but his demeanour towards me was not calculated
to develop information.
665. In what way has that arisen?—It is very mysterious to me.
It has arisen and shown itself in many ways.
666. Is it jealousy?—I should be very sorry to say so. I entered
the force in the humblest position, and have risen to my present
position. When I was removed from the mounted police, I was
promoted for service some years ago—about the year after I
joined, in 1853—and I have been continually on active service
since; and I was selected by Sir Charles Mac Mahon to take
charge of the detective police when it was organized. I took
charge of it, and during that time I was in the heat and brunt
of everything that was going on; and when I had to leave the
detective force on account of my health breaking down, Captain
Standish was not pleased with it, and I went to a quieter
district, at Kyneton, to carry on my duty there, and along with
other men I arrested Power, though I arose from an attack of
fever. I followed him into the district where he was, and made
arrangements for his arrest along with Mr. Hare, and took him. I
had information that he had passed through a portion of my
district, and on that I acted. I was then appointed to the city
by seniority. I received no promotion on account of the Power
capture. Every step has been simply by seniority.
667. Your position now has been attained simply by
seniority?—Yes. My first promotion was for distinction, and
after many steps and many years passing my present position has
been reached simply by seniority. For fourteen years I was in
the detective force, and though rising to first-class
superintendent, I was receiving less pay than any superintendent
in the force, and I would have received that pay still if my
health had not broken down, and I fell into the rank of District
Superintendent. At that time I was made the subject of much
unpleasantness, as Inspecting Superintendent, and on several
occasions Captain Standish did not support me.
668. Captain Standish stated that in his evidence as having
been before that year?—Captain Standish behaved on several
occasions in that way, and I forgave him over and over again.
Then it came at last to this. I never made use of
political influence, or assistance of any kind in my
life, until my
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
24th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson
25th March 1881
position became almost unbearable, and then I told Captain
Standish of it. At last I was appointed Assistant Commissioner
669. How long ago is that?—A very short time.
670. Did that improve Captain Standish’s feeling towards
you?—Yes. I felt it necessary to apply for a higher position to
671. Have you had any personal quarrel with Captain
Standish?—Never, until I received a letter asking me to come
down to town on Saturday to have a chat with him, and the first
announcement he made was that I was superseded; a junior officer
was to go back on the Monday. Then my indignation broke forth.
672. That was just before the capture?—Yes.
673. Did he say why you were superseded by this other
person?—That the Government had decided so. I replied to him I
did not believe the Government had decided at all; that he had
done it; that he had communicated with the Government, and that
I would not submit to it, and I would see the Government about
674. Were you under the impression that there was a feeling on
Captain Standish’s part from the time you joined the police in
1853, a feeling as against you from that time?—No, not until I
left the detective force, more particularly after I gave up the
City Superintendentship and accepted the Inspecting
675. I want to know whether the feeling which was evinced
yesterday for the first time to our knowledge, as between you
and Captain Standish, to your knowledge exists between other
members of the force?—Not to my knowledge; and I never in my
life heard Captain Standish speak as he did yesterday.
The witness withdrew.
Adjourned to to-morrow at Eleven o’clock.
The Hon. F. LONGMORE,
M.L.A., in the Chair;
W. Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,
G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,
J. H. Graves, Esq., M.L.A.,
Geo. Wilson Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,
E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.
Charles Hope Nicolson further
Commission asked for something in writing as to the police
arrangements and the formation and organization of these search
parties. I found the original document last night—[handing
in the same]. I would draw your attention to this
last note, which is written by Sergeant Steele. I consulted
various members of the force, and he gave some very valuable
information. I mention that as against the charge of red tape
that was made against me—“From Wangaratta. 1st. Sergeant Steele.
From Wangaratta to Whorouly; thence Merriang to Buffalo River,
to head of Dondongadale Creek, to Rose, Mount Emu to Black Range
Creek, to left-hand branch of King and head of Glenmore
run.—2nd. From Mansfield road. Senior-Constable James. From
Mansfield or road to Wombat, Stringy Bark Creek falls (Ryan’s
branch?) to Roschiel homestead; Peter Lane’s run, between
Mason’s and Kilfera, on head of Fifteen-mile Creek, to
right-hand branch of the King.—3rd. Benalla party. Mr. Nicolson.
Benalla to Winton ranges, Eleven-mile, Bald Hill, taking
dividing range at back of Lloyd’s, Barnett’s, Delaney’s, and
Tanner’s, and follow up left-hand side of the Fifteen-mile Creek
to near head. Special attention should be given to a lane at the
head of Tanner’s farm, leading to and from McBean’s Swamp, known
as Cart-road Gully.—4th. Samaria, Holland’s Creek to the
Monument Hill, do not appear to be provided for in the above,
and may require a separate party. Nos. 2, 3, and 4, to start at
same time. No.1 should start in advance of them, to stop them in
event of their getting away from 2, 3, and 4. The first batch of
men going to the Rose, and thence to Glenmore, will be quite
independent of the other parties; therefore, calculating the
chances of the men starting to search the Broken River watershed
and the Fifteen-mile Creek watershed, it would seem better
parties either from the commencement of the water, or else from
Greta and Winton. With reference to Samaria, Holland’s Creek,
and the Monument Hill, I am of opinion that it could be worked
by the Benalla party (No.3), either on their way up the
Fifteen-mile Creek, or on their return therefrom. The paddocks
owned by Stampuken, and others in which there is no person
residing, should all be searched carefully, both for offenders
and recent ridden horses.” I had charge of the Benalla party. I
had Senior-Constable Strachan and Senior-Constable Flood with
me. They were my two assistants. The next thing I have to
produce is the private letter that I alluded to. There is the
paragraph I quoted. The date is the 19th of November l878—[handing
in a letter]:—“I am in good health and spirits, only chafed
by the patience necessary in the search. The offenders have
2,000 square miles of mountain, rocky, thickly timbered, and
scrubby country to play hide and seek in, and with hard
galloping about the policemen will never catch them.
Nevertheless, we will catch them, but it will only be by a fluke
if we catch them at once.”
676. I suppose in that letter you have not gone on further to
describe the means you intended to adopt?—No.
677. At that time you had full command of the Kelly country?—At
that time I had full command of the Kelly country. I was in
charge of the North-Eastern district.
678. And from the 19th of November, the date when you
wrote that letter to your friend, until the 12th of December,
when you were sent to Melbourne by Captain Standish, you had not
altered the operations then pursued?—No, I had not. I must
add, with reference to that, that it was a thought just
occurring to me while writing a hurried letter. I still
pursued the work I was on, and I never entertained any
serious thought at that time of the necessity for changing the
tactics we were pursuing, because I considered it a matter of
duty to search the country thoroughly first. But that
was an opinion in advance
of my work, and I did not consider the work completed. In fact,
I never thought of the matter at all—very little at all, at the
time I met Captain Standish after the Euroa robbery. I am not
aware that the matter ever occurred to me. I may have explained
myself fully to Captain Standish in the matter, or to Mr. Hare.
I may or I may not.
679 Is this it. On the 19th of November you had a feeling that
the mode you were adopting was likely to be inoperative except
by some fluke?—Yes.
680 And you never took the trouble to think of any other means
from then till the time you left Benalla?—It was a very floating
thought—just what one would write in a hurry. It was not want of
trouble in the matter. Although I expressed the thought, it was
not confirmed in my mind up to that time. I will be much briefer
than I was yesterday. When I returned to town I went to duty at
once. I never left the office. I took charge on the morning
after my arrival when I was relieved.
681 You were relieved through sickness?—Through fatigue. I was
not ill at all, but I was suffering from pain and the effects of
fatigue, and I was never incapacitated from duty for one hour
from that time till I went up to relieve Captain Standish. He
visited Melbourne several times. I spoke to him on the subject
of the Kelly gang; but he was always very reserved, and did not
seem to think fit to enter into the subject with me at all. But
on his very first visit to Melbourne I remember distinctly
saying to him this, speaking about the mode of operations—“Do
you remember that man Sherritt, whom we saw at Mrs. Byrne’s that
morning?” I said, “That is the sort of man to employ—that class
682. Was that Sherritt the man whom you saw Captain Standish
speaking to before the trooper on the morning of the Sebastopol
attack?—Yes, that is the man—of the same class as the Kellys
683. You said that was the sort of man to employ to get these
684. Did you speak ironically to him of this proceeding?—No,
quite seriously; and on the first occasion I say most solemnly
that I said that to him.
685. What date was that?—About—I cannot tell. Captain Standish
can tell. It was the first day he came to Melbourne, and the
first opportunity I had after I came down to Melbourne in
charge. I was on friendly terms with Captain Standish at the
time; I was never unfriendly until I was superseded.
686. That is the 12th of December?—No, the following year—in
687. At the interview with Mr. Ramsay?—Yes, that was the first
time. On every occasion that I could I did everything to aid the
police up there; and I wish to speak straightforwardly in this
matter, and although I do not pretend that that private letter
influenced me at all, still the same thought was running in my
head; the consequence was that the first time I met Captain
Standish I did say that to him I merely submit that, if the
Commission imagine it was through any desire to prevent
assistance to Captain Standish that I did not speak to him
before, it will be a misapprehension. I should like very much to
know the date on which Sherritt was employed.
688 Was he employed by you?—Never by me at that time. He was
employed then by Captain Standish and Mr. Hare—whether before
that date or after I do not know.
689 Did you engage him at any time?—On my second visit I did. I
left Melbourne on the 3rd of July 1879 for Benalla, to relieve
Superintendent Hare, in consequence of instructions I had
received from Captain Standish. I have something of importance
to say on the office—that during the time I was in charge of the
office, I carried on the business of the office most carefully.
690. In Melbourne?—Yes.
691. From December to July?—Yes; several documents which I
considered, and which the chief clerk of the office suggested to
me were matters for him to deal with, I sent to Captain
Standish, and in every way I recognized his position of Chief
Commissioner of Police. There were no documents kept back at
692. You were Assistant Commissioner at that time?—Yes, I was,
and acting for him. When it was known decidedly that he was
coming down to Melbourne, a few documents of the same kind were
kept back for him instead of sending them up (they not being
urgent), and nothing else. If you think fit to send into the
office, to call upon the chief clerk in charge of the office, he
will tell you the state that the office was in when I left it,
and there are no grounds whatever for the statement of Captain
Standish that I left the office in a muddle. I have always
found, when I acted for him in the office, that it was the
easiest billet I had had in the service.
693. What is the chief clerk’s name?—Mr. Moors.
694. Has he been there long?—Yes.
695. Does he understand the routine of the office?—Perfectly.
696. Is it usual for the chief clerk to see all the official
documents that come in for the head of the office?—Yes.
697. He would know all the routine of the office?—Yes,
698. Did Captain Standish, at any time since the 12th of
December until Tuesday last, make any complaints as to the way
in which you administered the department when in Melbourne?—No.
699. Did Mr. Moors?—No. Of course Mr. Moors was subordinate.
700. But he can give evidence as to it, one way or the
other?—Yes. Further, on that point, when I had occasion to see
the Honorable the Acting Chief Secretary on police business—Sir
Bryan O’Loghlen—I was always most careful to mark the
distinction that I was merely acting, and that Captain Standish,
who was away, was the Chief Commissioner of Police; and I took
the liberty once or twice (I do not suppose I am breaking
confidence) to suggest to Sir Bryan O’Loghlen the advisability
of Captain Standish resuming his proper place down here, and my
going up there in his place.
701. You said just now that you were appointed some time between
the 12th of December 1878 and the time of your resuming duty in
the North-Eastern district in July. You were then appointed
Assistant Commissioner of Police?—Yes. I was appointed assistant
before; I was then acting.
702. When were you appointed assistant?—Long before that.
703. Can you give the date of that?—[The witness having
examined certain papers, was requested to hand in a note of all
his appointments, with their dates, from his joining
the force, which is as follows]:—“Lieutenant, 14/2/55;
Sub-Inspector, 31/1/56; Inspector, 2nd Class, 20/6/56; in charge
of Detectives, 5/8/56; Superintendent of Detectives, 1/10/57;
Inspecting Superintendent, 15/1/73; Assistant Commissioner,
13/12/78; Acting Chief Commissioner of Police, 13/9/80.” I spent
a few days in looking over the reports and seeing what had been
done on my return to Benalla.
704. That was on the 3rd of July?—Yes.
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
705. In what state was the correspondence?—It consisted of
letters and telegrams that had come in from the public and the
police to the police authorities and the Chief Commissioner.
706. Were you then taking charge of the papers that Mr. Hare and
Captain Standish had in charge in your absence?—Yes; all
707. In what state were the correspondence and telegrams—were
they properly filed in rotation?—Yes. The Chief Commissioner was
in Melbourne. I relieved Mr. Hare.
708. Before you arrived in Benalla he had left?—Yes; and I
relieved Mr. Hare. A large portion of the strength of the force
and of the military had been withdrawn, and the force reduced.
709. You have not said when they were sent there?—They were sent
there immediately after the Euroa robbery.
710. And after your removal?—Yes; and large reinforcements of
711. By whose orders were they sent?—At the request of the Chief
Commissioner they were sent by the Government. The Chief
Commissioner ordered the police up, not the military. There was
a portion of the military still left. I had then to set about
re-organizing the arrangements of the stations and the strength
of the stations.
712. Are we to understand that the military were withdrawn
immediately preceding your arrival?—Yes; a large portion.
713. The change took place simultaneously with your going
up?—Yes; the horses also. I set to and re-organized the men on
this basis, and adopted this view, that with the materials at my
command my best course to adopt was to secure places from
outrage where there was treasure, so that the outlaws would be
baffled in any attempt to replenish their coffers or to get more
money. I stationed at Wodonga a small party of men under
Sergeant Harkin at Wodonga; the same at Wangaratta, under
Sergeant Steele; the same at Bright, under Senior-Constable
Shoebridge; and the same at Mansfield, under Sub-Inspector
Toohey and Sub-Inspector Pewtress. At each of those places there
was barely strength enough for a search party, but they could
make up a fair party—seven or eight—by calling in men from
neighboring stations. The only place where a complete search
party was kept was Benalla. I provided for that subsequently, at
the suggestion of Mr. Sadleir. I instructed the police
throughout the district to arrange to get quietly and secretly
from two to four townsmen of the right sort—that was the
expression I used—who would turn out and aid them in case of an
attack by the outlaws in any of the townships.
714. Men outside of the constables?—Yes, townsmen. This done
quietly, and the names of the men being concealed, we had no
difficulty in getting them in every place, it being done
secretly and quietly, as I had directed.
715. Were you furnished with the names of these people?—Yes.
716. Was there an engagement entered into to pay them so
much?—No, it was voluntary. There was one instruction conveyed
in my letter—to rouse the people of the district to their duty
as townsmen to resist the outlaws.
717. Was there a sufficient amount of firearms provided the
police, and sufficient for any civilians who might assist?—Not
altogether; there were sufficient for the police; they were
thoroughly well armed at that time and a surplus over; and as
far as that surplus went, we distributed arms; but in many
instances the men had arms themselves.
718. In the first instance, were the people properly supplied
with arms soon after the murders?—No, they were not. The police
were without any arms themselves, excepting revolvers.
719. Do you know whether men were not sent up from Melbourne
without being furnished with arms?—I am not prepared to answer
720. The police?—Where men were there were arms sent up, of
course, which we kept a very careful account of in the district;
and when men were sent up without arms, an order would come that
such a man was to take the arms of such and such a man, who had
left the district, or any arms unused and in reserve; but I am
not prepared to say that men were sent up without arms. I am
prepared to say that men were not sent up at all; that when
casualties occurred to men through sickness or injury of any
kind, I found great difficulty in obtaining men to supply their
721. Was this after your second visit?—On the second occasion. I
have been over a dozen short, and at that time I could not spare
a single man.
722. So you arranged for three or four persons to be engaged in
each place?—Yes, I did. I arranged also a system that the police
should have full authority to go out upon any occasion,
according to their discretion, on any information.
723. You allowed the parties to start at their discretion?—On
any good information they received.
724. Even from the commencement of the search?—Yes, even from
the commencement of the search. I am not aware of anything to
the contrary. I directed the police to be very very quiet; to
discontinue search parties; to make no demonstrations at all.
725. When was that?—About the same time.
726. About July 1879?—Yes.
727. About what time in July did you tell them to
discontinue?—At the very first.
728. Immediately after taking the papers over?—Yes; and I gave
other directions by speaking to the men and otherwise to
endeavor, by discretion and by not talking much, and being
careful not to mention names or use peoples names at all, and in
every way they could to regain the confidence of the people
about the country. I sought to reduce the expenditure. I found
police using hired horses, and some even in the habit of hiring
buggies and horses; that I put a stop to, and called in the
accounts for them. I had no carte blanche for
expenditure—I had no money placed to my credit at all. I paid
those accounts out of my own pocket and all other expenses.
729. Was that afterwards refunded to you?—Yes. I was going to
add that I subsequently represented the matter, and recovered
the money in the usual way from the Government. I found bills
for the hire of some of the horses greater than their value. In
one case the bill was about £19, and Mr. Sadleir bought the
horse for £15. He got the man to cry quits for £15, and got the
horse. The stable was a large one, and it was full of police
horses on full rations. There was beautiful grass at this
season. I had the stable cleared out, and the horses turned out
into the paddock, with an allowance varying from 18 lbs. to 20
lbs. of good dry hay per day, in addition to the grass they were
getting. I inspected those horses regularly with Mr. Sadleir.
730. How many?—Well, there would be all those horses that were
told off for duty. There would be in the paddock there
altogether (horses for all parts of the district, and working
horses) about twenty to thirty horses. Many of them were spare
horses, in case of accident, kept in condition. We inspected
them thoroughly, and they kept condition exceedingly well—they
were as muscular as possible. Whenever we observed a horse
getting apparently sickly, which may happen with any horse, he
was taken into the stable, and coddled up a little with oats and
bran mash, and in a few days turned out with the rest. We kept
the horses in such condition, because it was not advisable that
horses that had to go out in pursuit of this gang should have
heavy stable feeding, as they could not last above three days,
whereas horses fed in this way, just as the outlaws fed theirs,
all that had to be done was to turn them out to feed wherever
they then were at night. I brought the horses up to that pitch,
just as the outlaws were doing theirs.
731. Are we led to believe that this saving was in consequence
of the new policy adopted by you on arriving at Benalla?—Yes.
732. Because, on your abandoning the search parties, you did not
need so many horses to be kept in the stables?—No; the horses
for search parties I did not stable.
733. And the horses were more effective under this method than
stable fed?—Yes. I was continually travelling about the country
myself, seeing people, and making acquaintances of people in all
directions, and making friends, and trying to induce farmers and
others to assist; and the men were doing the same, inducing
people to see me, or making engagements to come and meet me. I
always found them at the time very desirous to assist, but it
was always about a month after that one of them would come in
and give information, making it nearly a month old. At first it
resulted in their never giving any information until it was
about a month old.
734. Had they been in possession of this information a
month?—Sometimes for a month; then gradually it was reduced to
about a fortnight, and occasionally their information latterly,
in some cases, Would be about a week old. I have in my hand a
return of police expenditure in connection with the search of
the gang of outlaws.
735. From what date to what?—From October 26th 1878, three days
before the outrage, until December the 12th 1878, the day I was
relieved. The railway charges were £703 15s. 7d.—that was on
account of the first reinforcements sent up. [The witness
handed in the following document]:—
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
Police Expenditure in connection with the Search for the Gang of
26th Oct. 1878
12th Decr. 1878
13th Decr. 1878
7th July 1879
8th July 1879
31st May 1880.
1st June 1880
28th June 1880.
V. Railway charges
Coach and horse hire, stabling, &c.
Provisions for search parties
Arms and ammunition
Tents and field equipment
Secret service agents
Travelling allowances to police
Miscellaneous outlay, including cost of
Victorian and other trackers, &c.
£ s. d.
703 15 7
226 14 6
75 10 6
963 3 3
34 14 3
75 1 0
1,071 6 5
261 14 5
£ s. d.
1,225 19 11
406 16 3
457 17 9
741 11 9
281 9 11
473 19 0
631 17 0
541 17 6
5,472 10 4
1,137 5 11
£ s. d.
960 6 11
27 10 6
158 8 1
306 0 9
14 11 10
600 11 6
392 2 0
1,370 12 6
2,384 9 0
558 2 6
£ s. d.
228 7 8
5 10 6
21 18 10
2 7 2
59 1 6
127 10 0
70 0 0
159 0 3
£ s. d.
3,118 10 1
662 11 9
713 15 2
2,010 15 9
333 3 2
1,208 13 0
1,023 19 0
2,040 0 0
8,998 5 9
2,116 3 1
3,407 19 11
11,371 5 4
6,772 15 7
673 15 11
22,225 16 9
During that period, up to the time I was relieved, the
expenditure was £3,407 19s. 11d. From December 13th, the day
after I was relieved, until July the 7th, when I returned, the
expenditure was £11,371 5s. 4d. From July the 8th 1879, when I
began duty, to May 31st 1880, the amount was £6,772 15s. 7d.
736. That is the two occasions you were on duty. The other
occasion Captain Standish was on duty?—Yes.
737. Can you account for the increase?—This account, on
examination, will explain itself. From June 1st 1880, that is,
when I was superseded by Mr. Hare, till June 28th, £673 15s.
738. From where are those records obtained?—From the accountant.
739. Then the accountant of the department will have all the
detailed expenditure in connection with this matter?—All the
details, I believe, have gone to the office. Then I gradually
obtained agents employed on secret service, and after a time
succeeded in collecting four. All I can recollect that I kept
end paid regularly for any time were four. Those men were not on
the whole of the time, but some at one time and some at another.
740. Were there any women engaged?—No, not that I am aware of.
There were other persons that gave me information from time to
time, in addition to those casual men, in a casual way, that I
may have given a pound or two. I have employed, on an occasion,
a man I could rely upon to visit a certain hut at midnight and
watch it, where a policeman could not go, or a stranger could
not go—a man in the confidence of those people and whose
appearance there would have attracted no notice; but that was
very seldom, and sometimes I have given a man ten shillings
less. I obtained the assistance of a few people, end a great
many assisted me from time to time.
741. All under pay?—No, a few occasionally; and persons who
could do what I wanted. Without being remarked I ascertained in
a very short time. I had information of the outlaws within
about a month or six weeks of my arrival; circumstantial and
positive information. My first object in going up was to
ascertain whether they were in the district or not
positively, and I found within about six weeks that it was as I
had stated, that they were in the district. The information,
at that time, always came too late. Gradually I began to get
nearer and nearer to those men and more familiar with
hearing about them; but I felt satisfied at last, from the
information I was getting, that they would fall into my
hands, as many other men of the same description, not quite so
notorious, have fallen into the hands of the police with
me; that I would have them arrested with ease. As time
wore on, they were remarking the absence and
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
non-appearance of the police, and were getting the notion once
or twice, and expressed the notion, that the police were afraid
of them, and that was the reason that there was no stir at that
time; in fact all through towards the end.
742. What time is that?—Down from September, October, November,
and December 1879. One time I received a telegram from
Superintendent Sadleir; he was up at Wangaratta all September. I
had better hand in the telegram.—[The same was handed in, and
is as follows]:—“——, whom we have conversed with on
previous occasions, met me to-day here, on his way to see
Sergeant Steele. Saw the Captain Sneak and other two close to T.
Lloyd’s, in the bush, on foot, at eight o’clock last night. He
recognized them clearly, but they jumped behind the trees, and
he rode on without speaking. He has indicated the spot, so that
it can be found without difficulty. Informant says two other
horsemen passed almost at same moment, residents of
neighborhood, and, as suspicion may fall equally on them, he
risks the information. He only asks that tracks may be taken up
at daybreak, before people are moving. His manner is very
confident, and any misstatement can be soon discovered by
tracking. He should have come into Benalla last night but that
he was followed home by a lad on horseback, he thinks young
Lloyd, who probably watched his place all night. I shall arrange
here with Steele about local crossings, &c., and with the
Eldorado constable. If party goes out, as I certainly recommend,
you should send out orders to other places. Spink’s crossing,
near Tarrawingee, not fordable. Two more constables, without
horses, required here, and one, with horse, to Myrtleford; but
this can be done best from Beechworth. Will return by six p.m.”
I telegraphed to Mr. Sadleir to bring that informer down.
743. Where was that from?—From Benalla to Wangaratta. Mr.
Sadleir happened to be up at Wangaratta, and met this man, and
telegraphed that down to me, and I impressed that strongly upon
him, and I went up to the train to meet Mr. Sadleir, and on his
return he came alone. I asked him where was the man, and he said
he was drinking; he left him drinking at the hotel at some
place; that he did not think it worth while to bring him,
because he thought he was quite able to lead me to the place
himself. Upon conversation with Mr. Sadleir, I found that he
could not do so, that his knowledge of the place was quite
vague. One ridge on the right, among many other stony
ridges—this was in September, and I found that before we could
have any possibility of catching up with the supposed outlaws,
even if they had left any tracks—those footmen, for they were on
foot, not on horseback—the people about the country, who were
the greater portion of them sympathizers, would discover us; and
if we went to the spot with the blacks, we would be discovered
before we got away from it, in tracing the way to where they had
gone, and warning would be sent to the outlaws. Without saying
more, I will hand in this letter to Mr. Standish, and to which
he alluded in his evidence.
744. Is this the case—where the horses were unsaddled, where he
said you got reliable information from Mr. Sadleir, and which up
to a certain time would be acted upon—Mr. Sadleir thought that
you countermanded it—is that the case you refer to now?—Yes.—[The
letter was handed in and read, as follows:—]
Police Department, Chief Commissioner’s Office,
Melbourne, 30th September 1879.
are Superintendent Sadleir’s telegrams. The informant was ——; he
stated he saw five men. From conversation with Superintendent
Sadleir, upon his return from Wangaratta, it did not appear that
“the spot was indicated so that it could be found without
difficulty,” nor that “it could be taken up by the trackers at
daybreak before the people were moving” and had become conscious
of the presence of the police among them. The subsequent
examination of Mounted-Constable Ryan as to the locality and its
approaches did not tend to remove the above impression. It
appeared that the neighborhood was settled, and that our party
could hardly expect to pass Lloyd’s house, even at midnight
without being discovered, and that the trackers might have to
search over at least a quarter of a mile before finding the
footprints; and considering the precaution said to have been
taken by the men seen by —— in sending a man to dog him home, it
seemed likely that they had taken the other precaution of moving
off, and, with the fifth man and other friends, each had taken
separate directions, so that the trackers pursuing might find
themselves running down one wrong man. Sub-Inspector
O’Connor was of opinion that the chance of success was a bad
one. Considering my other improving sources of information, I
determined, upon this occasion, not to disturb the false sense
of security into which the outlaws have been lulled. Although I
decided upon the above course upon the merits of the
report made to me, yet I may remind the Chief Commissioner that
——, the informant, was the man who tried to induce me to proceed
with the Benalla police and meet him at the head of the King
River on the day before the Euroa bank robbery.
(Signed) C. H. NICOLSON, A.C.P.
To the Chief Commissioner of Police.
745. Can you give an idea of the locality—was this near Tom
746. At Kilfera?—Yes. I may tell you the man intended
to come down to Benalla and lead us there himself to the spot.
Considering the success of the system that I was following at
that time, I was determined not to throw away the chances I held
of securing the outlaws by running any risk of alarm at
this time and frighten the outlaws away, and perhaps
losing sight—losing all run of them—for months. I formed
no cordon at any time. It was often supposed by people
that the police had formed a cordon round; that was
attributed to me—that I was endeavoring to form a cordon
round them. I never intended or attempted to do such
a thing, excepting of secret agents. On the contrary, I
had very strong reason to apprehend that if we started
them and betrayed to them the knowledge of the possession of
good information against them and they escaped, that they would
abandon that part of the country altogether and move away
eastward to the north-east corner of the district,
across the river, to Tomgroggin, in New South Wales, a very
inaccessible district, and remain there until the vigilance was
relaxed—in fact, remain masters of the situation till
vigilance was relaxed, and then come down and make another
raid upon the district. My determination was to prevent
them making any raid; and I felt quite capable, from the means
at my disposal and the way my system was working, of doing so,
and I succeeded in that. I have often been out with
mounted police at night; and any experienced member of the
police force will tell you that going out at night with a
party of mounted men on anything like vague information into
the bush to make an arrest is a very unwise thing. Experience
shows that it is a thing that should not be done
unless upon good information, as it results—as I have seen it
often do—in the men being humbugged, kept out all night, and
returning home, the laughing-stock of the people all round,
without success. I may tell you that about this time, on
the 26th July 1879, I visited a camp. A camp was
discovered of the outlaws, up a creek in those ranges, between
Chiltern and Beechworth. I found a camp in a depression in
the low-lying ground alongside the creek, amongst some
bushes. There were the marks of their horses standing
there, and the marks of the bridles chafing the bushes, and
very small quantities of ashes spread over about a couple of
yards, and no appearance of the fire here they had come
from. On removal
of a heap of leaves and rubbish, there was a round fire—a mark
on the ground of black, showing where the fire had been, which
they had carefully concealed in that way. Before abandoning this
camp, they had put the fire out and thrown the ashes away and
covered up the fire-place in this way. At last there were
reports came in from the neighborhood of some distance from
Greta, and between Greta and Oxley, of their stealing a number
of mould-boards of ploughs.
747. What date?—About the beginning of February 1880.
748. Where is the armour of Ned Kelly that is supposed to be
made out of that?—It is in the depôt.
749. Can the Commission see it?—I think so. I had three suits of
armour at the depôt.
750. Can we have Ned Kelly’s armour brought here?—Yes; that can
be done. [The Chairman requested that that might be done.]
I sent the police out to enquire into those matters, and the
enquiry was very actively prosecuted. It was personally in the
hands of Senior-Constable Kelly. Some footmarks were discovered;
but though they were out for several days enquiring, they could
not discover who had been the offenders. Those mould-boards were
taken from more than one man. There were two or three different
farms they were taken from.
751. Within a radius of what?—About eight miles. There were
traces of footsteps discovered; and I also received from another
source a description of the footmarks of the men, and I believe
they corresponded exactly with the description the police gave.
One of them described was the footstep of a man with a very
small boot, with what is called a “larrikin” heel upon it. I
received information from one of my agents that the Kelly gang
were the offenders.
752. Were the black trackers then under your control?—Yes; there
were two black trackers went out with this party.
753. I mean the special detachment?—Yes; the Queensland blacks.
There were two went out on those enquiries. There were other
things stolen. There was a man named Carney, a selector, lost, I
think, two sides of bacon, which were taken by the same party.
754. Was that from the same neighborhood?—Yes; from the same
neighborhood. Subsequently I heard that they were being made
into, and were intended for, armour.
755. How long after you got the first information about it did
you hear that?—It was on May 20th. I will read if you will allow
me—[handing in a letter]. We wrote those letters in a
special way. Each of my agents had a special character given
them. This one was supposed to be an inspector of stock, and the
term “diseased stock” was supposed to mean the outlaws, and
under that veil he wrote to me as follows:—”Greta, May 20,
1880.—Mr. William Charles Balfour, Benalla.—Dear Sir,—Nothing
definite re the diseased stock of this locality. I have
made careful inspection, but did find (sic) exact source
of disease. I have seen and spoke to —— and —— on Tuesday, who
were fencing near home. All others I have not been able to see.
Missing portions of cultivators described as jackets are now
being worked, end fit splendidly. Tested previous to using, and
proof at 10 yards. I shall be in Wangaratta on Monday, before
when I may learn how to treat the disease. I am perfectly
satisfied that it is where last indicated, but in what region I
can’t discover. A break-out may be anticipated, as feed is
getting very scarce. Five are now bad. I will post a note giving
any bad symptoms I may perceive from Wangaratta on Monday or
Tuesday at latest, and will wait on you for news how to proceed
on a day which I shall then state, before end of the week. Other
animals are, I fear, diseased.—Yours faithfully, B. C. W.” I
would draw particular attention to the date of that—May 20th.
756. That is a week before you were removed?—Yes. [The
witness handed in a list of his appointments.]
757. You were a cadet were you not?—I was.
758. Will you proceed?—I had interviews with my agents from time
to time, the one who wrote previous to that, and other agents as
well, that the outlaws were in the vicinity of the Greta ranges,
and were reduced to great straits. Their horses were worn out,
and most of them were abandoned. They were on foot, and used to
conceal themselves during the day on the ranges in various
parts. They were for a short time, from information I was led to
believe, on the edge of the Greta Swamp.
759. The ranges come quite close down to Greta Swamp?—Yes, and
the outlaws used to move from there back; then they would go
round and get across the Ovens River by the near bridge or some
of the other crossing places that make away to Sebastopol, and
make away towards the Pilot Range near Wodonga at night. They
used to travel until before daybreak. They were generally
accompanied by their sympathizers; their immediate aids and
active assistants were reduced to about four.
760. What month was this?—About the months of April and May. One
of the four, I may mention their own sister; one or two of those
sympathizers, when they travelled, used always to go about ahead
on the look-out, and they would follow at the usual distance,
just within sight. One of those sympathizers—the principal of
them, and the most active of them—told them that they must get
some money; they must go and “do a bank,” or “another bank.”
761. This is a portion of the agent’s information you are now
giving?—Yes, that agent in particular.
762. Received about the time you got the correspondence?—Yes, I
was in communication with them some time before that; the
outlaws had been settled at somewhere in the low ranges between
their uncle, old Tom Lloyd, and the paddock along the Oxley
road—Wilson’s paddock; they had settled down for a time,
concealed there. At that time, perhaps you may recollect, notice
was taken by the press of very disorderly conduct at the
763. How far are those places?—Greta Swamp was quite close, but
the Glenrowan Swamp was some distance off. Glenrowan is about
six miles from Greta Swamp.
764 They had settled down at Wilson’s paddock—how far is
that?—Oh, a long way; that is not far from Greta, a few miles
from Greta, nearer Wangaratta, on the Greta road.
765 All those places were in the immediate vicinity of the
Glenrowan Hotel?—Yes, vicinity—but not immediate vicinity. I had
a man, an agent, by the Glenrowan Hotel, watching it; and he was
reporting to me from time to time the people who frequented
it—they were creating a disturbance at this place; this was in
766. Would you indicate what hotel?—Jones’s hotel, where they
were ultimately taken.
767. Were those communications by word of mouth?—Verbally, and I
used to see him and note regularly in my note-book. None of the
outlaws came to Jones’s hotel; they were all sympathizers, and
they were, no doubt, carousing about there for a purpose.
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
768. For the purpose of obtaining information?—They were there
for the purpose of watching. I had a close watch at the same
time from that down to Lake Rowan where there were some friends
of the Kellys. The effect of those notices in the press drove
them away from the neighborhood of Greta.
769. During the month of April or May?—The month of April. My
informant stated that he knew perfectly well; he was never in
personal communication with them, but, from his sources of
information he knew perfectly well that they were in some gully
between the Greta Swamp, Mrs. Skillion’s and Tom Lloyd’s, or the
Quarryhole. He thought they would probably be, and he would find
770. That was all in the immediate neighborhood of
Glenrowan?—Yes, not immediate neighborhood.
771. What were the notices in the press?—The local press drew
attention to various riotous conduct going on at this
public-house, and suggested that the police should take some
steps about it.
772. You mentioned in your evidence notices in the press, have
you got those extracts cut out and pasted in any paper?—No, I
773. You did not take notes of them in your diary?—No, the
outlaws had a tent about four feet high with them to cover them
in bad weather, and, with a little vigilance and keeping
perfectly quiet, my man said he would be able to bring us close
to them, in fact, indicating in such a way that I anticipated in
a very short time, being able to go to this place at midnight,
wait till daylight, and have our hands on their throats without
any trouble. At this time I also found very suspicious movements
taking place between Glenrowan and Lake Rowan by means of the
watch I was keeping up.
774. On the part of the outlaws?—Their friends; there was no
appearance of the outlaws themselves. A party of their friends,
active sympathizers, crossed the line just at Glenrowan, on
horseback, got up mounted and dressed and equipped as if they
were starting for the shearing. They were closely watched in the
neighborhood of one of their friends at Lake Rowan, and a change
was observed take place in this party. Four of the number (there
were about six of the men) were stopped at Yarrawonga punt by
the police, and it was ascertained who those four were. They
were acquaintances, and were apparently going shearing, and were
equipped in what is termed a very “flash” style for shearers.
775. Were those same the four you mentioned just now, when you
said the number of sympathizers was reduced to four?—Three of
them were; one, the principal man, was Tom Lloyd.
776. You are aware he was with them all through; during your
evidence, you have mentioned young Tom Lloyd?—I think I have not
mentioned young Tom Lloyd—he was absent for some considerable
time in New South Wales, and then made his appearance.
777. What relation was Tom Lloyd to them?—First cousin. He
disappeared from among those starting to shear. The police
watched them, by my orders, as closely as they could, without
being discovered themselves. Then one of my agents, who was
watching the relatives’ house at Lake Rowan, observed a hut at
some distance from the main house; he was watching it all night.
At daylight he saw a man, one of the sons of the house, come out
of the hut and leave the door open. He was a very sharp man, and
in a minute he saw the door close, and he was able to discern it
was not closed by wind or any natural swing, but it must have
been pushed to. He came in and reported this to me, and I knew
that the Kellys had visited this place. I had heard of them and,
although I did not expect much from it, I considered it
necessary to send a party to surprise this hut, which they did,
and they found master Tom Lloyd.
778. What date was that?—About the 13th of May; the men under
Senior-Constable Kelly found Tom Lloyd on the 20th May. The
party passed through on the 15th. Though my agent told me about
Glenrowan and Greta, I was very watchful and very uneasy about
that other country—about their being down in that other
country—Lake Rowan, and from there north toward Murray river.
779. Going north?—Yes, north, towards the Murray.
780. Between the Murray and Glenrowan?—Yes.
781. Did they arrest Lloyd at the hut?—No, they stopped him and
made him stand, and they saw the man, but there was no charge
against him; he chaffed them and they came away quite good
humoredly. There was no ground for arresting him whatever. We
could have arrested him at any time some time previous to that.
782. Was Lloyd one of the men ultimately arrested as a
sympathizer?—Yes, it is the same man.
783. Who was in Beechworth Gaol as a sympathizer?—Yes. About
this time, soon after this I heard of Dan Kelly and Dick Hart
calling at the place of a man near Chiltern, a well-known house.
784. Do you mean the outlaw, Dan Kelly?—Yes.
785. And Hart?—Yes.
786. What was the name of the outlaw Hart?—Steve Hart.
787. You did not say Steve?—I meant Steve Hart. They were
described to me as very much emaciated; in a very miserable
state, and asking for food. My informant told me that Dan
Kelly’s face was remarkably broad, and he was so emaciated that
you could put your fists on his cheek bones; but this
information was not given to me until some considerable time
after that; but that was the first time, after, the movements of
these men, that I heard any authentic information of the
outlaws. I then heard of them——
788. When is this, April and May?—This is within a few days
after the 20th May. At this time I had received notice of being
789. When is that?—A few days after the 20th, during the month
of May. I received notice I was to be superseded in April, and
that I was to be granted a month more. The month’s extension was
given me, and all these important movements were occurring
during the month of May. Then I received information of the
outlaws having been seen up in the Sebastopol, both at Mrs.
Byrne’s, the mother of one of the outlaws, and at ——, or —— had
seen Joe Byrne.
790. Will you fix the date for that?—Yes, on the 26th May.
791. Had you heard it on the 26th, or had she seen him on the
26th of May?—I was in Melbourne on the 26th, and I heard it on
that day on my way up.
792. That —— had seen Joe Byrne?—No, the appearance of some of
the outlaws at Mrs. Byrne’s house.
793. On what day was he seen?—It was some days before that.
794. And on the 26th you got notice he had been seen?—Yes, I
came up from Melbourne, on my way to Beechworth. On Saturday the
29th of May I saw —— personally.
795. Which ——?—Old ——. She told me that, about three days
before, she had seen Joe Byrne, in the morning.
796. How far would ——’s house be from Byrne’s?—A considerable
distance; this was a hut of ——, about a mile from the holding of
797. Was this where you saw her?—No; I saw her in Beechworth.
This was early in the morning, and this person said she was
looking for her cows, and when she came to this hut she saw the
outlaw Joe Byrne come out of a calf-pen, and his horse was near
at hand, in an enclosure. Some conversation passed between
them—I presume you will hear it again, perhaps—shall I repeat it
798. It will be as well to give the information?—She asked him
what he was doing there, and his reply was—“Oh, we could go
anywhere were it not for your sanguinary son there.” That was
the principal thing I recollect. There were some other words
between them, but I do not recollect them.
799. Did you take any action on the information supplied by this
woman?—Yes; I had the place examined where his horse was said to
have been, and I had the horse tracked from there to Mrs.
Byrne’s house, then traced away again from the house for some
distance, on to a road, amongst a lot of tracks, where it was
indistinguishable, the track was lost. I hurried down to
Benalla—this was on Saturday—from Beechworth, arranging before I
went for a party to go to a certain hut—Aaron
Sherritt’s—commanding a view of Mrs. Byrne’s.
800. Did he live at that time with his mother?—I think the
mother-in-law was living with him. I do not know whether she was
there at that time. I do not know who was there, except that
Aaron Sherritt lived there with his wife, and his mother-in-law
lived with him before he went there. The men were to keep a look
out in that neighborhood, to watch Mrs. Byrne’s.
801. Were those the constables that were afterwards in
Sherritt’s house when Aaron Sherritt was shot?—No, I believe
not. On Sunday I had the telegraph office open all day, I think,
and I attended very closely to the telegraph office at Benalla
all day. Then I had an agent that had been down watching and
discovered young Tom Lloyd in the hut. I sent him up there into
that country. I removed him from where he was up to the
Sebastopol ranges, and that country, and I had a party of men
ready, and warned the Beechworth men also to be ready, and I had
the trackers also ready with the view of proceeding. I received
a communication in the course of Sunday that a man, believed to
be Joe Byrne, had been seen by my agent at the back of a rock,
at the head of a gully near a place called London—a gully along
Mrs Byrne’s house, at the mouth of which her house is situated;
it is a very long gully, remarkably steep. After a consultation
with Mr. Sadleir and Mr. O’Connor, I determined to go out, and
acting upon that information, started about five o’clock by the
early train on Monday morning from Benalla, with the trackers
and five or six men. We reached Everton, and got out there,
meeting my agent end Aaron Sherritt, who had been employed even
before I came up in enquiring into the tracing of the outlaws
with the police. We proceeded on through the bush, guided by
Sherritt, so as to avoid coming in contact with any individual,
and reached Crawford’s paddock. We proceeded on foot through
that country until we came to the head of that gully. I sent
three of the mounted men to take one side, and three to take
the other side, on the very top of the precipices and
cliffs. I myself went down with Mr. O’Connor and the trackers
and one or two men. We left the horses. I had brought some of
the men mounted to take the sides of the gully; however, down we
went to the place with the guide to point out the spot where he
had seen the man. The trackers went to the place. We could see
the trace of footsteps, and we could see along the gully, but
when we came near to this place, and we went up to the rock
behind which he saw the man appear, there were no traces of any
one whatever, and Mr. O’Connor told me the blacks explained to
him there were traces of a young man with a foot just such as
described as Byrne’s, with a small foot, driving a cow up the
gully. Mr. O’Connor and the blacks followed down this gully to
near ——’s house, and, looking for traces all round for a mounted
man on either side of the cliffs, we examined the gully all
down, and the men up above examined the country above, and
without any trace whatever. I had no doubt at this time that
this information of —— seeing a man was perfectly true; other
information about seeing the man at the hut, and about his being
at Mrs. Byrne’s, I was very doubtful of—at any rate, I was quite
satisfied, after the search we made, and seeing this agent was
wrong in this instance, that these (the outlaws) men were gone
from there at this time. They had been there two or three days
before, but they had returned back to Greta. I know that since
then immediately after that they went to, and came round by,
Greta, and crossed Glenrowan; they went away beyond Lake Rowan.
In that direction I was watching before, and there the horses
were stolen which were found when they were arrested, but I had
to return and meet Mr. Hare.
802. The horses found on the capture of the Kellys they found
afterwards were horses belonging to a man called Ryan, at
803. And those were the horses you speak of?—Yes; in fact I may
state this with reference to that: I saw the convict Ned Kelly,
after his conviction; had an interview with him; I knew him
pretty well before, and he said to me in a sulky sort of way, “I
hear, Mr. Nicolson, you have been saying you surrounded us, and
we could not get away from you?” I said, “Well, Kelly, I did not
say I surrounded you, but you know very well I did disable you,
that you were disabled and starved; you were on your last legs.”
And his reply was, “Oh, how was that? Look at the horses we got,
and where they came from.”
804. Did you see those horses?—Yes. “Look at those horses we
got.” “Ah, but,” I said, “you stole those horses in June?”
—”Yes.” “Are you not aware that I left before June; I left in
the beginning of June?” “Oh,” he said, expressing the greatest
805. Were those stable-fed horses?—I do not know; I never saw
806. You have brought us up to the 27th or 28th of May?—No; I
have brought you up to the very last.
807. What day was that?—31st May. On the 1st of June we slept
that night at Crawford’s.
808. At Beechworth?—No; we did not go near Beechworth. I sent a
party of men into Beechworth.
809. I want to get the time that your connection with the Kelly
search ceased?—On the 1st June, at daybreak. After that night
we slept at Crawford’s paddock, and after that I broke up the
party, and despatched them to search through the country. I
returned with the trackers, and with Senior-Constable Kelly, the
two constables, and Mr. O’Connor, to Benalla. Next morning,
2nd June, I had a meeting with
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
Mr. Hare, and I left Crawford’s on the 1st of June. On the 2nd I
met Mr. Hare by appointment, and then I myself returned in the
evening to Melbourne.
810. That was your last connection with the Kelly business?—Yes.
811. Do I understand that you had nothing further to do with the
Kelly capture after that date?—Nothing whatever. I received
orders to proceed to the Wimmera, the North-Western district,
and on the day they
were captured I found myself away on the border of the South
Australian colony, as far away as I could be.
812. Were you at Benalla or in Melbourne at the time of the
Jerilderie bank robbery?—I was in Melbourne.
513. Do you know the particulars of the robbery there?—I have
heard them just from hearsay, I know very little of it; I was
out at Porcupine Creek, near Chiltern, on the road between
Beechworth and Chiltern, and the track was pointed out where
they had passed, and where Joe Byrne was seen.
814. You were in Melbourne at the time of the Jerilderie
815. Who was in charge of the north-eastern country
816. Did you make yourself acquainted with the particulars of
that robbery, namely, what moneys were taken?—Yes, all the
817. I want to ask you about it later on?—Yes the particulars
reached me in the usual way.
818. You had full information how many five-pound notes were
taken, what bank, and so on?—Yes.
819. You had official knowledge—not at once?—I believe so.
820. You had not yourself personally?—No, I had not. I could not
speak now, unless I looked them up.
821. I would like to ask some questions about that robbery, in
consequence of its being spread about that a large quantity of
those notes were circulated in Benalla; and therefore I should
like you to be ready?—I may say, when in Benalla, I was informed
frequently of the circulation of the notes, but they could not
be identified; and I remember a correspondence passing through
my hands, when I was here about notes that had been circulated,
passed from one of the sympathizers to a storekeeper in
Wangaratta, but I know of notes also that were passed in
822. An article appeared in the papers about that time, that
notes of the Jerilderie bank, in New South Wales, which would be
subject to exchange in this country, were being very freely
distributed in the neighborhood of Beechworth, for stores and
otherwise. The matter was brought up in the House, and I did
state that I personally found that that money was exchanged in
Benalla for goods and stores; can you say whether that
information, from your own knowledge, that I asserted was
correct, was correct or not?—I believe it was—not to a large
823. Do you know, of your own personal knowledge—when you were
in Benalla were you informed by any person that supplies were
bought in Benalla, or in the townships about, by the Kellys?—No;
I have seen the Miss Kellys frequently in a shop at Benalla,
making purchases there.
824. What character of purchases?—A very ordinary character;
they were generally on horseback.
825. What did they buy?—Well, they were principally things for
themselves, for their own consumption.
826. What things?—Clothing for the children.
827. Tobacco?—I am not sure of their buying it.
828. Was tobacco reported to you?—No.
829. Was it reported to you that they paid in Bank of New South
Wales notes?—I was shown notes to smell. They smelt as if they
had been planted in the earth.
830. Was it reported to you by any agent, or officer, or
policeman that the Kellys were in the habit of getting supplies
at Ball’s shop and elsewhere, and that they paid for those
purchases in notes issued in New South Wales?—Yes, I heard they
831. Have you heard that tobacco was bought there?—I will not
say I have heard tobacco was bought there, but I know old Tom
Lloyd, a relative of theirs, an uncle, used to buy stores of
every kind, tobacco and other things, which I have no doubt
reached the outlaws.
832. Did you hear beside of the purchase of sardines, and tinned
fish, and hams?—No, I cannot say that.
833. You do not recollect the particulars?—No, I have heard of
that kind of stuff being bought at places, evidently for them.
834. You have no doubt in your own mind that their
relations—this man was their uncle?—I speak of other people
835. As a matter of fact, you know those supplies were bought
there?—I heard afterwards that they were purchased.
836. Have you any doubt that those reached the Kelly
outlaws?—Some things I have very little doubt of.
837. And that money was paid for those stores in Bank of New
South Wales notes?—Yes.
838. And you yourself have smelt those notes, and said they had
an earthy smell?—Yes, two were shown me.
839. Besides those notes, were you aware of other notes for
large amounts being issued in the district?—I have heard of it,
but I have only seen two notes shown to me by a storekeeper
there. I wish to add, in reference to something said by Captain
Standish: In the course of my duty there, hearing various rumors
and reports from Aaron Sherritt, since deceased, of the
appearance of one of the outlaws singly, sometimes singly and
sometimes in couples, suddenly out of Sherritt’s house, and also
assertions that Byrne was in the habit of frequently visiting
his mother’s house, I formed a party and placed them in a cave
just about Mrs. Byrne’s house.
840. When was this; you had left on the 2nd?—This was previous
to my leaving.
841. Will you fix a date?—About the 1st of December 1879.
This place was thoroughly secret, and is away in the centre
of nothing but rocks and stones, and no vegetation at
all—nothing to induce any person to go there—and it was unknown,
I was led to believe, to every one but Sherritt. I
selected four men, and I spent with them, in the presence of
Senior-Constable Mullane and Detective Ward, one to two
hours in going over and instructing them in their duty,
warning them against every possible contingency or
occurrences that might take place, and impressing upon them that
their object was not to be surprised, but to surprise again.
They had the assistance of the deceased Aaron Sherritt. They
started at midnight, humping down their provisions, and
blankets, and necessaries, without meeting with any one, and all
these precautions were taken. Their practice was to come down
the hill. The house (Mrs. Byrne’s) was watched by Sherritt.
842. He was not in the cave?—No, in the long grass, commanding a
view of her house. About between ten and eleven o’clock these
men used to emerge from this cave and come down very warily—they
had been rehearsed in it all—and take up position apart from
each other, to surprise the outlaws if they should attempt to
visit that house. I had other four men who relieved them. They
were relieved by four men at the end of each week, once a week.
Before daylight in the morning they used to ascend the hill and
get back before daylight into the cave. Aaron Sherritt was
instructed and employed to go round quietly, and warn them not
to leave any traces, footprints, &c.; and he was instructed to
hide and conceal any if they did leave any. This was continued
on for some time. Whenever I reported it to Captain Standish I
received a reply from him to remove them at once.
843. To remove the men from the cave?—Yes.
844. Is that in writing?—Yes, I can produce the letter. That if
I considered it was a secret, I was mistaken, that it was
actually known in the Richmond depôt.
845. What was known?—About the secret cave party. I replied,
remonstrating against doing so, and assuring him of the perfect
safety of the arrangement, and that it was a perfect secret up
there. I also added that I was very sorry that the depôt was
such a place which received information of that kind so rapidly
on such a matter where such matters were concerned, the secret
movements of the police.
846. This was in December 1879?—Yes.
847. At that time I understood you to say you had full charge of
848. Then why was the necessity of communicating with Captain
Standish at all?—I had to keep the head of the department
advised of what I was doing, for the Government as well as
849. And he had the power to countermand, by his order, what you
850. Have you got the letter?—Yes, I have a letter to that
851. You can put it in at some future time?—Yes.
852. Is that the first time that you make the statement that any
order of that character was sent to you—it is in your memory
that he was in the habit of sending similar orders?—I have other
orders that I have received of a similar description.
853. I understood both you and Captain Standish that you were
altogether acting on your own responsibility, that he understood
you were acting in that way; and I understood you to say also
you had sole control?—So I had until he interfered. As Chief
Commissioner of Police he had the right to interfere.
854. When would you fix the date if the first interference—was
this a solitary instance, or was it a matter that had occurred
before the 4th December 1879?—I would rather defer answering
that for the present.
855. I want you to see that Captain Standish was very specific;
on more than one occasion the word that he used was that you had
carte blanche, and did exactly as you liked—that you
yourself took the responsibility?—I did take the responsibility
until any occasion he interfered with me, when I had to submit.
856. Is this the position of affairs—you are now complaining of
what Captain Standish did in 1879, countermanding orders you had
857. He did so on other occasions?—Yes, he did so on other
858. You are not prepared at present to give that information,
but you will do so later on?—Yes.
859. Did you let Captain Standish know that you had these men in
the cave?—Certainly, I did, and soon after I received that
860. Captain Standish says this matter was known in the
861. Were your men bound to any secrecy?—Yes, they were.
862. Then the matter must have been communicated from your men
to the depôt at Richmond?—Yes, I have no doubt he had been
informed from the depôt. [The extract from the letter
referred to was read, under the date 15th January 1880, as
follows:—] “It would be better to have this work done
by them (that is the ——) if the —— are to be depended upon, even
if we had to subsidise them occasionally. As to secrecy which
you believe has been observed about this watching party, I may
tell you that the existence of this party and even the names of
the constables employed are known all through the depôt.” That
was the position then when I received peremptory orders to
863. Did he give you instructions, in addition to that, to stop
it?—He did, on more than one occasion, till at last I had to
give it up.
864. Were the instructions in writing?—I cannot remember; a
number of Captain Standish’s letters I did not keep.
865. I take it that you put in this letter to show that you were
carrying out certain arrangements in this district, and they
were unfairly interfered with by Captain Standish?—Yes.
866. Had you, after receiving this letter, positive instructions
to discontinue this party?—I had; I wrote back to him, telling
him, whether it was secret at the depôt or not, I could not say,
but it was a dead secret up there, and for months afterwards.
867. Is it not perfectly credible, in fact, that it would be
known at the depôt and not there?—Yes, but if it was known at
the depôt, it must have been known by the men in my district;
the men serving in Benalla and Beechworth did not know of it.
868. Have you the next letter of Captain Standish’s imperatively
commanding you?—No, I cannot say whether he wrote or ordered me
verbally. He frequently visited me at that time.
869. Can you fix your memory now, not fixing absolutely to time,
is it on your mind that on any other occasion he absolutely
issued an order to you which, in your opinion, was contrary to
your duty and interest?—Yes.
870. So that it interfered with the efficiency of the duty that
you were then doing?—It did, and I can satisfy you of that. At
the same time, whilst these men were out on this cave duty, I
had a man travelling amongst the population all round who did
not know the men were there, but his orders were, “Find out what
is the talk about the Kellys.”
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
871. The point really is that your arrangements there were
unfairly interfered with by the head of the department. He has
sworn you had carte blanche, and yet it appears he
interfered?—I ultimately, from his persevering and ordering me
on this subject, had to break up this party
872. Were there other occasions of the same sort?—I will come to
another occasion. I can bring witnesses also to prove these
873. Is it not a fact that nearly all the statements made by
you, the same as Captain Standish’s, will be corroborated; the
official documents will put them right?—Yes, I am quite
confident of that. When I took charge of the district,
casualties arose; men, from one thing and other, had to withdraw
from the district; a man with a broken leg, a man suffering from
sunstroke or fever, and the meagre skeleton of the force I had
was often reduced by about twelve men, and I could not spare a
single man. One man died up there as the result of the work. I
used to write very strongly, several times, about those
vacancies being filled up. Here is one instance. There were all
these men absent at one time—[handing in a return, which was
showing Unfilled Vacancies in the District on 24th March 1880
Required instead of—
Station where Vacancies are.
Number of Men.
Remarks as to Disposal of Absentees.
1 M. Con.
1 F. Con.
1 M. Con.
1 F. Con.
1 M. Con.
Brodrick, R. W.
Carroll, M. F.
Resigned and discharged, 9/3/80.
In hospital at depot since 20/1/80.
Ditto, ditto, 20/2/80.
Resigned and discharged, 20/3/80.
Returned to Western district early in January.
Transferred to depot by order of C.C. P.
In depot hospital all the month.
Transferred to depot by order of C.C.P.
This is my letter in reply to
Police Department, Benalla, 4th
In reply to the Chief
Commissioner’s minute M 7787, 1/8/79, I beg to refer to the
attached report, of 2nd instant, from Superintendent Sadleir,
and also to the amended return furnished in consequence of
changes made since the 19th ultimo. I beg to remind the Chief
Commissioner of the reductions made recently in this district,
viz., fifty-two constables and twenty-three soldiers, in all
seventy-.five men, and which do not include the detachments of
military also lately withdrawn from Seymour and Avenel.
The attached return shows what is
left in each station in this district; and I must respectfully
protest against any further diminution of strength, excepting
where constables are employed watching the banks shall be
replaced by suitable men at the expense of those establishments.
The question appears to resolve
itself into this:—Is
it desirable to prevent further outrages by the Kelly gang? I
submit that it is desirable to prevent further outrages. There
is no doubt that their success has given them prestige, and
that, together with the amount of money they obtained, has
procured them assistance, and has acted as an antidote to the
high reward offered against them.
I have reason to believe that the
above effect is gradually becoming weaker, in consequence of
their money being nearly all expended.
There is also the bad moral
effect which would be produced should they make another
successful raid, especially if blood is shed.
The mere loss of money to any
banking establishment is, I consider, of the least importance in
It is not advisable to speak, at
present, of the prospect of capturing the outlaws. But I trust
that the existing state of things will not last much longer in
the North-Eastern District; and I hope that the present strength
will not be reduced, and that as little attention as possible
will be drawn to the subject.
C. H. NICOLSON,
874. The date of that letter is 4th August 1879?—Yes.
875. Then that was the month after you resumed duty on the
second occasion?—Yes, I had to go down to Melbourne once or
twice to remonstrate about that; and my whole time, as witnesses
will prove, or a great deal of our time at that time, with all
this trying work hanging over us, was taken up in that way;
there was not a month or two months passed without something of
this kind to distract us from the business we had in hand.
876. When was that?—The whole time till the time I was
877. This is the communication you sent a month after you
878. Was there any answer from Captain Standish?—Yes.
879. Have you it?—No, I have not, but the amount of men and the
strength of the system I was to pursue was known to Captain
Standish before that. The reason I repeated was, I found it
necessary to repeat in matters of duty of that kind, to make it
as plain as possible to Captain Standish.
880. Did he reply to that, explaining why the number of men had
been reduced?—I have no recollection; probably he did.
881. Do you complain that, in reply to that, he reduced the men
further, or did he send you more?—My reply to that is, that my
force was never kept up to the mark. When I did get men to
supply the places of those men, I had sick men and invalids sent
up to me in that district.
882. He did not assist you after that remonstrance?—He may have
sent one or two men. I can get the exact reply.
883. I recollect, at that time, there was a long talk in the
House of the outlay, about the large expenditure, and the money
would not be voted—perhaps there was some reason?—There was no
increase to the estimates, to the number of the police force at
all, so that there was no increase with the number of men with
this Kelly raid; those extra men in the North-Eastern District
were taken from other districts.
884. As the answer to that letter would be of an official
character, is it likely to be in the press copies of the
department?—I hope to find it in that; but during that time
the strength of the force was never made up; and when I
left the office, I used always to keep that and other memoranda
before me on my writing table in the office. There was a
list of the men who were missing on the table or
chimney. I have been short of men even at Cashel, that most
important place, where most serious outrages might have been
committed, where we had no telegraph station.
885. Will you supply the Commission with the force of the
North-Eastern District at the time that you left charge in
1880?—Yes, I will do so. Captain Standish alluded to my business
habits, and my agents. I do not wish to take any notice of that,
but I just wish to show the mode of my settling up, and for that
purpose I will quote my report to the Chief Commissioner with
reference to one of those agents. I wish to draw your attention
to the fact that the essentials have been complied with. In the
first instance the man does not make his appearance for a
certain date, but I had arranged he was to be paid off on the
day previous to that. I did not pay him after that, because I
communicated with him in the channel which he chose himself. I
next make sure I part with him on good terms, and not to send
him away to do us harm.—[The witness handed in the following
paper:]—Benalla, 26th February
1880.—Memo.—Confidential.—1. The attached claim is for service
principally rendered last year, that is from 1st November 1879
to beginning of February 1880. Claimant made a charge up to
yesterday’s date, but, as I had sent him notice on 3rd February
that his services were no longer required, I have only allowed
to the 5th, as any delay which occurred was his own fault, my
notice having been sent to him through a channel of
communication chosen by himself. 2. Of course I have taken care
to satisfy him that he has been treated fairly, and he is ready
to take service again if required. 3. He has been employed
watching Brien and his orangery, and working between the place
and Greta. His observations and information obtained are
valuable. 5. Will the Chief Commissioner be good enough to cause
the amount to be drawn through the attached form H and sent to
this office, so that ₤5 advanced to him can be stopped.” I was
most particular in paying away money to the same class of people
as the outlaws. I used to get receipts from the office here, and
have them witnessed by Mr. Sadleir; and my expenses did not
mount up; for one man and the service of his horse it amounts
only 15s. and ₤1 per week whilst I had him employed. The poor
man lost by it, but it just happened by the arrangement he made
he thought he could gain by it. But the total expenditure of
mine of that kind was very small indeed. I have finished my
886. I will draw your attention to two matters. This is your
printed letter of 30th June 1880:—“I have the honor respectfully
to request that, before proceeding to acknowledge the services
of those engaged in the destruction of the Kelly gang of
outlaws, a searching enquiry be held into the whole
circumstances and transactions of the police administration in
the North-Eastern District since the Kelly outbreak in October
1878, and particularly into the circumstances of my recent
withdrawal from that district”?—Yes.
887. The question I want to ask is this. You have entered into a
lengthy detail of the exact position of the Kelly outlaws at the
time you left the district. Is that the reason that you ask that
enquiry might be delayed until these facts you have now stated
were made public. Am I to understand that you have now entered
into the full details of the exact position you had the outlaws
in at the time you withdrew in May and April?—Yes.
888. And therefore you consider at that particular time you were
unjustly treated in your withdrawal?—Yes. Nothing to do with the
reward at all, but with my withdrawal.
889. Was that what you meant in that letter you wish delayed
till the facts you now mentioned were before the
890. You wish us to understand in your opinion you had the
Kellys almost completely under your control at the time you were
withdrawn?—I do, and I say it not only on behalf of my
assistants and agents.
891. Was that the object of the letter?—Yes, for myself and the
892. You recollect a letter—you have not alluded to it—which was
given upon oath by a young fellow named ——, is he one of the ——
that is alluded to in Captain Standish’s letter?—I suppose so, I
know the man well.
893. Did you pay him any service money?—I did.
894. Under whose control was the North-Eastern District; who was
in charge when the sympathizers were put in Beechworth
gaol?—Under Captain Standish.
895. Who was the officer who appeared against the sympathizers
on the remands?—Mr. Sadleir, I believe, had to appear.
896. You were not in charge?—I was not there, so I have no exact
knowledge of it.
897. Did you inform the officer that took charge when you last
left the district that you were satisfied that you had the
Kellys almost within your grasp?—I would not like to say that.
898. Did you give him such information as would be useful to him
in the interest of the public?—Oh! Yes.
899. In every respect?—In every respect.
900. You gave his a detailed account of all the proceedings
leading up to what you believed to be almost immediate capture,
had you remained and carried on operations?—I spent over an hour
in the presence of Mr. Sadleir and Mr. O’Connor, and I gave him
during that time all the information I could think of, and
turned from time to time to Mr. Sadleir, and asked him, “Is
there anything else, Mr. Sadleir, you can suggest?”—and Mr.
Sadleir from time to time would tell me if he had thought so,
and remind me; but I presume it would be better to defer that
till Mr. Hare has been examined.
901. What was the nature of your relationship with the men and
officers during the time you were in charge of the North-Eastern
District; not your superior officers, but those under you—the
men under your charge?—Mr. Sadleir was the superintendent of the
district, he was under me, and we were, and are still, on the
very best of terms always.
902. He was immediately under you?—Yes; he was in charge of the
district, and he rendered me the most valuable assistance
through out and spared himself in no degree; and many most
valuable suggestions he gave me, for instance, that about
working the people up in the township to assist the police in
case of attack, and so on. My acquaintance with Mr. O’Connor
when I first came up; but after a time he told me that he had
not been fairly treated, he considered, by my predecessor, and
there was a disposition to leave him out of the way on any
occasion when there was a prospect of capturing the men.
903. When you left the charge of the place one of your
successors would be, of course, Mr. Sadleir, would it not?—No;
when I left charge Mr. Hare was there, but I exclude Mr. Hare;
he was not with me.
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
904. By your predecessor, you meant Captain Standish?—Yes, in
this respect only. Mr. O’Connor was on very good terms with
Captain Standish even when I came up, but he was very
dissatisfied with being left out. I told him that I considered
it a very improper thing myself of any one to do anything of the
kind to him—an officer coming from a neighboring colony with a
party of men. I considered that it would be a very improper
thing for the officers of police of Victoria to behave in such a
manner towards him, and that he might feel perfectly satisfied
on that point that there was hardly an officer in the colony
would do such a thing, and from that time our relations were
perfectly satisfactory. He placed the trackers at my disposal,
and I could take them myself at any time—to take them whenever I
chose, he could trust me entirely; I am not going to crack the
police up and seek popularity by speaking of them; but I can
only say they showed the greatest possible spirit throughout,
and as a proof of it there was not one man brought before me for
misconduct while I was up there.
905. Neither black nor white?—No, not one, during the last time
I was up there.
906. In the course of your examination you stated you were
displeased with the conduct of one officer?—One exception.
907. Who you think did not act correctly in that search, and
whom you instructed not to undertake any search parties again; I
mean Mr. Smith?—That was not the officer I alluded to.
908. The question I ask is this: in the course of your evidence
you state there was one search party under the control of an
officer, Mr. Smith?—Yes.
909. And that he acted indiscreetly in returning when he ought
910. Was he continued in the district, and was he in the
district when you resumed control, in August of the following
911. Excepting that instance, did you find it your duty to find
fault with the discretion, want of pluck, or courage of any
officer or constable under you?—No, I did not.
912. Would it be untrue to say, in your opinion, the men showed
want of courage and dash, which constables should possess?—It
would be incorrect, in my experience, to say that.
913. And that the constables under you have constantly
discharged their duty as they were bound to in the public
service?—Yes, during the whole time I was there, I can say that.
I do not pretend to say I was a brother to the men, but I was
always their comrade.
914. It could not be to you that the inference could apply, in
Captain Standish’s evidence, as to having treated the men like
dogs?—Not truly, for I never had occasion to reprimand or
admonish a man up there, from the time I relieved Captain
Standish till I was superseded.
915. You have no idea whom Captain Standish referred to?—No, but
I take it to myself. There is just one letter I was going to
hand in—this is the letter of remonstrance I sent to Captain
Standish, dated 19th May 1880—during the month I was given a
month more to work. I found, from the disturbance during that
month, that it was quite impossible for me to carry on. —[The
witness handed in the following paper]:—
Office, Benalla, 19th May 1880.
With reference to my recent interview with the Honorable the
Chief Secretary, in the presence of the Chief Commissioner of
Police, upon the subject of the search for the Kelly gang and a
proposed change in the conduct of the proceedings, I now submit
the following remarks, with the request that they may be laid
before the Honorable the Chief Secretary: —
For the first six weeks after the murders, giving the Kellys
credit for more boldness than they are now shown to possess, I
pursued them with search parties in the hope that they would not
be at such pains to avoid the police. At the end of that period,
on the 10th December 1878, they committed the Euroa bank
robbery, and our pursuit of them failed through want of
efficient trackers, even although the tracks were recent.
On the 13th December ’78, in consequence of injury to my
eyesight, I returned to Melbourne, after which the force
throughout the North-Eastern district was further increased by
extra officers, a considerable number of mounted and foot
police, a body of the permanent artillery corps, besides three
detectives—Eason, Berril, and Brown—all acting under the special
directions of the Chief Commissioner of Police and
Superintendent Hare, and the system continued for nearly seven
months more, about ten months altogether, without obtaining any
traces whatever of the offenders. In that interval there
occurred the bank robbery at Jerilderie, N.S.W., in February
1879, when the Victorian police in this district used every
effort to intercept the outlaws on their return, but, as at
Euroa, in the absence of efficient native trackers, without
effect. Although reports did come in of the re-appearance of
individual members of the gang at different places, it was found
impossible to follow up the traces.
Immediately after the Chief Commissioner’s return to Melbourne
in July last, I was sent back to the North-Eastern district, and
placed in charge of the work. Superintendents Hare, Furnell, and
ultimately Sub-Inspector Toohey were withdrawn, also over forty
of the police, and the main portion of the permanent military
detachment (the remainder, about twenty-two soldiers, were
subsequently withdrawn from Shepparton, Violettown, and Euroa,
but ultimately I obtained (7) seven constables in their places).
My own experience of active search in the ranges here, without
something like precise information of the where-abouts of the
gang, is that it is worse than useless, and I am supported in
this opinion by the experience of every officer whom I have
spoken to on the subject. It is most costly and most harassing
to men and horses, and, owing to the bush skill and wariness of
the outlaws, and to the security afforded them by the nature of
the country, and by the character of a large number of the
inhabitants, it is the most unlikely mode to be attended with
I believe it may be positively asserted of all the numerous
search parties that were sent out at so much trouble and cost,
no one connected with them went out or returned with a
correct notion of in what point of the compass the Kellys
were secreted, or, in fact, whether they were in Victoria at
all. Knowing this, it would have been folly on my part to
have continued such a system.
With the reduced means at my disposal, my first object was to
re-arrange and secure to those townships where there was
treasure protection against a raid; to maintain a few extra
mounted men at Wodonga, Wangaratta, Bright, and Mansfield, ready
to act in case of emergency, at any of the distant points. The
only complete search party has been retained at Benalla, the
head-quarters of the district.
Previously there had been search parties at each of the
above-named places. With the assistance of the district
superintendent, Mr. Sadleir, which I have received throughout,
economy was enforced in every direction. Not one special railway
train has been used; and in view of the search being protracted,
every effort has been made compatible with efficiency to bring
down the working expenses to the cost of an ordinary district
employing the same number of men.
A further important reduction was effected by the Chief
Commissioner’s orders—Y1676, 5/l0/79, and Y1933,
l8/l2/79—abolishing special travelling allowances to the police
engaged in the North-Eastern district.
I may here state that, even when the outlaws are finally
disposed of, this district will not bear much reduction in the
present number of police for one or two years to come—until not
only the criminal, but the large lawless, portion of the
population are put down, and confidence in the police protection
is restored among the honest and industrious.
Keeping the police on the alert, but quiet and undemonstrative
even to conveying the impression that their keenness had become
dulled and the pursuit relaxed, I endeavored to discover and
cultivate as many sources of information as possible.
It can be easily understood that
much difficulty exists in finding suitable agents to assist
police in this matter; moreover economical considerations rather
restrict me in this direction.
A few respectable farmers,
selectors and others are, I believe, willing, and promise to
furnish the police promptly with information; but when the
opportunity occurs they shrink from the duty until too late,
lest their complicity with the police should be discovered, and
not without reason, for the friends and sympathizers of the
outlaws are very watchful. As an illustration of their danger:
The search of the police would commence at a certain point.
The fact, unless precaution is used by the police, is
frequently sufficient to indicate to the criminal class the
source of the information, and in this Kelly case would probably
entail serious consequences upon the informant.
To induce persons of the same
class as the outlaws, and possessing the necessary knowledge and
ability to become useful agents, is a matter of time and
However, after working as
secretly as possible, positive tidings of the presence of the
outlaws in the district, and of the localities visited by them,
was obtained, although to late to employ the police to pursue
them. Since then, gradually, but steadily, more accurate and
closer information of them and their movements has been
received, until I have had strong reasons to expect their steady
arrest, and that, by continuing to pursue the course I adopted,
their ultimate capture is, I feel, a positive certainty.
They have never shown themselves
openly, as at Euroa and Jerilderie, since the arrival of the
Queensland native trackers here. The presence of the latter, and
the precautions taken against a successful raid have baffled the
outlaws. Their funds are almost exhausted, their prestige
had failed considerably, and, consequently, the number of their
admirers has deceased.
They are depressed and very
distrustful. They have almost ceased to use their horses, or to
carry their rifles, excepting when shifting from one
neighbourhood to another.
They conceal themselves during
the day, and moved out at night on foot, and visit or meet their
few friends at irregular periods, and generally unexpectedly.
These friends are confined to their blood relations and a few
chosen young men of the criminal class, who have known them from
childhood, none of whom, up to this date, can be induced to
betray them, even for
They are accompanied by one or
two scouts, who search the ground before them for ambuscades,
and they use all their craft against leaving any trail for the
trackers. When they do visit any hut or place, they watch it for
several hours previously, and after satisfying themselves that
no strangers are within, one of them enters, and, if all is
well, the others follow leaving one or two of their scouts
The length of time occupied in
their capture must depend much upon the opportunities given by
the outlaws, the skill of the police, and the disposition of the
people to aid the police.
I have already related how wary
the gang are. Nevertheless, their exhausted means compels them
to expose themselves more and more to danger of betrayal and
(or) capture, and this is already observable to a marked degree;
and their friends are decreasing, while the police are
increasing in knowledge and experience, and in the number of
those disposed to help them; rendering the capture of the gang
certain, unless some unfortunate change takes place, and the
outlaws, by a successful raid or by some other means, refill
their purses again; in which event, to ensure their capture, the
work of the police will have to be done over again.
The system that has had to be
adopted in this extraordinary case requires the exercise of
patience among all concerned. A premature and fruitless attempt
to capture the gang would be madness. It would awaken all the
fear of capture, and perhaps cause them to separate and steal
out of the colony, and leave them masters of the situation, to
return when least expected, and surprise us by another
While acknowledging the
consideration of the Government in proposing a change in the
management of the Kelly business, thereby relieving me from the
very trying duty upon which I have been continually engaged for
the past ten months, nevertheless, my sense of duty impels me to
point out, respectfully, the inadvisability of such a change. It
will be seen by this report the system which I have pursued – a
system which appears to be the proper one, under the
It does not seem well to remove
the officer who has collected and holds in his hands all the
threads of a long and tedious enquiry just at the crisis.
Again, I submit that the change
is impolitic, as this case is one in which keen public interest
has been taken. The proposed change will probably be considered
as an admission of failure on the part of the police; and,
especially if my successor happens to be unsuccessful, a clamour
will probably be raised that the organization of the force is
wrong. This may lead to breaking up the constabulary, and to
weakening the power to maintain law and order in the colony;
whereas the real truth is there is no failure at present; on the
contrary, by the exercise of patience and fortitude, success is
C. H. NICOLSON,
Assistant-Commissioner of Police.
To the Chief
Commissioner of Police, Melbourne.
The witness withdrew.
Adjourned to Tuesday next at
half-past Eleven o’clock.
The Hon. F. LONGMORE,
in the Chair;
J. H. Graves,
R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,
E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.,
J. Gibb, Esq., M.L.A.,
G. W. Hall,
W. Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,
G. C. Levey,
C. H. Nicolson further examined.
wish to be allowed to supplement my evidence by a few remarks,
which will take a very little time—a
few facts which will take a very short time to put in.
916. By the Commission.—You
had better go on then?—I
wish to state that the interference with me in the North-Eastern
district, on the part of Captain Standish, that I alluded to,
worried and crippled me considerably, and also the two officers
who were with me.
their action also?—Yes.
Sadleir and Sub-Inspector O’Connor of the Queensland police;
but I never allowed it to interfere with my work. As an
instance, when I received from time to time several orders
to withdraw the cave party, I did not do so. On my
own responsibility I took that
C. H. Nicolson,
25th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
course. When objection was made to the employment of Aaron
Sherritt by Captain Standish, I discussed the matter with him.
At the same time I continued to employ Sherritt, although I at
last received an actual order from Captain Standish, saying he
insisted upon my ceasing to do so. He said he was untrustworthy,
and so on.
919. It was the first time you have stated that Captain Standish
instructed you to discharge Sherritt?—Yes. I kept Sherritt on,
on my own responsibility, and paid him out of my own pocket for
the time being, from time to time, whether I got the Government
to recoup me or not, until the day I left.
920. Did you get that account disbursed again?—Yes, I did get
paid without any difficulty. As to the repayment, I had never
any difficulty in getting it in Melbourne. I considered, and I
maintained, that I was the best judge on the spot as to whom I
should employ and whom I should not employ, and that it was
impossible for Captain Standish, or any person sitting on a
chair in Melbourne, to judge or dictate to me, with all the
responsibility that was thrown upon me, in what I was doing up
there, whom I should employ and whom I should not.
921. Were those the only two instances he interfered with
you?—There was a spirit the whole time pervading that way; in
fact, for months before I was withdrawn I had the consciousness
that there was some mischief brewing.
922. You felt there was mischief brewing against you for months
before you were withdrawn?—Yes. I charged Captain Standish on
one occasion, at Benalla, with exhibiting my confidential
letters to him to Mr. Hare at the depôt. His reply was to the
effect that he considered he had a right to do with the letters
he received what he liked; consequently, I was very guarded in
my communications to him. During this time I maintained
courteous relations with Captain Standish, and outwardly there
was no exhibition of feeling on my part, at any rate, towards
him. When I, in April, received notice in his office in a very
curt manner, that I was to be superseded, then seeing that the
public service was being sacrificed and all the labor of years
was to be sacrificed——
923. That was nearly two years after?—Yes. I was saying it was
only then that I expressed indignation to the Chief Commissioner
924. That was in 1879?—No, in April 1880.
925. That was when you got the month’s notice?—When I first was
informed, and called down to town, and I warned him of the
disaster that would ensue.
926. Was it all verbal?—Verbal; but I will give you more of it.
I then insisted upon having an interview with the Honorable the
927. That was Mr. Ramsay?—Yes
928. He had only just taken office then?—He had just taken
office. This was on the Saturday.
929. What date?—I arranged with Captain Standish that I would
come on the following Monday morning. I will give the date
presently. Captain Standish said, “Well, if you wish an
interview with the Chief Secretary, I should wish to be
present,” and I said, “Certainly, I have not the slightest
objection to you or anyone else being present.” I would not go
into this fully but that Captain Standish says I attempted to
steal an interview without him. On my arrival at the office on
Monday, Captain Standish told me I could not see the Chief
Secretary till two o’clock—that he would not be at the office
till two. As I was just leaving Captain Standish’s office after
hearing that, I saw the Chief Secretary going up stairs to his
930. Both departments are in the same building?—Yes. I followed
Mr. Ramsay up stairs—I did; not rush up after him, as was
insinuated—and, when he reached his room, I asked him if he
would allow me to speak to him. I said, “Mr. Ramsay, Captain
Standish tells me that I am to have an interview with you at two
o’clock; he did not expect you at your office till two; would it
be all the same to have the interview now, because I wish to
return to Benalla by the half-past two train?” Mr. Ramsay was
quite agreeable, and I was turning away from him to go and tell
Captain Standish when Captain Standish came following up,
running after me, as if I were trying to steal a march on him,
and looking at me in an insulting manner, as if I had been
trying to steal a march upon him.
931. That was the inference you drew?—Yes, he came looking at me
in that way.
932. And you now, in giving your evidence, say that he did look
at you, and you felt he was looking at you in the way you
describe. That is what you swear?—I do; and my impression was
confirmed by what he said, the other day, in evidence before
this Commission. Mr. Ramsay heard me most patiently.
933. Where was this?—In his own room—in the Chief Secretary’s
room, in the presence of Captain Standish. And he received me
more than courteously, I may say kindly; and he assured me that;
it was no reflection intended on me; that it was just a change,
like in a game of cricket—a change of bowlers.
934. Was that the exact expression he used?—That was the exact
expression he used on that occasion. I explained to him how
dangerous this was, and that there was very little analogy
between the Kelly business and the game of cricket; and how
dangerous this change that was about to be made would be. I then
left Mr. Ramsay, he promising to consider my application not to
be removed. I understood that the thing had already been decided
935. Your remonstrance was with a view of his reconsidering his
determination?—Yes; I called at Mr. Ramsay’s office in the
course of the afternoon.
936. What office?—His private office, that afternoon; and he led
me to understand that I would receive an intimation about the
matter—a favorable reply. On that occasion I did not force
myself into; Mr. Ramsay’s room, but saw him in the usual way
that anyone going to his office would see him.
937. Was that about the time Sir James McCulloch’s name was
introduced?—No, after that. I returned then to the district.
938. Why did you ask for this extension—a month’s time?—Because
just at that time I was receiving other information from that
man that wrote about the armour, and ought to have gone on. The
information began to come in at that time when I went back very
fast, of a very important character—all indicating a speedy
939. You stated in your evidence that between this date, on or
about the 20th April, your agents were giving you almost daily
940. And you stated in your
evidence the position of the men at that time—that they—were
short of money, and were in the habit of going to Lake Rowan and
other places?—I do not know exactly about Lake Rowan.
941. You said about that time?—Yes, from the time I went back
and resumed work again, I found it was no use my continuing
going on with the prospect of being withdrawn at the end of the
month. You cannot command information, of course, in police
maters; you must wait until it comes in to you. I telegraphed to
Captain Standish about the middle—the 20th—of May, stating that
I would be down the following day, and asking if he would be
good enough to obtain me another interview with the Chief
Secretary. Captain Standish spoke in his evidence as if there
was only one interview; there were two interviews. I followed my
telegram the next morning, and presented myself at Captain
Standish’s office. On meeting him I was polite, as usual, and he
to me. He said, “Ah, Nicolson, I was dining at the Governor’s
last night, and I saw the Chief Secretary, and he does not think
there is any occasion to have any further interview with you.” I
replied, “Do you then tell me that you are unable to obtain an
interview for me with the Honorable the Chief Secretary?” He
said, “Yes.” So I took leave of him. I left his room and went
down to Mr. Ramsay’s private office, and had an interview with
him; it lasted about half an hour.
942. That was on the 20th?—On or about the 20th of May.
943. It would be the 21st, the day following your telegram?—Yes.
I then told Mr. Ramsay the state of affairs up there, as I had
told him before in the presence of Captain Standish. I told him
that Captain Standish was no authority on any matters of the
kind; that he had no practical experience. I told him that
Captain Standish would not give his mind to the business, and
hardly to any one else; at any rate, that I could not get him to
attend to me ten minutes at a time—to sit down and talk over
the Kelly business. He could not, even of a period of ten
minutes, fix his attention upon the matter. And I expressed to
Mr. Ramsay that it was a great pity that before he decided that
he had not consulted me also. I suggested that, though I was
Captain Standish’s subordinate, still I was his colleague, and I
had been up there a considerable time, and I was an experienced
officer, and I was a better authority on the mater than Captain
Standish possibly could be.
944. Were you at that time recognized Assistant Commissioner of
Police?—Yes, I was. Mr. Ramsay listened to me very attentively
throughout, and there was no warmth whatever between us,
excepting on my part, in endeavoring to induce him to reconsider
the matter; and we parted just in the same friendly manner as
before, he promising to reconsider and let me know. He made this
one remark, showing the impression that I had made upon him,
“Well, you see, Mr. Nicolson, having made all these arrangements
with the head of the department, it is very difficult to alter
945. Captain Standish was not at this meeting?—No. It has been
said that Mr. Ramsay interrupted when I was saying this, about
my speaking in this matter of the head of my department. I have
no recollection of Mr. Ramsay doing so, no recollection
whatever, and this was the only opportunity that I had. I was
certainly speaking very plainly, and speaking out very strongly
about the part that Captain Standish had taken in this matter to
him; I certainly was. I met Captain Standish at the railway as I
was leaving by train when I was returning to Benalla. He handed
me a telegram, addressed to me, and he said, “Paying you an
amount of courtesy in bringing you this telegram which I suppose
you would not show to me. I hear you have had an interview with
Mr. Ramsay, and you have been abusing me. I consider your
conduct very disloyal.” Now when he said that, I smiled at his
talking about my conduct being disloyal to him. He said “Mr.
Ramsay,” I forgot his exact words, but it was to the effect that
I had conducted myself so violently that Mr. Ramsay had to check
946. He did not state that?—Yes, he stated that. This was at the
platform, in a great hurry; the bell was ringing; he detained me
so long I had to go away without a ticket. I replied just in
hurry, about that violent conduct and checking me, “Never,” not
in a violent way at all, quietly; and the bell was ringing at
the time, and, just as I was going away, he put himself in a
very offensive attitude and manner, and said, “I believe Mr.
Ramsay,” as much as to say you are telling a lie.
947. Is this the occasion that Captain Standish stated he met
you at the train?—This is the occasion mentioned in his
948. And this is your account of what occurred?—Yes; I am not
sure that I spoke. He was addressing me all the time; but when
he said I had spoken in a violent manner, and Mr. Ramsay had to
check me, I said, “Never.” Of course I do not disbelieve Mr.
Ramsay either, but Captain Standish meant to convey a very
offensive imputation. On my return to Benalla I was superseded
by Mr. Hare, as I have already told you.
949. Had not this telegram anything to do with it?—It was
important information from Mr. Sadleir to hurry me up, important
information having come in, which I have already related to you.
I acted upon it up to the day before Mr. Hare relieved me.
950. You were superseded immediately?—Not till the 2nd of June,
a day or two after; but between that date and the 2nd of June I
was engaged upon the duty up to the night of the 1st of June,
when I came in to Benalla to meet Mr. Hare. I will point out to
you that that is one of the instances when I was worried and
interfered with; instead of being at Benalla when that important
information came in that had to be attended to, I was down
fighting in Melbourne, contesting against him
951. That letter is dater May 20th (the one about the diseased
stock; can you say from memory whether that was in your
possession prior to your interview with Mr. Ramsay, or
afterwards?—It was in my possession on that day, and I showed it
to Mr. Ramsay.
952. You showed that letter to Mr. Ramsay?—I showed the letter
to Mr. Ramsay, and I should here state that I did not show it to
Captain Standish. In my previous interview with him, when he
told me he could not get an interview with Mr. Ramsay, my
interview ended, and I left the room and went out to Mr. Ramsay.
On the previous visit to Melbourne I spoke of, before Captain
Standish insinuated that I had remained in town all day on the
occasion of my first visit to Mr. Ramsay in April, Captain
Standish makes a mistake; he speaks of only one interview,
whereas there were two. On that occasion Captain Standish——
953. On what date?—In April. He wrote to me, saying something
to the effect, “You did not go away,” and he has spoken
here of his sending a messenger to the railway station to see
me off or to give me some message, and I was not to be
found, insinuating that I did not go off with the
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
Captain Standish knows very well, for I wrote it to him, that I
went out that day from town to Flemington. I had to see
some friends there, and I took the train from there instead of
Spencer street, and I went back the same train, and I wrote to
Captain Standish telling him, so that I did go by that train.
954. This is what he did say:—“Mr. Nicolson came down to my
office afterwards, when I asked him, ‘When are you going back?’
he said, ‘I am going back by the next train—the afternoon
train.’ He not only did not do that, but he remained in
Melbourne, and went to Sir James McCulloch to ask him to go and
see Mr. Ramsay and intercede on his behalf”?—That was on the
955. Early in May?—Yes. I returned by the train I mentioned to
you from Flemington. I may mention there is a significance in my
calling upon Sir James McCulloch at that time. Sir James
McCulloch was in office at the time Power, the bushranger, was
arrested. At that time he (then Mr. McCulloch) expressed himself
very handsomely as Chief Secretary about my conduct in the
arrest of Power.
956. May I ask is there a complete file of the particulars
connected with the arrest of Power in the department?—There is.
I should be very glad, with reference to that, if one or two
members of the Commission would go over that file. Sir James
McCulloch had expressed himself in that way years before, and
though I never sought for influence or went to any person—but on
that occasion I thought the best thing I could do was to go to
Sir James McCulloch, and mention to him the position I was in,
and remind him of the opinion he had expressed of me when he was
in office, and to speak to Mr. Ramsay.
957. When was that—the Tuesday following the Monday you saw Mr.
Ramsay in the morning?—The 21st May. That was the second
958. Although you knew Sir James McCulloch, what was the
necessity of your asking him to accompany you to Mr. Ramsay’s
private office?—Sir James McCulloch had the experience before
him of the Power case. He was in office at that time, and he
had, as I have already said, been very complimentary to me on
the occasion of the capture of Power. He had learned when he was
in office what sort of work it was. He did not accompany me to
Mr. Ramsay’s office.
959. Did you think if he saw Mr. Ramsay he might influence
960. Now will you tell us by what train you left Melbourne after
interviewing Mr. Ramsay on the last occasion?—On the following
961. That would be the 22nd of May?—Yes, the 22nd of May, by the
half-past two train. On that occasion I did not go this telegram
had not come, but after leaving Sir James McCulloch. I did not
leave town that night. I wished, if possible, to get some
definite answer or information before I started as to whether I
was to remain. It seemed very little use my going back, but I
was determined to go back, but it was important to have a
definite answer before I went up.
962. Did you go from Spencer street then?—Yes.
963. The difficulty in this matter appears to me is as to date.
Your first interview with Captain Standish was in April, and the
second was at the private office in May?—That is it.
964. The first time you went from Flemington and the second from
965. It was upon the May occasion that Captain Standish met you
at the railway station?—Yes.
966. Did you come upon that occasion—that is about May, about
the time of the letters about the armour—and interview Captain
967. He knew you were in town?—Yes.
968. What time was it that Captain Standish told you he had
interviewed Mr. Ramsay at the Governor’s dinner?—May—the morning
of the last interview with Mr. Ramsay, and the only interview I
believe I had with Sir James McCulloch.
969. What was the date of the first interview with Mr.
Ramsay?—The first interview was on Monday the 3rd of May.
970. That was the time you alluded to the interview between you
and Mr. Ramsay, when he said he would let you know later on
whether he would consent to your remaining a month longer?—Yes,
that is so.
971. That was on the 3rd of May—the afternoon that Sir James
McCulloch accompanied you to Mr. Ramsay’s office?—No, he did not
972. Was it on the 4th of May you returned to Benalla?—The Chief
Commissioner directed me to stay, and then on the following
day—on the 4th of May 1880—the Chief Commissioner informed me
that the Honorable the Chief Secretary had continued me for one
973. And you left by the 2.30 train that day?—Yes, I left
Flemington at three o’clock on that day.
974. You were informed that you had another month?—Yes.
975. When did you return to Melbourne again to see Mr.
Ramsay?—The 25th of May—Tuesday—I returned to Melbourne.
976. What was your reason for returning on the 25th?—Because I
saw it was certainly impossible to go on any longer with the
state the case was in with the prospect of being superseded.
977. You came down on the 25th of May to point out to the Chief
Secretary that you had things to arrange, that it would be a
false policy to remove you then?—Yes, on the Monday, the 24th—[looking
at a diary]—having requested the Chief Commissioner to
obtain an interview with the Chief Secretary on the 25th.
978. On the 25th, when you saw Mr. Ramsay, was there any
complaint of your unfairly endeavoring to force yourself upon
him?—No, not the slightest.
979. On the afternoon of the 25th Sir James McCulloch
accompanied you to Mr. Ramsay?—No, I called on him alone.
980. He did not accompany you?—No. I did not ask him to. As to
what took place between Sir James McCulloch and Mr. Ramsay I do
not know to this day.
981. You do not know that he saw him?—I believe he did.
982. Captain Standish states that Mr. Ramsay said, “Mr.
Nicolson, supposing you were head of a department, and one of
your subordinate officers came to me and abused you behind your
back, what would you think?” On what day would that be if it
occurred?—On the 25th of May.
983. Mr. Ramsay made that statement to you on the 25th?—I have
no recollection of Mr. Ramsay saying such a thing, but if he did
it was on that date.
984. I think you joined the police force about 1852?—Yes.
985. As a cadet?—Yes.
986. I think you got your first promotion for gallant conduct
about the time of the capture of Conor and Brady in
987. Since then you had a large experience of police business?—I
988. You were for a length of time in the detective police?—Yes,
about fourteen years.
989. And you kept yourself au courant of what was going
on in this colony, and also in New South Wales?—Yes.
990. You were in constant communication with the force of New
South Wales?—Yes, while I was in charge of the detectives.
991. Will you hand in a return of the length of the time it took
to capture the bushrangers in New South Wales and in
Victoria—Power and other men; Ben Hall and Gilbert—can you get
this?—I will, but it will take a few days to get it—it is many
992. The time during which Power was at large, and the length of
time of various times in New South Wales—Hall, Gilbert and other
men, an specially those men who shot a number of police under
circumstances not very dissimilar to the circumstances of the
shooting by the Kellys—do you think you will be able to supply
that?—Yes, I think so; it will take a few days, but I can do it.
993. You have read Superintendent
Hare’s report?—Yes, his letter to the Chief Commissioner of
Police, 2nd July.
994. Have you a copy of it?—Yes.
995. Will you look at paragraph
3.—“I received orders from you at the end of may that I was to
proceed at once to Benalla to relieve Mr. Nicolson. I
accordingly, on the 2nd of June, went up there. I arrived at
Benalla at about eleven o’clock that day. I saw Messrs.
Nicolson, Sadleir, and O’Connor in the office. After some
conversation on general subjects, Mr. Nicolson produced a letter
he had received from you, directing him to give me all the
information he had obtained concerning the Kelly gang during his
stay at Benalla; he showed me the state of his financial account
with one of his agents, and said there was nothing owing to any
of the others. He opened a drawer and showed me a number of
papers and the correspondence which had taken place during his
stay in Benalla, and said, ‘You can get all the information from
these papers’. He gave me no verbal information whatever, but
said, ‘Mr. Sadleir can tell you all I know concerning the
movements of the outlaws’. He left the office, and I never spoke
to him again, and he went to Melbourne by the evening train.”
Have you any explanation to offer about that report?—I would
rather wait until Mr. Hare gives his evidence on the subject, if
the Commission will allow me.
996. You give the statement a
denial?—I do, but I would rather speak of it after hearing Mr.
997. Have you closed?—No, but I
will shortly do so now. I am going to hand in my report, and ask
you to allow me to read the points of it.
998. Will you put in what letters
you received from Captain Standish ordering you to dismiss Aaron
Sherritt?—I will try and do so. I have to say this, that I had
no difference with Superintendent Hare. I was on terms of
friendly acquaintance with him up to the date of his letter on
the 2nd of July. When he arrived there, on the 2nd of June, I,
with the other officers, Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Sadleir, received
Mr. Hare with kindness, although I was frequently annoyed by his
being brought into opposition to me, sometimes apparently on his
own account, and sometimes through Captain Standish.
999. Will you give any evidence
of that?—I will produce papers presently; I am just finishing
this. When I took charge at Benalla in July, relieving Mr. Hare
and Captain Standish, I found the men, notwithstanding their
seven months’ work, very ignorant of how to use their arms—the
rifles (the most important arms of precision)—the Martini-Henry,
and other weapons with which they were armed. Some of them had
lost their ramrods, others their side-guards; some of them had
never fired a gun in their lives (so they stated), and they had
all the appearance of it.
1000. Ramrods are used for
cleaning those guns?—Yes, they are fastened in the usual way.
The guns are breech-loading.
1001. What were those men you
1002. Were those the men you were
selected for this special service, or were they there by
accident?—They were the men left in my absence to continue the
1003. Those men, you say, on your
return to duty, in July 1879—were they all inefficient—you have
your mind’s eye on some particular men?—Yes, the men at Benalla.
1004. Did those men remain on
with you on duty on the district?—Yes, until I left.
1005. You still retained
them?—Yes, I still retained them.
1006. Could you name some of
those men?—They were nearly all the staff, with few exceptions,
1007. Your statement applies to
the general body of police?—The police as a body. One of the men
named Keene shot another, Mr. Henry.
1008. Shot a comrade?—In the
1009. This is a proof of his
inefficiency, you think?—Yes, he was larking. He thought his
rifle was not loaded. He was handing a Spencer rifle down, and
he saw no cartridge, and he drew the trigger. He was so
ignorant, and thinking it unloaded, and he drew it back and
forward, and loaded it without knowing, and shot this man
through the body, on the 26th of July 1879, immediately after I
1010. Did you put them through a
proper drill after that?—I did. I formed a class for them at
once, under Senior-Constable Irvine, and, when duty admitted of
it, I had them taught properly how to shoot, measure distances,
and so on.
1011. With what weapons?—The
Martini-Henry and Spencer rifles, and double-barrelled
breech-loading guns, the three weapons they were armed with; but
gradually, as the men got proficient, they all took preference
to the Martini-Henry rifles.
1012. They believed in their
precision and lightness?—Yes; this is the analysis of their
scoring, showing what progress and efficiency they arrived at.
1013. Were the equally efficient
is the use of revolvers?—They all knew how to fire a revolver,
but a great many of them did not know how to aim.
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
1014. After instruction this is
the result?—Yes—[handing in the following papers]:—
Scoring Analysis of Rifle
Practice of the Benalla Search Party since first regular
practice, giving each
day’s score, number of
practices, total score, and average for each day.
No. of Practices
Average per day.
A. C. P.
Arthur, J. M.
Bell, W. W.
Falkiner, A. J.
Kirkham, T. H.
Wallace, W. J.
Gascoigne, P. C.
Scoring Analysis of Revolver Practice of the Benalla Search
Party since first regular practice, giving
each day’s score, number of practices, total score, and average.
No. of Practices
Average per day.
A. C. P.
This was regularly carried out as rifle practice, and the score
kept as you see there.
1015. And they attained fair proficiency?—Yes. In Mr. Hare’s
letter, in which he speaks of the men firing with great
precision, he pays me a great compliment.
1016. That was on the 16th, at Glenrowan?—Yes.
1017. You practised it yourself?—Yes, I was doing this with the
utmost care and economy when I received the communication from
the Chief Commissioner of Police, that Mr. Hare said “I was
wasting too much ammunition,” and the Chief Commissioner said “I
must stop it.”
1018. Was that communication in writing?—Yes, I extended this
practice all through the North-Eastern district, allowing a
certain amount of ammunition to be used in that way in every
station in the district. I also instructed the men myself how to
attack the offenders if they should ever come in contact with
them either in a house or in the bush. I also taught them that
they were to dismount if on horseback. and how to fire their
rifles. They were to dismount, and how to do so; never to fire
off the horse’s back, Anyone who takes an interest in those
things will know that it is an axiom introduced in all the late
wars never to fire a rifle off a horse’s back. It is admitted as
a general rule that a man cannot shoot with accuracy off a
horse’s back; of course the very heaving of its flanks would
prevent that. I directed them also how to approach and engage
with these men—a very simple matter. I just told them, keep
twenty yards from each other, the leader and two or three men in
front, the other two or three men under the senior-constable to
run up at right angles in this way—[describing the same by
gesture]—driving them along by degrees till they close in on
them and rush them. I was inspecting the Beechworth district in
1877, the year before the murders.
1019. What constable was there then?—Mounted-Constable Thom.
This is my report of the man in charge at Greta.
1020. Is this the station where you drew attention to the
necessity of having an efficient man at Greta?—Yes.
Mounted-Constable Hugh Thom, 2372, about eighteen years’
service, “32 years of age, intelligent but not smart looking,
soiled dirty jumper, dirty breeches, and a crushed uniform hat,
beard untrimmed, his arms clean and serviceable. Mounted
Constable J. J. Hays, about 24 years of age, five months’
service, intelligent, and promising looking, but not so
smart and clean looking as when he first arrived from the
depôt; the example of his superior officer, Constable Thom, in
that respect has evidently not been improving to him—arms clean
and serviceable.” I may tell you now that Mr. Hare has had the
most efficient men in that district.
1021. May I ask are those specimens of the usual reports you
make?—Yes, the usual reports.
1022. Could you, without inconvenience, get the report made on
that station prior to Thom’s coming there?—Yes. That would be
not by me, but by the Inspecting Superintendent of the day.
1023. What action was taken on your report?—This man Thom was
removed and another man put in his place.
1024. Not for a long time afterwards?—I cannot say. I visited
the notorious Mrs. Kelly’s on the road from hence to Benalla.
She lived on a piece of cleared and partly cultivated land on
the road-side, in an old wooden hut, with a large bark roof. The
dwelling was divided into five apartments by partition of
blanketing, rugs &c. There were no men in the house, only
children and two girls of about fourteen years of age, said to
be her daughters. They all appeared to be existing in poverty
1025. What is the date of this?—April 1877. “She said her sons
were out at work, but did not indicate where, and that their
relatives seldom came near them. However, their communications
with each other are known to the police.” This is important.
“Until the gang referred to is rooted out of this neighborhood
one of the most experienced and successful mounted constables in
the district will be required in charge at Greta. I do not think
that the present arrangements are sufficient.
1026. Whom was that sent in to?—The Chief Commissioner of
Police. This is one of my “twaddling reports”: “Second-class
Sergeant Steele, of Wangaratta, keeps the offenders referred to
under as good surveillance as the distance and means at his
command will permit.”
1027. Will you fix the distance from Wangaratta to the Kellys’
house?—I should say about 16 miles.
1028. And how far from Greta to Mrs. Kelly’s?—About four—under
four miles. “But I submit that Constable Thom would hardly be
able to cope with these men; at the same time some of these
offenders may commit themselves foolishly some day, and may be
apprehended and convicted in a very ordinary manner.” This was
the cause of my instructions to the police generally; and I had
expressed my opinion since that to the officer in charge of that
district, that without oppressing the people, or worrying them
in any way, that he should endeavor, whenever they commit any
paltry crime, to bring them to justice, and send them to
Pentridge even on a paltry sentence, the object being to take
their prestige away from them, which has a good an effect as
being sent into prison with very heavy sentences, because the
prestige these men get up there from what is termed their
flashness helped to keep them together, and that is a very good
way of taking the flashness out of them.
1029. In making a report of that description, did you ask Thom
had he made them amenable to justice lately, for instance the
members of the family, the —?—I did.
1030. What was his reply?—I forget.
1031. It was sufficient to induce you to make a report, that a
man should be sent to keep them under control?—Yes.
1032. Are you aware who his predecessor was?—No.
1033. Do you know whether it was Flood?—I think it was.
1034. Do you know that he always had four or five of them in
gaol?—I know Flood was very efficient.
1035. Was this report before of the shooting of
Fitzpatrick?—Yes. I took a young constable with me part of the
road, Constable Hayes, and I instructed him—similar instructions
as those to Thom—and warned him never to go near that house, and
to tell the other police that came there never to go near that
house alone, always to have a second constable with them.
1036. Then you had an idea they were absolutely dangerous all
through?—Oh, I knew it well; and I instructed the police never
to go into that house alone, simply because I knew if there were
two constables together bad characters are always afraid to
proceed to extremities with them, because a constable is a
witness and support to the other.
1037. And you had previously known Ned Kelly personally?—Yes. I
visited Chiltern, the same district, at the same time, 1877.
1038. Do you recollect the date of the shooting of
Fitzpatrick—April 1878?—Yes, I think it was.
1039. This is previous to that again?—Yes.
1040. This is before Byrne became connected with it?—I believe
so. In speaking about the crime report book—that is the book in
which reports are made, and in which reports are made of people
who make complaints to the police—I may quote the
following:—“About six cases to date, in 1877, mostly
horse-stealing, which horses were ultimately recovered,
impounded in New South Wales.” This is a form of crime which is
said to be common here when the Murray River is low. “The
animals are said to be impounded with the view of buying them
out cheap”—that is over in New South Wales—“they are frequently
recovered, but the offenders, said to be New South Wales men,
are never convicted. I can see no difficulty in bringing those
offenders to justice, if the Ovens district police make
systematic arrangements with the cooperation of the well known
Mr. Singleton, who is in command of the New South Wales police,
1041. I suppose, in making that memorandum, you were aware that
in New South Wales no man can legally ride another man’s horse
without either a permit or some notification in his pocket that
the horse he is riding belongs to other man?—Yes. This is a
communication from Mr. Singleton:—“Albury, 14th September.” This
is to the officer in charge of the Beechworth district, to whom
my communication had been sent for his attention. “My dear
Sir,—In reply to your confidential note of the 12th instant, I
beg to state that I believe that a regular system of
horse-stealing is carried on by Victorian thieves, and that the
animals are brought across the Murray and impounded in New South
Wales, where they are sold for a mere trifle, and vice versa
by New South Wales thieves to Victoria; very many horses stolen
from Victoria have, I believe, been impounded at Quat Quatta,
near Howlong. I would suggest that on a report of horse-stealing
being made within a reasonable distance of the border, that you
give instructions to the police in Albury, Howlong, and Corowa
be informed as soon as possible.” Very soon after this regular
system was established, the well-known Baumgartens were
discovered receiving a very large number of horses, and Ned
Kelly was the man who brought the horses to them.
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
1042. One of them?—One of the men.
1043. Corowa was opposite the Victorian town of Wahgunyah,
Howlong being the nearest place to Chiltern, and the other to
Wodonga—the three crossing places?—Yes. Here is a document
showing the reduction of strength at a station, done without any
reference to me whatever. I do not know whether it is worth
taking notice of; but I was in that district, at Stanley, near
Beechworth; that is not in the dangerous district.
1044. Whose recommendation was that?—Mr. Brook Smith’s.
1045. Were the police taken altogether away from Stanley?—No;
but there were two men there. I do not mean the reduction was
not a proper one, but I was not made acquainted with it; and
that was the usual custom, and that was what I was annoyed with
Captain Standish for; they were done by him without consulting
me, and without my knowledge, though I was visiting and
reporting on the district. Here is another matter that I would
like to draw attention to. While inspecting the county of Bourke
district, in April 1876, I pointed out some irregularities in
the mode in which the constable kept his money books. Shall I
read that portion? This is the date—“5/3/75. Murdoch v.
Murdoch, Hotham. Prisoner delivered at Hotham lock-up, by
Kalkallo police, but no receipt producible, 23/12/74. Stephen
v. Snowden, distress, £7 3s. Donnybrook. Amount collected by
constable, who handed same to plaintiff direct, instead of to
clerk of petty sessions.” And several others of the same kind. I
was trying to introduce a uniform system.
1046. What was done on that?—I pointed this out to the Chief
Commissioner in this report, and it was referred to Mr. Hare by
the Chief Commissioner, who referred it to Constable Redding.
1047. You are pointing out this as a portion of your ordinary
1048. The object you have in view is to show that your
recommendations were not attended to?—Yes.
1049. What was done in that case?—The correspondence does not
show, and I am not aware of it.
1050. What will show that?—It ought to be on the papers, and its
not being so is a proof of the irregularity. “With reference to
the receipt for prisoner Murdoch, the watch-house book at Hotham
will show the prisoner was lodged there. I consider that in a
place like Donnybrook, where the clerk of petty sessions only
visits twice a month, and the clerk requests that the proceeds
of distress warrants may be paid over to the plaintiffs, there
is no objection to the constable doing so, providing he holds a
receipt from the person to whom he paid the money, which was
done in these cases. I am not aware how Mr. Nicolson became
aware that Constable Redding is wanting in discretion, and
requires looking after. He has been a long time under me, and I
have not discovered it; on the contrary, I have found him a most
zealous man, and most anxious to do his work, and a man in whom
I can place the greatest reliance.”
1051. It then, from that version, becomes a matter of difference
of interpretation as to what it properly the duty of the
1052. You considered he was guilty of dereliction of duty; Mr.
Hare, on the contrary, considered he performed his duty under
the circumstances?—Yes; I am quite prepared to show that my
system was the correct one. I reported: “Mtd.-Constable Redding,
1990, general appearance clean and creditable; kit clean and in
good order; the leather pad under hilt of sword worn out and the
mouth of scabbard loose and requires immediate attention. He has
had no practice with his Webley’s revolver; permission given to
fire six cartridges and report result.” “Mtd.-Constable Redding,
1990, is a man of considerable police experience, but wanting in
discretion, and requires looking after; otherwise, from the
opportunities of distinguishing himself which he has had, he
might have occupied a better position in the force.” I sent this
as usual to the Chief Commissioner.
1053. Soon after resuming again you said you had been frequently
interfered with by Mr. Hare, and sometimes by Captain Standish;
is that one of the cases by Mr. Hare?—Yes, that is one of them.
1054. Are the cases generally that you have referred to in which
Mr. Hare has interfered with you of a similar character?—No.
1055. Are there some of a more serious character?—Yes; this was
done. Mr. Hare says, “I am not aware how Mr. Nicolson became
aware that Constable Redding is wanting in discretion, and
requires looking after. He has been a long time under me, and I
have not discovered it; on the contrary, I have found him a most
zealous man, and most anxious to do his work, and a man in whom
I can place the greatest reliance.” He praises him up, and
contradicts me about the man, and asks my reason.
1056. Would Mr. Hare have greater opportunities of seeing the
way in which this constable performed his duty than you would as
visiting inspector?—As a rule, he would, but I might have
special knowledge of the man.
1057. You were only paying a visit of inspection to this
particular station—how often?—I had no knowledge of the station.
1058. But, as a matter of fact, the Bourke district was under
1059. Would you or Mr. Hare have a better opportunity of judging
of the merits of any particular constable?—As a rule, he would.
I may remark further, here is the result of this. On
the 26th June 1876 Constable Gill reports from Wallan
Wallan:—“For the information of the Superintendent in re
accidental death of Constable Redding.” The day of this man
falling off his horse, I said the man wanted looking after, and
I find the man fell off his horse after a night’s drinking,
and broke his neck. “It appears from information received
from Mrs. Redding, together with the evidence given at the
inquest, that he (Redding) left Donnybrook at about half-past
two or three o’clock on the afternoon of the 23rd
instant, for the purpose, as he stated to his wife, of going
to Wallan Wallan on duty. He reached Beveridge at about
half-past three or four o’clock, and went into O’Connor’s store
for the purpose of paying a small account. After the account
was paid, Mr. O’Connor asked him to have a drink, which he
(O’Connor) says is usual with him when an account is being
settled. He (Redding) had the drink, a little brandy, and
remained at O’Connor’s for an hour or so, and went from there to
Mrs. Wall’s hotel, where he had another small nobbler of brandy.
He remained at Wall’s for some time, but had only the one
drink there. He went back to O’Connor’s again, where he
remained for another hour, or an hour and a half, and
had a drink or two more. In short, it appeared from the
evidence given, that he might have had a half dozen drinks
altogether while at Beveridge; but it was also stated that he
could carry a good many drinks before they would show on him.
Mr. McCormack, farmer, of the Red Barn, and Mr. O’Connor, the
storekeeper above referred to, were the last to see him alive at
Beveridge, between nine and ten o’clock on the night of the
and both stated in their evidence that he looked to them to be
perfectly sober. They saw him get on his horse and ride away
quietly, although Mr. O’Connor stated that he must have
commenced to gallop soon after leaving his place, for he said he
could hear the noise of the horse galloping along the Donnybrook
road. Nothing further is known of him, until next morning about
half-past eight or nine o’clock, when Mr. Gann, a butcher from
Donnybrook, finds the body on the Sydney road, about a mile from
Beveridge court. Redding’s troop horse was found in a paddock on
the side of the road close to where the body was found, in a
paddock on the side of the road, with the saddle and bridle on.”
It is just simply I made the remarks about this man, and I think
my remarks proved correct.
1060. Is that the moment serious charge you have against Mr.
Hare for interference with your duty?—I was acquainted
principally with this man. He served under me, and I saw he was
just the same as before, and I gave them the benefit of that
knowledge, and warned them. This is the last thing I have to
refer to. In Captain Standish’s examination he alluded to paying
my agents large sums of money. I just hand in this document, to
show the sums that were actually paid. That was the first
payment made when I went up there by myself, and these were the
amounts afterwards—[handing in a paper, Bourke, 23rd May
1876, and papers attached]. He paid a large sum immediately
when he went up there, and raised the market on me as it were.
1061. This shows the money paid for secret service by you and
Captain Standish?—In one instance.
1062. Can you give the return of the secret service money paid
by Captain Standish.
You paid the secret service money yourself when you were
1063. Can we get the return of that?—Yes, I will hand in the
1064. That shows that for the same service
Captain Standish paid more than you?—Yes.
1065. Can you produce the letters in which Captain Standish
ordered you to discontinue the employing —— as an agent?—Any
letters on that subject are amongst the bundle that have come
down from the country, but I am prepared to prove that by oral
evidence. I may say my statements have been made almost entirely
from my own memorandum books; the papers on the Kelly business
were left behind at Benalla, and I have not seen them. I have
had nothing to do with them, and I have merely applied for
anything that I wanted. One thing I omitted to say, in
practising the men’s shooting, I expended about eight or ten
pounds in prizes for them, and in shooting I have paid for
ammunition for them out of my own pocket.
The witness withdrew.
Stanhope O’Connor sworn and examined.
1066. What are you?—I am a gentleman living on my means at
1067. What were you formerly?—Formerly Sub-Inspector of the
Queensland police; and at the time when I applied for this
enquiry, I was in the police, and had no intention of living.
1068. You have left the Queensland police now?—I have. I met
Captain Standish in Albury on the 6th March 1879.
1069. Was that when you came from Queensland?—It was.
1070. What was the cause of your coming to the colony?—This is a
document sent by my Government showing the arrangements made
that brought us over—[producing a document].
1071. It was by
request from this Government and Captain Standish you came
1072. You brought some native troopers with you?—Yes.
1073. You met Captain Standish, you say, in March 1879?—The 6th
of March 1879 at seven p.m. I was accompanied by six black
troopers, and by one senior-constable, a white man. The names of
my men were—Senior Constable King, Corporal Sambo, Troopers
Hero, Johnny, Jimmy, Barney, and Jack. I requested permission
from Captain Standish to halt for the day, as one of my troopers
named Jack, was very ill. This Captain Standish granted at once.
On the 8th March 1879, at nine a.m., Captain Standish, I, and my
men left Albury for Wodonga, Victoria, where Captain Standish
directed my party to remain for further orders. Captain Standish
and I proceeded to Benalla, arriving there at two p.m. On Monday
the 10th Senior-Constable King and the six troopers arrived at
two p.m. from Wodonga at Benalla. On the 11th of March, Captain
Standish ordered us out on our first trip, but had me sworn in
previously member of the police force of Victoria.
1074. And your men?—No; only myself and my senior-constable. The
black trackers do not take the oath ever; they are enlisted. We
left Benalla at eleven a.m. on the 11th in company with
Superintendent Sadleir and five or six Victorian constables.
Prior to leaving, I told Captain Standish that I only required
two of his men; but this I was told was not sufficient, and I
must take not less than six Victorian constables with me.
Captain Standish informed me in the presence of Mr. Sadleir that
I was to be in charge of the party.
1075. That was that you were to be above Mr. Sadleir?—Yes;
certainly the whole party, playfully saying to Mr. Sadleir,
“Although you are Superintendent of Police, do not think you are
over Mr. O’Connor.” Those are his words as near as I can swear
to them. Mr. Sadleir and myself were always on the best of
terms. I and my party returned to Benalla on the 18th of March
at 5.50 p.m., owing to the fact that the party was not
sufficiently supplied with necessaries, and that one of my
troopers, Corporal Sambo, got very ill.
1076. What do you call necessaries?—Blanketing and clothing.
1077. Provisions?—We were not supplied sufficiently with those.
I consider necessaries everything.
1078. Food and clothing?—Food and bedding would be better. He
was so bad, indeed, that I had to send him back to head-quarters
on the 15th.
1079. What do you call head-quarters?—Benalla. I always called
that head-quarters; and on the morning of the 18th we met
Constable Bell, who informed me that my trooper was dying. This
man died on the evening of the 19th of congestion of the lungs.
I do not attribute any blame to the Victorian authorities in
this matter. In fact, Captain Standish showed my men every
1080. Where did you go?—Mr. Sadleir will know all about that. He
knows more about the country.
1081. He was with the party all the time up to the 18th?—Yes. On
the 16th April we started out again, the party consisting of
about the same number of men.
C. H. Nicolson,
29th March 1881.
29th March 1881.
29th March 1881.
1082. That would be about sixteen altogether?—About fifteen or
sixteen—five of my men, myself, Mr. Sadleir, and my
senior-constable, and five or six Victorian constables.
1083. Did all those trackers came from Queensland?—Yes, up to
1084. Because you recruited afterwards?—Yes; I will come to that
directly. We had no information.
1085. Had you any the first time?—None. We went up to King
River, and on the fifth day, namely, the 21st April, arrived at
De Gamaro station. —— informed us of his having found on the
run, near the Black range, a horse, answering the description of
one of the horses ridden away from Jerilderie by one of the
outlaws. —— offered to show us the horse and its tracks; but
just as we were arranging for an early start for the morrow a
constable galloped up with a letter from Captain Standish,
saying if we were not on anything perhaps it would be better to
1086. “Anything good?”—Any good information. The letter stated
that Mr. Hare thought that he had found some traces in the Warby
ranges. Mr. Sadleir and I conferred together, and sent Captain
Standish word of what we had been told, and as he had left us to
decide, we preferred to follow our own information, but if he
(Captain Standish) still thought it advisable for us to return,
he was to send us word again, and we would obey. This he did the
next day, and we returned to Benalla immediately, on the morning
on the 23rd.
1087. Where was Captain Standish?—At Benalla.
1088. At what distance?—I do not know exactly—about thirty
1089. Did you go to De Gamaro station to look after the
Kellys?—Certainly. Subsequently, after Mr. Nicolson took charge,
the above horse was recovered, and was found to have been one of
the Jerilderie horses taken away by the outlaws.
1090. A police horse?—A New South Wales police horse.
1091. How long was this after you received information about the
horse?—A considerable time—months. Captain Standish, I may say,
did not believe anything. When we gave information about it, he
laughed at it, and took no more trouble about it. Up to about
this time, and a little later, Captain Standish was upon the
most intimate terms with me, (in my statement, in my report of
7th September, it ought to be fourteen months he treated me most
discourteously instead of sixteen) and often expressed a wish
that I would join the Victorian force after the Kellys were
taken. Captain Standish showed a great want of interest in any
work in the Kelly pursuit. This was not only observed by myself,
but by both Mr. Sadleir and Mr. Hare.
1092. Was that verbally, or how?—Repeatedly, day after day. Mr.
Sadleir will be to prove it, and I suppose will repeat what he
has often said to me. In fact, Mr. Sadleir often observed to me
that he never could get two minutes’ conversation with Captain
Standish upon Kelly business; that the moment he began to talk
upon the subject Captain Standish would take up a novel and
commence to read. Mr. Hare also frequently remarked the
indifference of the Chief Commissioner to his work. About the
beginning of May 1879, Captain Standish, in official matters,
began to show his dislike, and wanted to take my men from under
my command and place them in different townships. This I could
not do on account of my instructions from my Government, which I
hand in as follows:—“Telegram from Brisbane, May 13th 1879. To
Sub-Inspector O’Connor. The Colonial Secretary desires that you
will not separate yourself from your troopers, not allow any to
be detached from you.—C. H. BARON, pro Commissioner.”
This telegram I did not show to Captain Standish. I showed it to
Mr. Hare, who advised me not to show it, as it may cause
1093. Between the colonies?—I suppose that was what was meant;
but I never objected to let my men go out, whenever I was asked,
without my accompanying them. I never found any difficulty in
working with Mr. Hare. He always treated me with the greatest
kindness, and frequently remarked the insolent manner of Captain
Standish to me. Mr. Hare and I, with my men, went out upon those
expeditions Captain Standish told me most markedly that Mr. Hare
was in charge; and upon the last one, which was in the vicinity
of the Bald Hills, Mr. Hare stated, from what he saw of my men’s
efficiency at tracking, that he thought we should never go out
unless upon the best information, as something good might turn
up in our absence. Mr. Hare’s usual plan of working was to scour
the country with large parties of men—not upon any information.
1094. How are you able to say that?—Because I was quite
conversant with all the working, with the exception of two or
three times Captain Standish withheld knowledge.
1095. To your knowledge?—Of course I am speaking of myself.
1096. Were you with the parties?—Only on two occasions. I used
to hear him say when he came back, “I will go out in the
mountains in a couple of days’ time,” and so on. Mr. Hare went
upon the chance at dropping across the outlaws. I may remark
that this, I say, was his usual plan—of course once or twice he
got information. The man, Aaron Sherritt, was employed by Mr.
Hare, and Mr. Hare firmly believed in him. On one occasion a
letter was written and sent to Aaron Sherritt from Joe Byrne,
asking him to meet the writer at Whorouly races to ride his (Joe
Byrne’s) horse. It told Aaron where to meet the writer. Mr. Hare
and several men went to the races, but Captain Standish would
not allow myself and the party to go. Mr. Hare returned, stating
that Aaron Sherritt said he could not meet the outlaws. I cannot
give the day of that occurrence. On another occasion, of which I
cannot give the date either, Captain Standish received a note
about eight p.m. from a man, stating that without doubt the four
outlaws were in a certain hut, which he described, and informing
the Chief Commissioner he could easily capture them by sending
out a party. Captain Standish sent out Mr. Hare and a large
party of men, as near as I can remember, consisting of eleven.
1097. Can you say in which direction they went to identify
it?—No; I have forgotten that. Captain Standish admitted the
letter the other day in his evidence.
1098. Was it after the Whorouly races?—After this he admitted
remembering getting the note while he was dining at O’Leary’s.
1099. Is that the date?—Yes. After Mr. Hare had proceeded
some distance on his journey, the party met a man whom Constable
Faulkner and other constable of the party recognized; this
man rode away. Mr. Hare and party surrounded the hut
in due time, and the door was opened by the same man as the
party had met on the road, but there was no sign of the
outlaws. It was upon this occasion that the Chief
Commissioner would not le t me go out; and when I
explained his folly in refusing his permission,
he replied, “I will endeavor to get the Kellys without your
assistance”; and by sending this party out I considered it was
conclusive evidence of his trying to do without our assistance.
In Captain Standish’s evidence he says the Queensland police had
such a train of men and baggage horses, and that we would be so
slow. Now Captain Standish would not let us go out without six
or seven Victorian police; and as to our slowness, that is not
correct, as Mr. Hare will remember that, upon one occasion, he
and his constables could not get up to one of the trackers, who
at the time was following some horse tracks, before the tracker
had gone a distance of four railes. This was on account of the
great pace the boy was going.
1100. Was he on horseback?—Yes. Mr. Hare told this, not only to
me but to Captain Standish and Mr. Sadleir; and I may mention
that the trooper Mr. Hare had then was not a man that I relied
on, as I only got him in Victoria, from Coranderrk, after the
death of Corporal Sambo, and he had no experience in tracking.
1101. Was this a Victorian tracker or was he a Queensland man?—I
believe he was originally from Queensland, but he had been at
Coranderrk since he was a youngster.
1102. What was the special duty of the black trackers in
Queensland—the same as here?—Just the same as the white police
in one branch, as we have a large district of blacks to deal
with; on the other hand, to arrest bushrangers, horse stealers,
and cattle stealers, travelling sometimes sixty or seventy miles
a day. I have done it myself in arresting a horse stealer, going
at the rate of forty miles a day, and arrested him successfully.
You can read in the papers about our going thirty or forty miles
a day in tracking.
1103. The other charge was as to baggage and that kind of thing.
Is it a fact that the black trackers require a lot of baggage,
or do they go with the least possible thing they can go
with?—With nothing at all in Queensland. They strip there and go
with only their cap and ammunition and rifles; but it must be
borne in mind that those boys and men came over from a tropical
climate. I lost one from congestion of the lungs, and I only
wanted sufficient covering for them at night. If we had been on
actual information we could have gone without a pack-horse or
anything—when the good information came in we could have done
The witness withdrew.
Adjourned to to-morrow at Eleven o’clock.
The Hon. F. LONGMORE,
M.L.A., in the Chair;
William Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,
W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,
G. R. Fincham, Esq.,
E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.,
James Gibb, Esq.,
Stanhope O’Connor further
1104. Will you go on?—In
my opinion, Mr. Hare’s energy was misdirected. Mr. Sadleir, upon
several occasions, remonstrated with Mr. Hare, and tried to show
him the folly of his going out, as he did, upon no information.
Before going any further, I wish to state that Captain Standish
often spoke of Mr. Nicolson in the most disparaging terms. On
one occasion, after Captain Standish had been running Mr.
Nicolson down, Mr. Hare replied—“You
should not say that; Nicolson is, and always was a true and
loyal friend to you.” On another occasion, Captain Standish,
referring to the death of the late Hon. John Thomas Smith, said—“Now
Nicolson’s billet as Assistant Commissioner will soon been done
away with, as the Hon. John Thomas Smith got it for him; the
billet is a farce, and it will be all up with him now, as he has
no other friend left.” Captain Standish never once went out with
a party of police the whole time I was with him in Benalla.
1105. You heard Captain
Standish’s statement here?—Yes,
he went to Melbourne several times, but never stayed long, as he
told me he was always hunted out of Melbourne by Sir Bryan
O’Loghlen, the Acting Chief Secretary at that time. After Mr.
Hare came home from his last trip in the bush, he was very
down-hearted and in very bad health.
1106. When was that?—That
was just immediately before they went to town, about the end of
June 1879. He expressed himself as being thoroughly beaten, and
that he did not care about staying any longer, as he could not
see his way to capture the outlaws. Captain Standish was most
reticent of his information; he would not tell Mr. Sadleir
anything until Mr. Hare was first informed, and even then not
until some days after. Captain Standish and Mr. Hare left for
Melbourne about the end of June 1879, not together, but one left
before the other. Mr. Nicolson arrived at Benalla of the 3rd of
1107. Was Mr. Hare at Benalla
when Mr. Nicolson arrived on the 3rd July?—If
he was, he was on leave; I know he got so many days’ leave. He
commenced to work in totally different manner to his
predecessors. He went about and had interviews with several
persons who would be likely to have the ear of the Kellys or
their friends, and succeeded in getting some to work for him as
his agents and spies. He (Mr. Nicolson) was not in the least
reticent of his information to us—that
is Mr. Sadleir and myself—but
was always asking about it and advising with us both. On the
15th August 1879, a telegram was sent to Mr.
Nicolson, from the Chief Commissioner.
1108. Did you see it?—I
did; the contents of it were the information of the sticking up
the Lancefield bank, telling Mr. Nicolson to start our party by
special train for Kilmore, But he, Mr. Nicolson, was not to
1109. Do you mean by “your party”
trackers. We arrived the same day at Kilmore, late at night.
Although it poured with rain all night, we succeeded in
picking up the tracks of the robbers, and we followed them into
Pyalong, a distance, I believe, of eighteen miles. Here a
heavy storm of hail and rain came on, and quite
obliterated the tracks, already very faint of the last
29th March 1881.
30th March 1881.
30th March 1881.
rain, but we have solved the
great question, namely, the direction the robbers had taken, and
to our assistance the speedy capture of the bank robbers was
due. I refer you for corroboration to Sub-Inspector Baber. This
gentleman is a Victorian police officer, and accompanied us
through the whole trip. The first information we received was on
the 29th September 1879, from Mr. Sadleir, who was up at
Wangaratta, and, I believe, somewhere about there saw this man,
who informed him that he had seen five armed men answering to
the description of the outlaws on the road between Tom Lloyd’s
house and some other place I have forgotten, a distance of about
four miles between the two places. Mr. Sadleir wired down this
information to Mr. Nicolson, and recommended out party to be got
ready, and that he would be down by the 6 train to Benalla. Mr.
Nicolson at once replied to Mr. Sadleir to bring the informer
down with him. This Mr. Sadleir did not do, on account of the
man saying he was afraid to be seen with the police. When Mr.
Sadleir arrived, he informed us that the informer told him that
he (Mr. Sadleir) would find the tracks of the outlaws about
half-way between the above places, and Mr. Sadleir said to us—“I
think I can find the place that the informer means,” but upon
Mr. Sadleir referring to me for my opinion, I told him and Mr.
Nicolson I thought it was a good chance thrown away, as the
party would have to find the tracks before daylight, for if we
failed to pick them up, the people going to work in the morning
would discover us, and the alarm would be spread far and wide,
so I strongly recommended our not going unless the informer came
and showed us the tracks. Mr. Nicolson, after considering my
advice, and remembering the previous character of the informer,
very properly decided not to go. After this we were unable to
get any information fresh enough to work upon, as heavy rains
always had occurred before we got the news, until one day, I
cannot remember the date, at 6 p.m., we had information that the
outlaws had been seen on the railway line about Wangaratta, with
the telegraph wires broken. We started within two hours of the
notice to the scene, but upon arriving at Wangaratta got word
that the whole thing was a mistake, and was explained in the
press next day. It was a threshing machine pulled down the
telegraph wires in passing across the railway line. After this
appearance of activity on the part of the police, information
ceased for some time to come in, as the Kellys got a fright if
they showed out we would be after them at once. This we got from
their friends, so some time passed before the outlaws began to
forget the matter. This put us—Mr. Nicolson, Mr. Sadleir, and
myself—on our guard that, unless good reliable information came
to us, we, I mean the party, should not go out. After a time,
Mr. Nicolson again got information, and told us to be in
readiness to start at any moment.
1110. What date was that?—I have
no date, but some time about the time the plough-boards were
taken, I think; it was after this breaking of the line; it was
drawing near the close—about April, I suppose, I would not be
sure. He told me to be in readiness to start at any moment, as
he knew that the Kellys were within a certain radius, and he was
only waiting for information that would point to the exact spot
where they were last seen to enable us to pick up their tracks;
and I have not the least doubt that if Mr. Nicolson had been
allowed to remain, the outlaws would have been easily taken.
Everything was pointing to the fact; information of a much
fresher date was continually coming to hand; and at last, about
a week before Mr. Nicolson was removed, an informer actually saw
Joe Byrne and spoke to him. We got word after twelve hours after
she saw him, but we had some four or six hours’ heavy rain
between. We, Mr. Nicolson, Mr. Sadleir, and myself, proceeded to
Beechworth, and there saw Aaron Sherritt, who begged and prayed
of Mr. Nicolson not to go out, as he himself had tried to follow
the tracks of Joe Byrne, and found that they went from where Joe
was seen to his (Byrne’s) mother’s house, and from thence on to
a main road, occasioned by the rain which had washed them out.
He also said, if we did not get the outlaws, they would know who
had given the information, and would come and murder him and his
connections. Mr. Nicolson was very anxious to go out, as he
considered it would probably be his last chance, and after
working so hard for such a long time he did not like to give it
up; but he asked the opinion of all present, namely,
Superintendent Sadleir, myself, Senior-Constable Mullane, and
Detective Ward, and we all said we considered it would not be
justifiable to risk the lives of the informers under the
circumstances. This occurred just in the last week of Mr.
Nicolson’s being up there. As nearly all our agents were in this
portion of the district, we still hoped to have another chance,
and we thought we should, too, when on the 31st of May, an
agent, whole name I will call ——, sent in word that he had seen
Joe Byrne up a gully about a mile from his (Byrne’s) mother’s
house. We started out at once, took train to he nearest
point—Everton; thence by horseback to a certain paddock, about
two miles, I think, from the spot where the outlaw had been
seen; thence by foot to the exact place. We got the man’s track,
and, after following it for some distance, found it was only a
man collecting cows. The tracks went from one side of the gully
to the other, turning down the cattle, and eventually a mob of
tracks went down the gully towards Mrs. Byrne’s house, followed
by this track. You can always tell when they are driving,
because the man’s tracks are on top of the cattle. Aaron
Sherritt, who had met us near Everton, and who acted as a guide
and accompanied us on the trip, saw at once that it was Joe
Byrne’s brother, Patsey, who was very like the outlaw. We
returned to Benalla, and Mr. Nicolson was superseded by Mr. Hare
the next day, the 2nd of June 1880. I may here state that hardly
a fortnight passed but Captain Standish was ordering and
counter-ordering Mr. Nicolson, sometimes demanding him to reduce
the number of his men, at other times he was not to employ such
and such a person, or not to put police here and police there,
until I often wondered Mr. Nicolson did not pitch the whole
thing up; but, as he often say to me, all his private feelings
were sunk out of sight, and therefore, for the public good, he
stuck to the work. Before I conclude this part of my evidence, I
wish to refer to the part of my published report in which I
state—“He made a series of communications to the Queensland
Government, tending to depreciate me and to remove the men from
my control and supervision. This was done without my knowledge,
and, consequently, I had no opportunity of explaining to my
Commissioner.” Captain Standish’s communications were these, and
I may state that I applied for them to the Queensland
Government, whom I am representing officially now, and they
evidently misunderstood, and sent me the wrong letters, not the
ones I asked for; so if the Commission wish for them, it will be
fully a fortnight before I can get them.
1111. It will be well to get them?—Very good. In this
office there is some correspondence it would be well to get,
which will bear me out in what I say in reference to taking
over the boy, named Moses, from my command to the Victorian
Government’s. Captain Standish asked the Queensland
Government for my men to remain without me, and without letting
me know that he was so doing, and when this was refused, he
applied again for two or three of my men, and was again
refused; but he was allowed to
retain one trooper, the one which I had enlisted in Victoria.
Subsequently my Government, through my Commissioner, informed me
that of course they never thought that Captain Standish would
have taken this man from under my command while we remained on
duty in Victoria; but Captain Standish did not lose a minute,
but sent up orders to Mr. Nicolson to take the man over at once,
without any reference to me. This was not in the letter, but I
mean the order came to Mr. Nicholson. I immediately reported the
matter to my Government, recommending for this act of
discourtesy our immediate withdrawal, and I was recalled
accordingly. That is my evidence in chief up to the time of Mr.
Nicolson’s removal. Mr. Hare superseded Mr. Nicolson of the 2nd
of June 1880, when, in the presence of Mr. Sadleir and myself,
he (Mr. Nicolson) handed over the documents, papers, &c., of the
office. We all talked together for some time, and then Mr.
Nicolson and Mr. Hare went to work. I remained some time longer.
1112. How going to work?—Going to work in handing over the
office and giving him information of everything about his time
up to then. I remained some time longer in the office and then I
went outside, and was joined some time afterwards by Mr. Hare.
Mr. Hare and I stopped talking to one another until Mr. Nicolson
came out, and then the three of us walked down to the hotel to
lunch. Mr. Nicolson, a short time after lunch, asked me to
dinner at seven o’clock to meet Mr. Hare, and I accepted his
invitation, but about 5.50 p.m. Mr. Nicolson ran up to me and
told me he had to go to town by the six train, and therefore
would have to put off the dinner, but he was going to write a
note to Mr. Hare explaining his apparent rudeness. Mr. Hare, a
few days after, expressed to me that he thought Mr. Nicolson did
this a slight, but when I told him that I had been asked as well
and had been put off in the same way, he said that of course
made the thing look different, and from the 3rd of June to the
25th of June, the day I left Benalla, Mr. Hare was working just
in the very same way as Mr. Nicolson had been doing when he was
removed from Benalla. Mr. Hare, two days before I left, told me
he did not know what to do; although he had carte blanche
to do what he liked and unlimited money to spend, he could get
no information. That concludes my evidence in chief up to the
time I left Benalla. I left Benalla for Essendon with my
troopers on the morning of the 25th of June 1880.
1113. This was in consequence of your recall by the Queensland
Government?—Yes, I put up at Flemington. I made arrangements to
take berths in the Queensland steamer that was leaving on the
29th, but on Sunday the 27th of June, at half-past 7 p.m., I
received a note (this is the original) from Captain Standish.
1114. Were you at Essendon when you received it?—I was at
Flemington:—“Melbourne Club, 27th June 1880.—My dear Sir,—I have
just received telegraphic information that the outlaws stuck up
the police party that was watching Mrs. Byrne’s house, and shot
Aaron Sherritt dead. The police, however, appeared to have
escaped. In the urgent position of affairs, could you return to
Beechworth with your trackers by the early train to-morrow, or
by a special train, if that can be arranged. If you can oblige
us in this way, could you manage to come in at once to see me at
the Club by the hansom which I send out with this?” I lost no
time with responding to Captain Standish’s letter. I got into
his hansom which brought his letter, and was driven to the
Melbourne Club; there I met Captain Standish, who had said—“Mr.
O’Connor, in the urgent state of the case, can you manage to
accede to my request?” I replied immediately—“It has always been
my wish to have the chance of getting those fellows.” Captain
Standish in his report, stated I “haw-haw’d.” I never did such a
thing in my life; I was only too glad to get the opportunity.
The only condition I made was, being under orders to proceed to
Queensland, I was disobeying the head of my department, and
therefore I must request that he would ask Mr. Ramsay to see
that I was held blameless with my Government. Before leaving,
Captain Standish said—“How long will you be before you are ready
to start?” I looked at my watch, and I forget what time it was,
but I told him I would be ready at ten that night. At half-past
seven I got his letter, and at a quarter to ten I was ready at
the station. All my arms were packed up, and the boys’ uniform
and everything put away. I had to break open the cases, clean up
the guns, accoutre the men in a proper way, and get back to the
station by ten, and I was there at the train at a quarter to
1115. It was not a ruse to make the Kellys believe you were
going?—No, I was under orders to go. I mentioned one thing to
Captain Standish, that is, that my wife would accompany me to
Beechworth, as in all probability this tracking would be for
several days, if not a week; she would like to be near where the
work was going on, and therefore I requested that he should see
that there was a first-class carriage on the special train for
her convenience. Captain Standish referred to a memorandum which
he had in his hand, and replied—“Of course there will be a first
class carriage; there will be a first-class carriage, a guard’s
van, and an engine—they always have these on the special train”;
and I remarked that this was not the case, as on our special
trains, when we used them, there was only a guard’s van and an
engine. I have a reason for mentioning this, which will appear
by-and-by. You know by the press reports about the journey up as
far as Benalla. There I arrived about 1 a.m., and met Mr. Hare
with several men. They got into the train with us, Mr. Hare in
the same carriage with myself and wife and my wife’s sister—we
all talked and chatted.
1116. There was really a first-class carriage with the
train?—There was. We all conversed together, and were upon the
best of terms. Mr. Hare even asked me when I had got information
by letter from Captain Standish. I replied—“At half-past seven.”
He said—“I never saw such a fellow as that Standish. He does not
seem to care a single rush about the work. I told him hours
before about it, and I begged of him to go out and see you
personally, as I knew it was a condescension on your part to
come out to work again after the way he treated you.” I
said—“Well, he never did, he wrote.” We ran on towards
Glenrowan, and were stopped before we got there, by the pilot
engine being seen pulled up ahead. Mr. Hare, who had a key,
opened the carriage and got out upon the line, and met a porter
or guard carrying a lamp, who stated to Mr. Hare about the line
being taken up. Mr. Hare, after informing me of this occurrence,
said—“The only thing we can do is to draw up to the platform at
Glenrowan, so as to enable us to get our horses out.” This was
done, and Mr. Hare and I were talking and considering the
advisability of mounting out horses and riding down to the place
that we supposed to be a mile off, the broken part of the line,
and the order was given to that effect to get the horses out. It
was just in the middle of this getting the horses out that
Constable Bracken appeared upon the platform in the most excited
state. He did not, as far as I remember, address any person in
particular; but he stated—“The Kellys are in Jones’ public
house; for God’s sake take care or they will escape.” Mr. Hare
turned round to me and said—“Come on, O’Connor, or they will be
gone,” or “they will escape,” and we started, Mr. Hare slightly
in the lead. Before going a few yards, Mr. Hare
said—“O’Connor, are the men coming?” As I stated
30th March 1881.
30th March 1881.
before, the men were
in the act of getting out the horses and the noise was terrific,
the horses coming out half rearing and plunging through the van.
I turned round and sang out—“Come on, boys, come on,” and I saw
following me a line of men. It was just sufficient light to be
able to see that some were black and some white, but not to know
the names; in this form the party approached Mrs. Jones’, and
when about twenty-five yards from the house, as near as I can
remember, we were stopped by a single shot, which was
immediately followed by a volley from the outlaws from the
house. This I, and, by my hearing, I judge our party replied to.
1117. How many were the party?—I should think about seven in the
first rush up to the hut. Before I could load my rifle, which
was a breech-loading Snider, Mr. Hare sang out to me the words
which I stated here—“O’Connor, I am wounded, shot in the arm; I
must go back.” This Mr. Hare did, and I may say I am giving him
ample margin when I say he was five minutes on the field, that
is at the front in the fight.
1118. He was not over that?—Not over that certainly. In Mr.
Hare’s printed report he states that he spoke to the men and
ordered them to stop firing. “I was struck by the first shot,
and my left arm dropped helpless beside me. The firing was
continued on both sides with great determination for about five
minutes, when it ceased from the verandah, and screams from men,
women, and children came from the inside of the house. I at once
called on my men to cease firing, which they did.” I deny that
statement most emphatically. Mr. Hare went back, I do not know
for certain whether he went to the station as I stated in my
written statement, at any rate he left the front, but whether he
left to the platform or the station I did not know from my own
knowledge at the time, but he did not return again to the front.
And it was I who gave the order for the men to take cover, and
it was I who, upon hearing the cries of the women, gave the
order to cease firing. It was I, who called out to the women to
come out. I never heard Mr. Hare speak after he left the front.
1119. What did you say in telling them to come out?—I sang
out—“Cease firing,” and I had to continue that for some seconds,
some long time after the firing ceased, and then I sang out—“Let
the women out, let the women out”; and the cry was taken up
round the line by the men, and a few minutes after the women
passed out immediately on my left. There was a man between
Constable Kirkham, he was immediately on my left at the time,
and I challenged the women to see there were no outlaws getting
out, and he challenged them also.
1120. How near were you to them?—I imagine it was about the
width of this room of where the women passed out. That was the
first intimation that I received, and may I say, on the part of
the other men, that any man received, of there being other than
outlaws in the house. Mr. Hare also states that he loaded and
fired his gun several times after the shot wound; this I must
emphatically deny. I will in due time bring one, if not more,
witnesses to prove what I state. After Mr. Hare left, I
suppose—I will not swear, but I suppose—ten minutes or a quarter
of an hour intervened before I saw one of the engines going back
towards Benalla. This engine was followed immediately, within
five minutes, by the second engine.
1121. What was the time that the first went?—I could not tell
the exact time; it was after Mt. Hare left the front and
retired. This second engine, subsequently, I found contained
Superintendent Hare, which, I think, he admits in his evidence.
I at this time—just about the time that Mr. Hare was going
away—saw that we were most recklessly exposing our lives, and as
I stated, ordered the men to take cover. I dropped into a little
gully that was running past the front of the house. My men were
on each side of me. I had only five with me, as you may remember
one had been taken away. If I may be allowed to guess at the
time, about half-an hour or three quarters of an hour after I
had taken cover, a bullet struck a piece of wood in front of my
position, which at once showed me that I was not in a secure
place. I then followed the drain or gully down until I came to
the position which I never left until I was superseded by Mr.
Sadleir. I may state my men—two of them—eventually, during the
morning, came to me in this place, and from this position I
commanded the whole of the house, and I was convinced that no
living man could get out of the front of this house without my
1122. Had you pretty good proof at this time that all the
persons other that the Kellys were out of the house?—I cannot
tell the time, but I will refer to that presently. While I was
in this second position, Senior-Constable Kelly came to me and
said—“O, my God, I believe the outlaws have all got away.” My
reply to him was—“I will swear they did not get out at the
front, as I have never left this place from the first attack.” I
asked him why he thought so, and he replied—“As I was passing
round at the rear of the hut, about a hundred yards from the
back door, I came upon a rifle all covered with blood, and a
scull cap. I believe the rifle to be one of the Kelly’s, as it
is a revolving rifle. It looks very like as if the outlaws had
1123. It was daylight at this time?—I do not think so; I could
not be sure. Upon another occasion, subsequently to this one,
Senior-Constable Kelly again came to me and said—“I hear that
there are 40 prisoners in the kitchen of the hotel.” I asked him
who told him, but I do not wish to say positively who it was,
but I believe it was Constable Braken, or he had heard it from
some man that Constable Braken had told him.
1124. Can you say the time?—No, I could not make the attempt. I
remember ten o’clock seemed to me to be four o’clock in the
1125. You do not know whether it was daylight at the time?—I
would not like to state.
1126. It was after several volleys had been fired from your
men?—Of course. Oh, certainly. Mr. Sadleir then arrived, and
made his way up to my position, and we had some conversation.
1127. He was not on the ground before this?—Not when this was
1128. Was he on the ground before he came to you?—I believe he
came straight to me.
1129. Did Mr. Sadleir arrive at this period?—No; not when I took
my second position. When he came to me and showed himself to me,
I saw he was there, he took command.
1130. Previous to this point of your evidence, about the 40
person inside, you have stated that Mr. Sadleir had arrived, and
superseded you in the command?—I did mean it in that way.
1131. You got the information before you were superseded?—Yes;
that was the first intimation when I saw him that he had
1132. Was that subsequent to everything I have stated?—I believe
so; he made his way to my position.
1133. He was with the party
before that so far as you know?—No,
certainly not; he spoke to me about the Kellys, I cannot
remember what it was, and left me there.
1134. Did you confer as to the
best course to take then?—Well,
we had plenty of men then, we were conferring about the number
of men. There were plenty of men then, and Mr. Sadleir
considered it best to keep them secure, if they had not got out.
1135. Did you confer as to the
positions of the men?—Not
at that time. I told him I would remain there and let my men
command the front of the house, and cannot remember what he said
to me; but he left, and subsequently sent for me, which was at
half-past ten a.m.
1136. That was hours after?—An
1137. You remained where you
were; he left you, and you saw no more of him until he sent for
you at half-past ten?—Yes;
I made my way at once to where he was at the railway station.
1138. Had he arrived by train
with a lot of men?—Yes.
There we had a long conversation. Ned Kelly had been taken
1139. Was this the first time you
were aware of that?—No;
I knew about it from Constable Dwyer, who was bringing
1140. Did you take part in the
capture of Kelly?—No,
that was right away to my right.
1141. About what time was this?—Half-past
ten when he had this conversation, Kelly having been captured.
Kelly was wounded in the station-house at that time. Mr. Sadleir
and I then walked round the line of men, getting what
information we could, and suggesting any improvement in the way
of watching the house. In Mr. Sadleir’s statement, he mentions
the time which I do not dispute, that the outlaws let the
prisoners out. When the prisoners came out, they told us
immediately they came out, which I most decidedly considered the
best time to get true information, that Joe Byrne (that was in
the morning, I think it was eleven o’clock) had been shot at
daylight in the morning, by a shot that entered at the front
door, cutting the femoral artery, and that Joe Byrne was in the
act of drinking some grog at the time.
1142. Would not their armour
cover that femoral artery?—No,
there were cracks in it. One of them stated that Joe Byrne’s
toast was “Many more years in the bush for the Kelly gang.”
Eventually, Mr. Sadleir and I conferred as to the advisability
of endeavoring to break into the house, but when we considered
there were two determined ruffians, in nearly invulnerable
armour, encased, as the prisoners told us, in the brick
fireplaces of the house, and the doors barricaded with the
furniture of the house, we thought that we would not risk a
single life if we saw the slightest chance of getting the
remaining outlaws without that risk, even if we had to wait the
whole day. While talking together, Senior-Constable Johnson came
up and proposed a plan to drive the outlaws from the cover of
the house. He proposed to set fire to the building, and when the
smoke got thick he had no doubt the outlaws would run out. Mr.
Sadleir acquiesced in this, but did not allow him to carry into
execution at once. We still had a hope that they would
surrender. We were calling out to them to surrender, but getting
no reply, we allowed this constable to carry into execution this
1143. Before doing this, were
there many volleys fired into the house?—A
great many before we called out. A great many.
1144. Not exactly volleys?—Indiscriminate
firing. But under cover of heavy fire the man approached the
house to set fire to it.
1145. Previous to that, have you
any recollections when you noticed the last shot coming from the
can only give that from hearsay. I cannot tell when I saw the
last, but one of the constables reported to Mr. Sadleir that a
shot was fired, I think, about a couple for hours before the
house was burnt—two
hours before the house was set fire to. But one of the men
stated he saw one of the outlaws pass the window about twenty
minutes before the house was burnt. Mr. Sadleir will be probably
able to remember the man. One of the men came up and said he
saw, I think, Dan Kelly, pass the window about twenty minutes
before the house was burnt. We collected the men, and put them
upon two sides of the house, and called out to the two outlaws
that we would give them so many minutes, and if they did not
surrender, we would fire, and I think we stated that we would
burn them, but there was no reply, and after giving two or three
heavy volleys, under which Constable Johnson approached the end
of the building, and set fire to the house. I think we gave them
ten minutes or a quarter of an hour after we warned them.
1146. Was there any firing on the
part of the police from the time that you were made acquainted
with the fact that there were others in the hotel besides the
Kellys, until after the prisoners were liberated?—I
should say most decidedly, yes; but mind the prisoners were in
were shots exchanged, I believe, after we knew the prisoners
1147. Fired indiscriminately
through the house?—No.
We knew the prisoners were in the rear in this kitchen, a
totally distinct building, separated by several feet from the
building where the outlaws were.
1148. How did you know that?—From
information before, whenever Senior-Constable Kelly got the
information. They were in the rear of the building, and it was
from out of there they came.
1149. Then on the man’s
statement, which was not corroborated, you caused firing of that
replied to shots that were fired at us.
1150. Was the door open at this
all barricaded. I took it for granted that the prisoners were in
the building behind, I took that as gospel truth.
1151. But with the knowledge of
the large number of people there?—I
did not believe all about the people there. I heard there were
40 men there.
1152. How many actually came out?—I
think it was stated 20; they all threw themselves down in a
heap, so that it was not easy to tell the number.
1153. From the time you got the
information till eleven o’clock, when the prisoners were
released, was there firing at the house by the police?—Certainly
there was, but it must not go out as if we were firing into the
40 or 20 prisoners.
1154. It was only a small place?—There
is a great deal of difference in the matter of where we pointed
the gun. I admit that every bullet had its billet, and was meant
for the outlaws; but I never fired into that kitchen.
1155. You received information
from Senior-Constable Kelly that there were some 40 prisoners in
he heard so.
1156. He informed you of that?—Yes.
30th March 1881.
30th March 1881.
1157. Firing took place after that, before the prisoners were
1158. Did you tell every member of your force that there were
prisoners in the kitchen, and to direct their firing to any
special part of the building?—I did not, but Senior-Constable
Kelly, I imagine, did.
1159. Of your own knowledge, did he—did you tell him to?—No.
1160. Would it not have been your duty, as commanding officer at
that time, to avoid any unnecessarily risking the life of
innocent persons, to have at once sent round to the members of
the force?—In a time of excitement like that you cannot always
do the most advisable thing and reckon what is best. I did what
I thought best, and that was on no account to let the Kellys
escape. I knew this, if there were any people in the house they
would, in all probability, be friends of the Kellys, their
relations and sympathizers, and men that helped them.
1161. You are giving us this impression, that you did not
unnecessarily risk the lives of those people, because you were
concentrating your firing of that portion of the building
occupied by the outlaws?—Yes.
1162. At the same time, you say the remainder of the force were
ignorant of that fact, as far as you knew?—I did not say that,
but I believe Senior-Constable Kelly went round and informed all
1163. How many were in your force at that time?—I believe about
14 of us.
1164. Armed men outside?—Yes.
1165. I mean from the time you were relieved?—No, I cannot say
that, because fresh men kept coming in.
1166. Up to the time Mr. Sadleir came?—No, I cannot say, because
men came in from different parts, when I left my position, which
I thought most dangerous one.
1167. Mr. Sadleir had arrived before the prisoners were
released?—Yes, a long time.
1168. Did you inform Mr. Sadleir of the fact that there were 40
prisoners in the kitchen?—Yes, he knew of it.
1169. Was there firing from then till the release of the
1170. At that time you did not know the number of men engaged on
police duty?—I do not know up till this moment. I believe there
were about 60 eventually; they kept coming in fives and tens.
What I wish to state is that there was no indiscriminate firing
after I knew, on my part, and the men who were with me, into the
house where the prisoners were. Our fire was concentrated on the
place where the outlaws were, and where the firing came from.
1171. Were you aware that there was a man then in the house
beside the outlaws, before the place was set on fire, or when it
was being set on fire?—I cannot remember.
1172. The old man Cherry?—I cannot remember whether I heard of
it before or after, now. I remember so much afterwards that I am
frightened to say now whether I knew it before. Before going
further I would like to hand the copies of the telegram that
Captain Standish sent to my Government, asking to keep me. These
were sent before he asked me, dated 16/6/80—“Would like to
retain troopers till Superintendant Chomley returns with
trackers from Queensland; he will reach Brisbane on Monday.” The
telegram was the telegram before I left Benalla. This is the
telegram the Government sent 27th May 1880—“Colonial Secretary,
Queensland. Kelly gang have again broken out. It is of the
utmost importance that you should give orders to Sub-Inspector
O’Connor to remain here and assist for a few days. He will
return to Queensland to-morrow, unless your telegraph to-night
to contrary.—ROBERT RAMSAY, Chief Secretary.” The reply
was—“Keep O’Connor and police so long as they can be of any
service to you. Sorry to hear these scoundrels are adrift
again.—A. H. PALMER.” Anybody would have inferred from that I
had been asked to go and had refused. Instead of that, it has
been sent before I had ever been communicated with. Well, the
house was burned, and eventually the bodies of the two remaining
outlaws recovered, together with that of Joe Byrne, and Captain
Standish arrived on the scene.
1173. Were those the only two bodies discovered?—The two
outlaws, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart, and the body of Joe Byrne.
1174. Were they all dead?—They were all dead.
1175. Were you present when Cherry’s body was taken out?—I was,
and he was not dead.
1176. Did you hear any remark he made?—He could just speak in a
low voice; I could not tell what he said; the priest spoke to
him, and gave him absolution, I believe, and he died immediately
1177. Martin Cherry was the only man taken out who was not
dead?—Yes. Captain Standish arrived upon the Glenrowan platform
at about half-past five.
1178. What was the cause of Cherry not being able to speak?—His
being shot in the house.
1179. Was he injured by the fire?—No, not touched by the fire;
the body of Joe Byrne and Martin Cherry were neither of them
touched by the fire. Captain Standish got out on the platform,
and immediately saw me, but took not the slightest notice of me.
1180. That was about half-past five?—Yes; until I put out my
hand, which he just touched with his fingers. Mr. Sadleir also
stated to me that Captain Standish was very cavalier in his
manner to him. After a little delay, the whole party, with the
exception of a few men left to guard, proceeded back to Benalla.
I do not know if it is necessary to state here, but in Captain
Standish’s evidence, he says, “I instructed Mr. Sadleir not to
hand over the charred remains of the outlaws.” To the best of my
memory, I overheard Captain Standish, in reply to Mr. Sadleir
about the bodies, say, “Certainly, by all means, let them have
them”; that they were to give up the bodies. I have had no
conversation with Mr. Sadleir about this, so of course, if he
says “No,” I am mistaken; but from the best of my knowledge and
belief, Captain Standish gave him permission to give them up.
1181. Do you remember Kate Kelly going up to the house?—No, not
actually going up to the house; but I remember her making a step
in advance, as if she were going up.
1182. Was she ordered back by the police?—Yes.
1183. What time was that?—Just after the house was set on
fire, she made a step forward, and Mr. Sadleir, who was
in charge of the attacking party, said, “Kate Kelly, stop a
minute; where are you going?” She said, “I am going up
to see Dan,” or one of them she mentioned. Mr. Sadleir
said, “Will you induce them to surrender?” “Surrender to you
—— dogs; no, I would sooner see them burnt alive!” Mr.
Sadleir said, “Stand back”; and he said to me, “If that
woman gets up there, we cannot do a single thing; we will
have to leave the outlaws, instead of trying to rush in
and get the bodies.” We cannot do
anything if she got in and got them under her protection. We
thought they were alive at that time. If she had said, “yes, I
will induce them to surrender,” we would have been very glad for
her to have gone up.
1184. Do you remember any conversation with the priest before he
went into the house?—Yes, I remember the priest started to go up
immediately, about half a second, after Kate Kelly; and Mr.
Sadleir stopped him, and he asked him some questions, which I
have forgotten, and I have forgotten the answer. At any rate all
the crowd began to clap him; and he drew back again when Mr.
Sadleir remonstrated. He then went on—the crowd clapped again.
Mr. Sadleir said, “If anybody is to go up, it is my place, and I
beg you to go back.” The priest stood back, and the crowd
clapped, and he stepped forward at the same time. The priest was
in front of the body of police. Mr. Sadleir and myself, and
several men, moved with the priest, the priest having a lead
about the length of this table.
1185. He proceeded and entered the house?—He entered one door, I
forget which door it was; it was not the room the Kellys were
in, but the police—four constables—tried to burst open the door
in the partition of the room, in which the outlaws were, and I
saw them try three or four times till the door gave way, and
then only through the fire which had charred everything; it was
like a seething furnace.
1186. Did the police followed the priest immediately?—Some men
did through the way he went.
1187. Simultaneously?—Immediately after.
1188. Did the priest not first came out of the house and hold up
his hand, signifying that all were dead, before the police
entered?—No; he did it to the people, not to the police; he went
in at the door and came out again, and held up his hand to the
people. At the time he went into the room there were constables
trying to burst the door of the closed portion of the house, and
it gave way after three or four attempts; it fell in nearly
burnt through the time.
1189. And those police went up at the same time as the priest
went?—Yes; immediately on his proceeding. Mr. Sadleir said,
“Father so and so, if it is any one’s place to go up, it is
mine—stand back,” and the priest went on, clapped by the people,
and Mr. Sadleir said, “We must go on now,” and we all went on,
and then the whole crowd closed in round us when they saw us
1190. What resulted from the priest’s entrance; what was the
1191. Did he communicate anything to the police after this?—Mr.
Sadleir said to the priest as he passed through when he went
out, “Did you recognize them?—the fire was so fierce we could
not recognize a face when we looked in. He stated to the best of
his belief he saw the two outlaws dead.
1192. Was that in the room where the police burst the door
open?—Yes, the partition was burned, which the police did not
know, and the priest not knowing either, went in by a fluke
1193. The priest did not know them?—Yes, he did, that is what I
understood from him.
1194. He was a priest from another colony just travelling
through?—Well, I gave the description of it as far as I know,
and it was this, to the best of his knowledge it was the two
outlaws. I am only telling what I learnt subsequently from Mr.
Sadleir. The priest was occupied immediately after with this
dying man Cherry.
1195. Was the hotel door standing open all the time, or how did
it come open?—I cannot tell you, because after I left the door
of the house I was very little engaged there. I saw no open door
when I was in the front of the house. I cannot give any evidence
on that. Up to the time, I left to the front again. I was round
at the rear most of the time.
1196. Not between half-past ten at the time the place was
burned. You do not know when the door was opened?—No, I cannot
say. The dead bodies of the two outlaws and of Martin Cherry the
Chief Commissioner saw on the platform, and, after this
conversation with Mr. Sadleir that I referred to above, we all
got into the train, with the exception of a few men left on
guard, and proceeded to Benalla. Captain Standish never as much
as said “Thank you, Mr. O’Connor,” or recognized me in the
slightest way, except what I have referred to there; he just
merely touched my hand. I went in and saw Mr. Hare on my arrival
1197. Where?—Into his bedroom; and his remark to me was—“Let
bygones be bygones,” and seemed very friendly disposed. I
accepted his hand at once.
1198. Are you aware whether any civilians offered to enter the
house before it was set fire to?—Not to my knowledge; I cannot
remember—certainly not; I think I would have remembered the
circumstance if it had occurred.
1199. During the time you were serving under Mr. Hare, you had
no quarrel in your capacity as an officer?—Not any at all,
nobody could get on better that we did all the time we were
1200. Officially you agreed?—Officially and privately, until the
time we had a private quarrel which I have previously spoken of.
And then on Mr. Hare coming and assuming command again, we were
on the most friendly terms.
1201. This private quarrel in no way interfered with the
discharge of your public duties?—In no way at all. Resuming my
narrative:—I saw Mr. Hare, and he then in conversation said to
me—I cannot remember the words, but something about “I sent up
to Mr. Sadleir to tell him or advise him to burn the house”;
that was the effect of it, that he had been either cognizant of
the burning or had sent instructions; I do not know which it
was. I only bring this in because Captain Standish’s evidence
states something about it. Next morning, after never receiving a
word of thanks from Captain Standish at all, I left Benalla for
Melbourne. Mr. Hare was in the same train, and also Ned Kelly.
Mr. Hare was in a separate carriage when I arrived at Euroa,
where the trains meet. I received the Age newspaper, and,
upon reading the report, I saw that my name was not mentioned;
in fact, I might have been in Queensland. I waited till I got to
Seymour, where the train waits for a quarter of an hour, and
went into Mr. Hare’s carriage. I said—“Hallo! Hare, how is this,
look at this report, why you have been doing everything by it,
and I am not mentioned; how do you account for that?” Mr. Hare
replied—“Oh, wait a bit, wait till you see the Argus,
that will make it all right; the Argus is all right; the
Argus is here, you can have it,” and he handed me the
Argus. I took that with me into my own carriage. The
Argus report mentioned we were at the place, and that was
all. When I met my friends, they wanted to know what I have been
doing at this fight—why did not I accompany Mr. Hare in the
first rush, why not help him in some way, and would not be
satisfied until I told them the whole story, and actually had to
go down and publish in the Argus a short
of what occured. In Mr. Hare’s report he stated, after
omitting my name, you
30th March 1881.
30th March 1881.
night, say altogether, he published a short paragraph on page 7,
at the top of the page—“Since writing the above, I have seen a
statement made by Mr. O’Connor to the press, and, after reading
it, I can have no doubt his statement is perfectly correct; but
in my report I have merely stated facts that are within my
remembrance, and, no doubt, in the darkness of the morning and
the excitement of the time, I may have omitted many incidents
that occurred.” Well, I say if Mr. Hare acknowledged that to be
true he should have mentioned it before. This is the report:—“I
went down by the special train on Sunday night, at the request
of Captain Standish. I collected my troopers, and started three
hours after I received notice. I agreed to go on condition that
the Government of Victoria would see me held blameless, as we
were under order to leave Queensland. On our arrival at
Glenrowan, we heard that the rails had been taken at some
distance further on. We thought that the best course would be to
get the horses and proceed to the spot. Bracken then appeared,
and informed us that the Kellys were at Jones’ public house.
Superintendent Hare, myself, and four or five men rushed up to
the house. When we got within 25 yards we were received with a
single shot, and then a volley. We returned the fire. Hare said,
‘O’Connor, I am wounded, I am shot in the arm, I must go back’.
He left immediately. We remained, and our incessant fire drove
the outlaws into the house, which we heard them barricade. Mr.
Hare returned to the station, remained a short time there, and
then went to Benalla. I stood at my post until half-past ten in
the forenoon, when I was sent for by Superintendent Sadleir. I
was within 25 yards of the house the whole time. At daybreak I
got behind shelter. One of my troopers was shot alongside of
me—cut across the eyebrows. He jumped on the bank, fired five
shots into the house, and said, ‘Take that, Ned Kelly’. It
seemed to afford him great relief, but rather amused me. I was
left in charge of the men from the time Mr. Hare left until Mr.
Sadleir arrived on the ground.” I had not seen Mr. Hare’s report
at this time. I never thought that officially it would be the
same as the newspapers, and it was after I reached Queensland
that I got the Argus with this report published in it. My
Government met me on the steamer when I went to Queensland. A
report was handed me by the constable, and I did not get this
till five or six days after I arrived there. I had not seen this
one then, calling upon me to explain how it was I had not done
my duty; in fact, the whole of it was so strong that that day I
wrote an account, and that same day sent in my resignation.
1202. What do you mean, “not doing your duty?”—I consider it was
not doing my duty when they said, “Why did I not do this and
that.” Judging from the reports that went up, they thought I
have not been there, and that Mr. Hare had done everything.
1203. Had you heard that Captain Standish had written to the
Queensland Government respecting your delay in the colony as
permitted?—There was nothing about that in the report; but I
refer to the account of the Glenrowan affair, and they did not
consider that I have acted as an officer, and called upon me to
explain, and I was so annoyed that I sent in my resignation the
same evening and gave a full statement, as I am giving now. The
following morning I called at the Commissioner of Police’s
office. The Commissioner of Police was very hurt at my sending
in my resignation. He begged of me to withdraw it, and
represented to me that it was not his fault this report came to
me, it was the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Palmer. After a couple of
hours’ talk I agreed to withdraw my resignation. The Governor
subsequently sent for me, and with the Chief Secretary spoke to
me about the whole occurrence, asked my opinion upon several
incidents in it, for instance, the burning of the house, and I
gave my opinion; and then they asked me what steps I intended to
pursue; my reply was, “I must return to Victoria to demand an
enquiry to Mr. Hare’s report about what occurred at Glenrowan.”
They quite agreed with me that I should have one, and upon that
understanding I came over to Victoria again, as you can see by
the date of my application for the enquiry, 7th September 1880,
and now the date when the enquiry began, the 18th of this month.
My Government most kindly gave me leave, and I think for nearly
five months I was on leave, but still I could not satisfy them
that I was going to have the enquiry. I could get no answer. So
at last they wrote and told me that they could not give me
unlimited leave, and my reply was, “I beg to resign,” and was
sorry they did not see it was for their own interests that I
should still remain in the Queensland force to attend any
enquiry that might be called for. It was very shortly after this
Kelly Reward Board was appointed. The Queensland Government
telegraphed to me in a great state to represent them officially
at that board for fear that I would not do so. I agreed to do
so. So you see that I actually resigned my appointment to get
this enquiry, although I did not mean to infer that I would have
stayed for a very long time in the Queensland police, but I mean
it was really the cause of my resigning my appointment in
Queensland not being able to get the enquiry into this. I have
been labouring under that ever since the Glenrowan affair, most
people believing Mr. Hare’s statement was true. After I arrived
in town I never received a communication from Captain Standish,
never so much as “Thank you Mr. O’Connor,” or anything whatever
until I received this.
1204. That was the first official recognition?—Yes, I will read
it; “Police Department, Chief Commissioner’s office, Melbourne,
2nd July 1880.—Sir—I have the honour to enclose for your
information a copy of a letter I have received from the
private secretary to His Excellency the Governor. It
gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity of conveying to
you this expression of His Excellency’s appreciation of the
important services you have recently rendered to the Police
Department and the community generally in connection with
the destruction of the Kelly band of outlaws.—I have
the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient servant, F. C.
STANDISH, Chief Commissioner of Police. Stanhope
O’Connor, Esq., Sub-Inspector Queensland police.” This is
the enclosure, “Government House, Melbourne, June 30, 1880.”—You
notice the difference of the dates, the time that elapsed
before Captain Standish was “pleased” to send this to
me.—“Sir—Although the Governor has already communicated to
you by telegraph his congratulations to the police of the
successful overthrow of the Kelly gang, he was not at
the time fully aware of all the circumstances of the case, and
I am now directed by His Excellency to request that you
will convey to Mr. Superintendent Hare, Mr. Superintendent
Sadleir, Mr. O’Connor, and the members of the police force
engaged on the occasion, his thanks and congratulations upon the
promptitude, courage and determination displayed by them, and
also upon the very proper prudence and caution exercised, by
which, no doubt, several valuable lives, which might otherwise
have been sacrificed, were saved.—I have the honor to be, Sir,
your obedient servant, (Signed) FREDK. LE PATOUREL, Private
Secretary. Captain Standish, Chief Commissioner of
Police, Melbourne.”—You can see from that that nearly all the
people imagined that Mr. Hare remained on the field, and was, in
fact, doing everything. Subsequently, I dined at Government
House, and I gave Lord Normanby a full detailed account of what
happened. He was not aware of anything of the sort.
In fact, the first telegram, that Mr. Hare got, I
believe, thanked Mr. Hare, not mentioning any others at all.
Afterwards, Mr. Ramsay wrote this to my Government:—“9th July
1880.—I avail myself of the opportunity afforded by the return
of Mr. Sub-Inspector O’Connor to Brisbane to express to you the
thanks of this Government for the great service rendered by the
Government of Queensland in allowing that officer, and his man
to remain on duty in Victoria for so long a period, and
especially for your prompt reply to my telegram of the 27th
ult., authorising me to detain Mr. O’Connor and the native
troopers when on their way back to Queensland. Mr. O’Connor and
his men were present during the whole of the encounter with the
outlaws at Glenrowan, and it will gratify you to learn that they
rendered most valuable assistance on that occasion. I am assured
by the Chief Commissioner of Police that there is no ground
whatever for supposing that a feeling of jealousy existed at any
time of the part of the Victorian police towards Mr. O’Connor
and his party of trackers. It appears that the greatest
cordiality invariably prevailed between the two bodies, and I am
quite at a loss to understand what can have given rise to a
contrary impression.—I have the honor to be, Sir, your most
obedient servant, (Sd.) ROBERT RAMSAY.”—I wish to state that the
Chief Commissioner of Police was aware that there was this
jealousy, because, prior to my leaving, I called upon the Chief
Commissioner of Police, and he, in his office, offered to shake
me by the hand, which I declined. He asked me, “What is this I
have received from your Government. They state there has been a
feeling of jealousy between your men and our police?” My reply
was, “Captain Standish, the Victorian police, as a body, both
officers and men, have always treated us with kindness, with the
exception of the Chief Commissioner of Police, Captain
Standish”; and I said, “When the time comes, as I have no doubt
it will, I will do my best to prove to the satisfaction of the
commission or board what I say”; and in the face of that he
tells Mr. Ramsay to write the letter there was no feeling of
jealousy. I think I may say I have concluded, with one
exception. In reference to my evidence this morning, when word
was sent to Mr. Sadleir that Joe Byrne was seen at a certain
place, and that we started up to Beechworth, I wish to state
more fully about that. The communication was addressed to Mr.
Nicolson, at Benalla. Mr. Nicolson was, at that time, down in
Melbourne worrying about this business whether he was going to
be removed or not. He was down there when the information came.
We immediately sent a telegram down to him, which was the
telegram that Captain Standish said he was so courteous as to
hand to Mr. Nicolson at the Spencer-street station. Mr. Nicolson
came up by that train, arriving about eight o’clock, and met Mr.
Sadleir and me at the platform, and we all then went up in the
train to Beechworth.
1205. What is your opinion of the action taken by the police in
setting fire to Mrs. Jones’ hotel?—I think it was the most
proper thing to do. We knew at the time the outlaws were encased
in what you may almost call bullet–proof armour. They were in a
bullet-proof house as long as they kept in the chimneys and the
house was barricaded. There was no way, except by serious loss
of life, and it is the duty of a police officer not to sacrifice
his men’s lives; if he can see his way to do his work as
effectually on the field was of more value than two outlaws’
lives. After mature consideration Mr. Sadleir and several of the
sub-officers considered it was a proper thing to do. Any army
man would consider it nothing but false sympathy about those
1206. Have you related all the circumstances of the attack on
the house?—I can only speak from hearsay.
1207. Were there not some other persons injured?—Yes; but I
would suggest that Mr. Sadleir, who knows all the circumstances
of the case, would be better able to speak of that.
1208. You did not see the prisoners?—I saw them, but I have
forgotten, and Mr. Sadleir will go more clearly into all the
1209. As a matter of fact you know there was a child hit?—I know
there were one or two persons hit.
1210. They were not situated in that part that was in your
view?—I believe they were in the front.
1211. You were not cognizant of that?—No.
1212. You were in charge at the time?—I was certainly in charge
as a sworn-in officer of the Victorian police. I have heard
statements since that the authorities here say that I was not,
because I had left, but it was on the understanding that once
being an officer here when I was asked to go back and resume my
work I still occupied the same position; but I believe, from a
very fair authority, that is one of their police, that I had
nothing at all to do with it—that I went up there simply as a
1213. You went up at Captain Standish’s special request?—Yes;
and I was not it worthy, after he had done that, of being
1214. And did not that show jealousy on his part?—If you follow
the evidence throughout you will see the matter culminated in
1215. Why did he ask you to go back?—Because he knew the outlaws
would get away, and the police would be the laughing-stock of
the colony. It was against his wish, but Mr. Hare recommended
it. You see the time he took to do it—when he saw the country
and all would be at him he reluctantly did it. If it was not for
Mr. Ramsay, who believed in the trackers, I firmly believe he
would not have sent for me at all.
1216. Is it in evidence when Captain Standish received the
telegram?—I think he said early in the day. What I say is
this—taking merely one instance, I most decidedly admit it would
not be borne. But to understand that you must take the events
all through from the commencement, from the time I stated he
would endeavor to take the outlaws without us. Then there is the
fact of his meeting me and saying, “What the Dickens have you
done here; you have done nothing”; and I can bring out a great
deal more in evidence.
1217. He stated you have brought contrary to his
recommendations?—That, I think, is very conclusive.
1218. There was no jealousy between you and Mr. Hare?—Certainly
not; not to the slightest as far as I know, while I was up
there, and the Police Department, as a body, worked most
harmoniously together excepting Captain Standish; that was the
only case that would be injurious to the public interest.
30th March 1881
30th March 1881.
1219. During your experience with the police, did you see any
want of efficiency on the part of the men?—As policemen or what?
1220. In any way?—As bushmen, certainly, there was a want of
1221. You were here when Mr. Nicolson gave his evidence; he
alluded to several instances of men in the police service where
they were unable to know the proper use of firearms—in some
cases, never having shot a single shot from any gun—did you meet
with any men to lead you to suppose they were so thoroughly
ignorant and unfit for that particular class of duty as
that?—There were several cases. I cannot recall names or times,
but I know there were men sent to Benalla who did not know what
a breech-loader or a cartridge was, and they had to be
thoroughly instructed; and Captain Standish objected to this,
and wrote to discontinue this wasteful extravagance; but I mean
as police constables they were a fine body of courageous men. I
state that all those that came under my notice could not be
better; they were a splendid body of men.
1222. Not lacking in courage?—No.
1223. But in discipline?—No; in discipline they were splendid. I
never heard of a case where a man was called up and reprimanded.
1224. But they were no bushmen and not used to arms?—I do not
say all of them, but a few. As to their capacity as bushmen, Mr.
Hare will bear me out that on one occasion, in going to a
certain place, we suddenly came across a road, and there were
eight or nine or ten men, a great many of them thought they knew
the country thoroughly, but they had no more idea than the babe
unborn where they were. They had to send a constable a few miles
down to find out where they were. There were no guides amongst
the police, showing the actual necessity for some outside
assistance, such as spies, who knew the country. I was out with
Mr. Sadleir, with a party under Senior-Constable Flood, a most
good and able man; he was able, but even he showed he did not
know the country. After proceeding till four o’clock, instead of
being at the place we thought we would, he told us he had gone
the wrong way, that he thought the road led one way and it led
1225. Were they better adapted for town police than for a
service of that kind?—No, I did not say that. I say we wanted
guides, we could not do with the police solely, some men (Mr.
Hare and Captain Standish) never had guides, which I want to
maintain Mr. Nicolson made it his first duty to get.
1226. On what terms were those men specially selected—for their
special knowledge of country life?—Well, no; during Mr. Hare’s
time generally county Bourke men were, I believe, taken because
they belonged to county Bourke and to Mr. Hare. I know one or
two of the men had complaints that when Mr. Hare went out that
he excluded the men who used to be in my party, he took on new
county Burke men instead. The men came up and did not like it,
and at one time two or three of those men Captain Standish
recommended Mr. Hare to take, which he did.
1227. Is there anything else?—Nothing else that I remember.
1228. One general question: can you, now the matter is long
past, account for the long delay in capturing the Kellys, you
being an officer of the service here and of Queensland?—Well,
the first principal point I always considered was the want of
knowledge on the part of the police of the bush, they did not
know the country. In conversation which I had with a gentleman
up there, a thorough bushman, he pointed this out. He said to
me, “Look here, men in the police here, what they want to do in
this country districts is to learn the bush. These men never go
off the main road.” He said when the men were stationed at Hedi,
they just used to ride up and down the road. “I have asked them
to come and muster cattle, and to see how those outlaws work.”
They wanted men more of that kind—bushmen, men who could go
through the bush. I know there are some of that sort; there is
one constable, Graves, a capital bushman, who led us in one
party very well, but it was only in a very small circle of
district. This man knew the country, and could go on end for a
day and still know the country.
1229. As far as you were able to judge, was there a want of a
thoroughly well organized system for the outlaws’ capture to be
established by the officers in command?—There were two different
systems employed; and I most decidedly say the first system of
scouring the country, after the first two or three trips, was
certainly useless, because you could never get away without it
being known; and in that country a large number of men riding
shod horses can be heard half-a-mile away; and, unless on
certain information, you may ride within half-a-mile of the men
you are looking for and not know it. When I arrived, I found
they had no information, and never could say the Kellys passed
such and such a house at such a time, so that we really never
had an opportunity of finding the tracks. We got on track
several times in our travels which we thought were the outlaws’;
and we followed, on one occasion, four men following stock on
the run; and we thought undoubtedly those were the outlaws,
because no one would have ridden over those ranges.
1230. Do you think any information was given at any time that
would have been of service, and, for want of promptness of
action on the part of the officers, the opportunity was lost in
capturing the outlaws?—No, I do not know a single case where
there was a want of promptness of action; but, in my evidence, I
said I thought there was a chance which Captain Standish
interfered with our going out, which I considered one of the
best chances. That was the hut referred to in the evidence,
where the information came in that the outlaws were undoubtedly
in the hut; and by the fact of the man going up and opening the
door—the same man who met the police—there is some color for
believing the outlaws had been there. I say that Captain
Standish showed a great want of judgment, to say nothing of
jealousy, in not allowing us to go out then.
1231. Do you think, from your knowledge of the country now, that
it would have been possible to cut those men off from their
supplies?—No, I think it would have been impossible.
1232. They had supplies at every turn?—They were supplied
anywhere they liked by their friends, and had only got to
arrange with them where to take up their provisions.
1233. Your impression is that they had a number of friends and
sympathizers in that district?—Undoubtedly.
1234. Who always kept them supplied with the ordinary
necessities of life?—Yes.
The witness withdrew.
Adjourned to to-morrow at Eleven o’clock.
in the Chair;
J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.,
J. Gibb, Esq.,
G. R. Fincham, Esq.,
J. H. Graves, Esq.,
Stanhope O’Connor further examined.
1235. The Witness.—I forgot to mention in my evidence
yesterday—I said in my evidence I was to be at the railway
station at Essendon at ten o’clock. I arrived there at a quarter
to ten, and at ten o’clock the stationmaster at Essendon sent
for me—I was a little way down the platform—to ask me if I knew
anything about the starting of the special train from Melbourne.
He said the train was there but there were no orders. I told him
I knew nothing; I could not give any opinion. About ten minutes
after ten he sent for me again. He said, “Can you tell the
officials in Melbourne, if there are any police coming up, or
even Captain Standish, because they do not know what to do.” I
replied, “All I know is that Captain Standish informed me that
the special train would be at Essendon at ten o’clock.” The
second remark I wish to make is, one of the members of the
Commission asked me yesterday in my evidence as to who gave
Senior-Constable Kelly the information as to number of
prisoners, and whether they were in the house. I forgot at the
time. I said I believed it was Constable Bracken, but since
looking at my notes I find and I believe it to have been a
woman, who came out of the house, because Constable Bracken, I
find from hearsay evidence afterwards, had gone immediately
after the telegram. The third remark I wish to make is, when I
mentioned about the delay in sending the Governor’s letter by
Captain Standish, one member of the Commission suggested that
Sunday might have intervened. Well, the 27th, we all know, was
Sunday, and the 30th was Wednesday, and was the date of the
Governor’s letter, and I received it from Captain Standish on
the 2nd; so that Sunday did not intervene.
1236. After one of the children was wounded in the house did you
see a man rush out with a child in his arms—a man named Neil
McHugh?—No, I did not.
1237. It is stated he brought out one of the wounded children;
did you see that man that day?—I cannot remember seeing him; in
fact, I saw none to speak to, none of the women, or any of the
people that came out at all, to my knowledge, to speak to the
whole time. I only knew of their passing by.
The witness withdrew.
Francis Augustus Hare sworn and examined.
1238. The Witness.—I
joined the police force as lieutenant of police on the 1st
January 1854. My salary then was
₤300 a year, with all the
allowances I now have, and in addition rations. I now, after
twenty-seven and a quarter years’ service, receive
₤375 per annum and without
rations. I was promoted to the rank of superintendent in
November 1866, which rank I now hold. I had nothing to do with
the Kelly business until the murders at the Wombat. On the 26th
October 1878, the morning after the intelligence reached
Melbourne that Sergeant Kennedy’s party had been shot, Captain
Standish came to me to the depôt,
and ordered me to get as many mounted men as possible from the
and Bourke district men, and to pick out the best men I had.
1239. Kennedy’s party was shot on
on the morning after the intelligence reached I had——
1240. I want you to fix the date
would be the 27th. It was a Monday morning. I think he was shot
on the Sunday.
1241. I want you to fix the date
must have been the 28th. I was ordered to pick out the best men
in the district; also to get ready all the available arms out of
the store, and select as many horses as I could get out of the
paddocks that were fit for work. I sent several mounted men that
day to Benalla. For some weeks afterwards I was busily engaged
getting in horses, buying arms, and instructing men how to use
1242. That was in Melbourne?—Yes.
Every day men and horses were arriving at the depot en route
to Benalla. It appeared to me that the picked men in the colony
had been selected for this duty, and they were all splendidly
mounted. From the time Kennedy was shot up to the time of the
Euroa bank robbery my time was fully taken up sending supplies
of horses to the North-Eastern District. On the 26th of November
1878 Captain Standish sent for me and told me that Mr. Nicolson
had informed him that he had obtained reliable information that
the Kelly gang intended sticking up a bank in some part of the
district, and that Mr. Nicolson had requested Captain Standish
to tell me to take the necessary precautions at the stations in
my district. I was all this time in Melbourne.