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10 September 1911

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POLICE AGAIN PARALYSED

THE TREACHERY OF SHERRITT

BEGINNING OF THE LAST HUNT

NED KELLY LODGED IN GAOL The unprecedented exploit of the bushrangers at Euroa simply staggered the whole State. The whole business was so daring and clever as to compel admiration even amongst the warmest believers in law and order. But the matter presented other and more disquieting features. That four men no matter how well armed, or with previous bloodshed fortified, should be able to take possession of a populous town and hold that possession as long as they pleased, seemed to argue something more than mere terror - to suggest the existence of elements of friendship and sympathy rather than that of a general epidemic of fright and pusillanimity. The police authorities were beside themselves.

Police groups were rushed to various places in the hope of their encountering the bold outlaws. But they were too hampered by red tape to do any good. Everything thing had to be determined by some officer in charge. Which would have been wise had the officers been worthy of the trust. But the report of the Royal Commission

.......that most of them were

..... .. unworthy as incapable of any intelligent action in a desperate emergency as the merest recruit. Men and money were wasted in all manner of vain and futile quests. The most wooden and stupid police traditions of procedure were perpetuated to the last stage of absurdity. Lots of time was wasted chasing will-o'-the-wisp reports. One man said that the Kellys were camped in his paddock, and that it was their purpose to steal his horse.

A rush of police to the place elicited that the horse was in the last stages of a scanty and toothless old age. The "gang" dwindled down to one poor miserable devil of a sundowner.

The police officers never seemed to consider probabilities at all; and possibilities but seldom; in their action upon the reports brought in as to the whereabouts of the outlaws. Every statement, no matter how absurd, was investigated. In a few days the rank and file were tired out, and one officer in charge had to be relieved. But the outlaws pursued their journey homeward in tranquillity; no one interrupting.

In the course of one week the outlaws, according to reports received; and almost invariably acted upon; by the police, covered an area of about 54,000 square miles. And in doing so committed all the crimes that are classified time after time.

Finally, the police …. on the argument of the bribe ….. of Aaron Sherritt; who had played bushrangers with the Kellys as a youngster; and persuaded him, with the offer of the whole of the reward then held out (£400), to betray the friends of his youth. The police declare that Sherritt was an abandoned scoundrel of the most pernicious order. When, after his ferocious and horrible threat against Joe Byrne, that careful bandit lengthened the odds against misadventure for himself by slaying Sherritt a few hours after his threat, the police rejoiced at being rid of a confederate whom they regarded as being infinitely worse than any of the outlaws.

The killing of Sherritt has long been justified beyond question. But the news of his death sent the public excitement on to fever heat. Because the public did not know the facts, the public do not know all the facts even now. Some of them are too horrible to mention. But before he died Sherritt had managed to get some information for the police that would have been valuable if communicated in any more intelligent quarter. He told them that the outlaws were going to cross the border and stick up a bank in New South Wales.

This was just after the storekeeper, Owen, came to the rescue of the Byrne family with a load of stores. And a few days later the bank at Jerilderie was robbed by the gang. A description of his exploit was given in the "Sun" of yesterday. The outlaws followed the safe course of sticking up the police station first.

The manner in which the outlaws lorded it in Jerilderie is almost incredible. Not a man dared to interfere with them. Ned Kelly took the opportunity of making a speech, in which he set forth the reasons that had sent him and his comrades to the bush. He declared that he was not within 400 miles of the homestead on the day on which he was alleged to have shot Fitzpatrick. It is quite probable that this address may have had something to do with the fact that all four of the outlaws were permitted to leave Jerilderie without molestation. They rendezvoused at a sheep station 20 miles away that night.

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the previous day / next day . . . BW Cookson in the Sydney Sun index Cookson_index.html

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