THE ROYAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY

 

The Royal Commission on the Police Force of Victoria started taking evidence on Wednesday, 23rd March 1881. The commissioners included:

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 281.)

 

 

ROYAL COMMISSION

ON THE

POLICE FORCE OF

VICTORIA

 

1881

 

 

 

 First published 1881

Facsimile Reprint 1968

 

National Library of Australia

Registry Number Aus 68-1548

 

Registry in Australia

For transmission by post as a book

Printed and bound at

The Griffin Press, Adelaide

 

1881. 
VICTORIA.

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POLICE COMMISSION.

 

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MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE 

ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE POLICE FORCE OF VICTORIA, 

TOGETHER WITH 

APPENDICES.

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PRESENTED TO BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY’S COMMAND.

 

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By Authority

JOHN FERRES, GOVERNMENT PRINTER, MELBOURNE

No. 31.

 

 

 

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE POLICE FORCE OF

 

VICTORIA,

 

 

—————

 

 

WEDNESDAY, 23rd MARCH 1881. 

Present: 

                         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 examined.

 

The Witness.I think it would shorten proceedings if I read an exhaustive statement, and was afterwards examined on that.

The Chairman.The Commission specially adjourned from its last sitting in order to proceed to-day, and it will be necessary to go on with your examination now.

The Witness.—I am perfectly prepared to give any evidence I may be required, at once.

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 North-Eastern district.

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.

POLICE                                                                                            A

Captain F. C.

Standish

23rd March 1881

 


 

2

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

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 police force.

16. What tended to shake your confidence in him as an officer of police?—I have ample proof here of his procrastination and inefficiency.

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 my recital.

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 district.

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 stuck up.

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 o’clock.

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   railway,


 

3

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. Sadleir.

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 night?—Yes.

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 that night.

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 night.

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. Sadleir.

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,

continued,

23rd March 1881.


 

4

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

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 misrepresentations.

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 time?—Yes.

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 Melbourne.

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 and Glenrowan.

58. How far is that from Benalla?—They are about five miles apart.


 

5

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 Mr. Nicolson.

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,

continued,

23rd March 1881.


 

6

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

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 detective office.

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  that


 

7

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 caught?—Yes.

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 year.

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 believe him.

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 officer.

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,

continued,

23rd March 1881.


 

8

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

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 police.

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 North-Eastern district.

115. Who is the officer in charge of the North-Eastern district?—Mr. Sadleir.

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 up.

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 pursuit party.

126. In that district?—In that district.

127. Those are the two districts in which all these matters occurred?—Yes.

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 Smith.

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 the distance.

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 catch them.

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.


 

9

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 records.

The Witness mentioned the names of several people named in his evidence which he wished to be left blank.

The Chairman requested the shorthand writer to comply with Captain Standish’s request.

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 alive.

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.

POLICE.                                                                                        B

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

23rd March 1881.


 

10

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

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 department?—Certainly not.

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 under sub-officers.

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 stationed there.

174. The Chairman (to Mr. Nicolson).—Do you desire to ask any questions?—I do.

The Witness.—Am I to submit to be cross-examined by anyone who is called here?

The Chairman (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 answer.

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 true.

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 about.

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 refer to.

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.


 

11

199. What did I recommend?—I cannot remember. I have not seen the papers.

200. Do you remember my reporting the men and recommending their removal?—No.

201. Did I recommend Thorn’s removal?—Yes.

202. Do you remember the establishment of the Glenmore station?—Yes.

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 report.

211. Why was no step taken to put a stop to it?—I decline to answer that.

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 writing?

Mr. Nicolson.—In writing.

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.

The Chairman instructed Mr. Nicolson to confine himself to cross-examining the witness on evidence having relation to himself, Mr. Nicolson.

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 superintendent.

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 Beechworth?—Yes.

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 district?—Yes.

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 at.

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 blathering fellow.

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 suppose so.

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

23rd March 1881.


 

12

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

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 you.

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 charge.

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 office.

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 statement.

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 that.

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 over.

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 procrastinator.

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, F.C.S.?”—Yes.

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 telegrams.


 

13

282. To send the information to you in Melbourne?—I do not recollect that.

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 say?—Which interview?

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 your removal.

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 party?—Certainly not.

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 not?—Yes.

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 did.

312. That is what you ought to have answered first?—Will you conduct yourself like a gentleman?

The Chairman interposed, and requested both Captain Standish and Mr. O’Connor to restrain their feelings.

The Witness.—He 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 eight.

315. By the Commission.—You took immediate action in the matter?—Yes.

316. By Mr. O’Connor.—Why were we sent for and our services not made use of?—They were sent for against my recommendation.

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,

continued,

23rd March 1881.


 

14

Captain F. C. Standish,

continued,

23rd March 1881.

321. Did Mr. Hare meet a man coming from the hut?

The Chairman (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.

Mr. O’Connor.—He 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 him.

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.

Mr. O’Connor.—Let 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 time.

Mr. O’Connor.—I 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.

The Witness.—I was driven to say this, and Mr. O’Connor was married a few days after he came to Benalla.

Mr. O’Connor.—But everything was quite correct.

Captain Standish.—May 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 evidence.

Mr. O’Connor.—I am sorry for my loss of temper, and will be glad if this matter be not reported.

The Chairman 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.

——————

THURSDAY, 24TH MARCH 1881.

Present:

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,

continued,

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 of Police.

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 constables.

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.


 

15

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 not recollect.

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 few days.

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 of November.

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,

continued,

24th March 1881,


 

16

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 cavalcade.

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 great cavalcade?

363. Search parties returning?—No; they had been gathered there specially.

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 Mr. Sadleir.

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 it.

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 Sherritt’s hut.

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 Beechworth.

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 Kelly business?—Yes.

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 particular occasion.

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 came voluntarily.

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.


 

17

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 done?—Yes.

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 some——

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 Sherritt’s hut?—Yes.

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 house?—No.

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 did.

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 mile away.

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.

POLICE.                                                                                 C

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

24th March 1881.


 

18

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 to ascertain.

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 old information.

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 something.

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.


 

19

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 Margery’s farm.

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 them.

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 country.

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,

continued,

24th March 1881.


 

20

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 instructions?

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 acted?—No.

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 murders.

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 Benalla—that road.

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 character.

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 Tuesday.

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 distrusted him.

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.


 

21

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 morning.

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 unusual.

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 not.

493. Did Mr. Wyatt tell you on this occasion that Euroa had been stuck up?—No.

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 did.

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 them.

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

24th March 1881.


 

22

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 Albury.

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 hours.

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 that direction.

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.


 

23

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 could.

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 that.

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 Faithfull’s Creek.

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,

continued,

24th March 1881.


 

24

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 spies?—Yes.

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 same effect?—No.

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 made?—Yes.

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 get it.

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 catch them?—Exactly.

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 probable.

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  bank  robbery?—


 

25

No. I would have continued this pursuit until it was exhausted, and then I should have proposed to Captain Standish another system.

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 another system.

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 letter.

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 him.

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 Mr. Hare?—Yes.

599. Did you then continue the system you considered would be inoperative?—No.

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 held?—Yes.

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 so.

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.

POLICE                                                                                                                D

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

24th March 1881.


 

26

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 occasion.

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 to advise?—Yes.

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 matters official?—Yes.

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 years.

628. What position has Mr. Hare among the superintendents?—There is Mr. Winch, Mr. Chomley, Mr. Chambers, and then Mr. Hare—he is the fourth.

629. You being, up to this time we speak of, Inspecting Superintendent; that is the legal term of your position under the regulations?—Yes.

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 subject.

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.


 

27

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 now?

649. For some time you say you had not much communication with him?—I have not. There are many officers I do not have communication with.

650. Up to the 12th December was there any unfriendly feeling?—No.

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 two.

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 exceedingly good.

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 person.

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,

continued,

24th March 1881.


 

28

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 of Police.

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 protect myself.

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 it.

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 Superintendentship.

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.

————

FRIDAY, 25TH MARCH 1881.

Present:

 

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 examined.

The Witness.—The 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


 

29

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 of man.”

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 themselves.

683. You said that was the sort of man to employ to get these men?—Yes.

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 June.

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 all.

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, perfectly.

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,

continued,

25th March 1881.


 

 

30

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 correspondence.

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 police.

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 that question.

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 places.

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.


 

31

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,

continued,

25th March 1881.

Police Expenditure in connection with the Search for the Gang of Outlaws.

 

Service.

 

26th Oct. 1878

to

12th Decr. 1878

13th Decr. 1878

to

7th July 1879

8th July 1879

to

31st May 1880.

1st June 1880

to

28th June 1880.

 

Total.

 

 

V. Railway charges

Coach and horse hire, stabling, &c.

Provisions for search parties

Arms and ammunition

Tents and field equipment

Secret service agents

Probationary constables

Queensland trackers

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. 11d.

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

 


 

32

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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.

MEMO.—Attached 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 Lloyd’s house?—Yes.

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


 

33

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 Glenrowan Hotel.

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 May.

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.

POLICE.                                                                          E

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

25th March 1881.


 

34

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 out.

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 have not.

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 superseded.

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.


 

35

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 the ——.

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 all?

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 Rowan?—Yes.

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 surprise.

805. Were those stable-fed horses?—I do not know; I never saw them.

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,

continued,

25th March 1881.


 

36

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 robbery?—I was.

815. Who was in charge of the north-eastern country then?—Captain Standish.

816. Did you make yourself acquainted with the particulars of that robbery, namely, what moneys were taken?—Yes, all the particulars.

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 Benalla.

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 extent.

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 did.

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 also, sympathizers.

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


 

37

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 that district?—Yes.

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 himself.

849. And he had the power to countermand, by his order, what you did?—Yes.

850. Have you got the letter?—Yes, I have a letter to that effect.

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 given?—Yes.

857. He did so on other occasions?—Yes, he did so on other occasions.

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 letter.

860. Captain Standish says this matter was known in the depôt?—Yes.

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 retire.

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,

continued,

25th March 1881.


 

38

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 things.

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 as follows:—]

NORTH-EASTERN DISTRICT.

RETURN showing Unfilled Vacancies in the District on 24th March 1880

 

 

Required instead of

 

Station where Vacancies are.

Number of Men.

Rank.

Reg. No.

Name.

Remarks as to Disposal of Absentees.

Benalla

Beechworth

Cashel

Euroa

Mansfield

Rutherglen

Shepparton

Wodonga

 

1 M. Con.

1 F. Con.

1 M. Con.

1 F. Con.

1 M. Con.

1 ditto

1 ditto

1 ditto

 

M. Con.

F. Con.

M. Con.

F. Con.

M. Con.

S. Con.

M. Con.

M. Con.

 

2912

2850

2525

2659

225

1546

2521

2691

 

Brodrick, R. W.

Williamson, D.

Forrestal, M.

Brownlee, Wm.

Costello, Andw.

Gribbin, A.

Commons, Ml.

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 him:

 

MEMO.                                                                                                                Police Department, Benalla, 4th August 1879.

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 this matter.

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,

Asst.-Commissioner Police.

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 superseded.

877. This is the communication you sent a month after you resumed duty?—Yes.

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  above  the


 

39

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 statement.

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 department?—Yes.

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 others.

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,

continued,

25th March 1881.


 

40

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 not to?—Yes.

910. Was he continued in the district, and was he in the district when you resumed control, in August of the following year?—Yes.

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]:—

[COPY.]

V.498.                                                                               Police Department,

MEMO.                                                                                                    Superintendent’s 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 success.

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.


 

41

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 circumstances.

     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 8,000.

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 outside.

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 successful raid.

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 circumstances.

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 a certainty.

(Signed)                                               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.

——————

TUESDAY, 29TH MARCH 1881.

Present:

The Hon. F. LONGMORE, in the Chair;

J. H. Graves, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,

E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.,

J. Gibb, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,

W. Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. C. Levey, Esq., C.M.G.

C. H. Nicolson further examined.

The Witness.I wish to be allowed to supplement my evidence by a few remarks, which will take a very little timea 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.

917.Crippled their action also?Yes.

918.Who  were  they?Superintendent  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

POLICE                                                                           F

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

25th March 1881.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. H. Nicolson,

29th March 1881.


 

42

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 of Police.

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 Chief Secretary.

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 office.

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 upon.

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 termination.

939. You stated in your evidence that between this date, on or about the 20th April, your agents were giving you almost daily information?—Yes.


 

43

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 them.”

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 me.

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 evidence.

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 in Melbourne.

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  train.    Now

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

29th March 1881.


 

44

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 last occasion.

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 occasion.

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 him?—I did.

960. Now will you tell us by what train you left Melbourne after interviewing Mr. Ramsay on the last occasion?—On the following day.

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 Spencer street?—Yes.

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 Standish here?—Certainly.

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 accompany me.

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 clear month.

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.


 

45

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 Kilmore?—Yes.

987. Since then you had a large experience of police business?—I have.

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 years ago.

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. Hare’s evidence.

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 alluded to?—Policemen.

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 work.

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, senior-constables.

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 barrack-yard, larking.

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 took charge.

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,

continued,

29th March 1881.


 

46

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

29th March 1881.

1014. After instruction this is the result?—Yes[handing in the following papers]:—

RIFLE PRACTICE.

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.

 

 

Rank.

 

 

Name.

28th July.

30th July.

3rd Sept.

18th Sept.

25th Sept.

29th Sept.

3rd Oct.

14th Oct.

31st Oct.

3rd Nov.

12th Nov.

28th Nov.

6th Dec.

16th Dec.

19th Dec.

 

 

No. of Practices

 

 

Total Score.

 

 

Average per day.

 

A. C. P.

Supt.

Senr.-Const.

Md.-Const.

       ״

Probationer

Md.-Const.

       ״

       ״

       ״

       ״

       ״

       ״

       ״

 

 

Nicolson

Sadleir

Irvine, R.

Arthur, J. M.

Bell, W. W.

Canny, W.

Falkiner, A. J.

Graham, R.

Hagger, N.

Kirkham, T. H.

Moore, W.

Phillips, W.

Wallace, W. J.

Gascoigne, P. C.

 

 

 

 

10

14

0

0

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

10

7

 

0

3

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

17

 

7

6

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

10

 

18

15

 

13

9

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

15

 

10

 

 

 

 

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

21

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20

19

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

8

19

18

 

16

8

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

15

 

 

5

17

 

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

 

13

3

 

 

 

 

13

6

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

9

9

0

 

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

13

 

5

 

1

 

15

 

 

 

5

1

 

 

 

 

14

 

18

 

 

10

2

 

 

 

7

 

 

 

 

 

12

17

25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

11

2

 

 

 

3

 

 

5

1

22

 

 

3

6

11

11

3

11

7

4

2

2

3

8

3

1

 

 

33

60

167

178

2

68

72

32

3

4

44

57

4

22

 

 

11

10

152/11

162/11

62/11

102/7

8

2

14⅔

7⅛

1⅓

22

 

———

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.

 

 

Rank.

 

 

Name.

28th July.

25th Aug.

 

3rd Oct.

13th Oct.

14th Oct.

15th Oct.

31st Oct.

3rd Nov.

6th Nov.

12th Nov.

18th Nov.

28th Nov.

29th Nov.

16th Dec.

19th Dec.

 

 

No. of Practices

 

 

Total Score.

 

 

Average per day.

 

A. C. P.

Supt.

Md.-Const.

       ״

Probationer

Md.-Const.

       ״

       ״

       ״

Senr.-Const.

Md.-Const.

       ״

       ״

       ״

       ״

 

 

Nicolson

Sadleir

Arthur

Bell

Canny

Falkiner

Graham

Hagger

Gascoigne

Irvine

Kirkham

Moore

Phillips

Ryan

Wallace

 

 

 

 

6

1

2

 

 

 

 

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

0

3

 

 

 

3

 

 

2

 

 

 

11

 

6

 

 

2

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

4

 

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

 

18

9

5

 

 

 

 

17

 

 

10

4

11

 

 

 

 

17

 

15

19

 

 

 

19

 

 

13

 

 

 

18

14

12

 

4

17

 

 

 

14

 

 

 

8

18

 

 

 

9

 

 

6

14

 

 

 

15

 

 

13

 

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

12

18

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23

24

12

 

 

 

 

13

12

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

10

4

 

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

18

6

 

 

 

19

12

0

 

 

 

 

13

1

 

 

 

 

9

 

6

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

5

 

 

 

6

11

 

 

15

13

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

 

 

 

12

7

 

 

 

 

 

5

8

 

 

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

11

 

 

 

0

 

19

 

 

10

 

13

 

 

4

6

10

3

8

10

6

4

1

10

1

1

12

4

5

 

 

64

62

90

21

42

142

87

16

5

119

0

0

129

25

58

 

 

16

10⅓

9

7

141/5

14½

4

5

119/10

0

0

10¾

113/5

 

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


 

47

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 and squalor.

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, Albury district.”

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,

continued,

29th March 1881.


 

48

C. H. Nicolson,

continued,

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 duties?—Yes.

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 constable?—Yes.

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 Mr. Hare?—Yes.

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  23rd,


 

49

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 there?—Yes.

1063. Can we get the return of that?—Yes, I will hand in the complete return.

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 present.

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 down?—It was.

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 kindness.

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,

continued,

29th March 1881.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S. O’Connor,

29th March 1881.


 

50

S. O’Connor,

continued,

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 this time.

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 return.

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 miles.

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 ill-feeling.

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,


 

51

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 it.

The witness withdrew.

Adjourned to to-morrow at Eleven o’clock.

——————————

WEDNESDAY, 30TH MARCH 1881.

Present:

The Hon. F. LONGMORE, M.L.A., in the Chair;

William Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,

E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.,

James Gibb, Esq., M.L.A.

Stanhope O’Connor further examined.

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 July 1879.

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 usthat is Mr. Sadleir and myselfbut 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 accompany us.

1109. Do you mean by “your party” the trackers?The 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  night’s

S. O’Connor,

continued,

29th March 1881.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S. O’Connor,

30th March 1881.


 

52

S. O’Connor,

continued,

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


 

53

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 ten.

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

S. O’Connor,

continued,

30th March 1881.


 

54

S. O’Connor,

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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 knowledge.

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 got away.”

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 evening.

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 told me.

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 arrived.

1132. Was that subsequent to everything I have stated?—I believe so; he made his way to my position.


 

55

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 hour perhaps.

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 prisoner.

1139. Was this the first time you were aware of that?No; I knew about it from Constable Dwyer, who was bringing ammunition round.

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 plan.

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 house?I 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 burnttwo 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 the kitchenthere were shots exchanged, I believe, after we knew the prisoners were there.

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 sort?We replied to shots that were fired at us.

1150. Was the door open at this time?No; 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 the kitchen?That he heard so.

1156. He informed you of that?Yes.

S. O’Connor,

continued,

30th March 1881.


 

56

S. O’Connor,

continued,

30th March 1881.

1157. Firing took place after that, before the prisoners were released?—Yes, certainly.

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 the men.

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 prisoners?—Yes.

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 afterwards.

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


 

57

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 moving.

1190. What resulted from the priest’s entrance; what was the next?—Nothing resulted.

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 through it.

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 at Benalla.

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 together.

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 resumé of what occured.    In  Mr.  Hare’s  report  he  stated,  after  omitting  my  name,  you

S. O’Connor,

continued,

30th March 1881.


 

58

S. O’Connor,

continued,

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


 

59

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 ruffians.

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 details.

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 volunteer.

1213. You went up at Captain Standish’s special request?—Yes; and I was not it worthy, after he had done that, of being acknowledged?

1214. And did not that show jealousy on his part?—If you follow the evidence throughout you will see the matter culminated in that point.

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.

S. O’Connor,

continued,

30th March 1881


 

60

S. O’Connor,

continued,

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 efficiency.

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 another.

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.


 

 

61

THURSDAY, 31ST MARCH 1881.

Present:

HON. F. LONGMORE, in the Chair;

E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.,

W. Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,

J. Gibb, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,

J. H. Graves, Esq., M.L.A.

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.