Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XVIII page 3
Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir
What occurred after McIntyre’s escape has come to us through statements made to their friends—to Aaron Sherritt more especially—by the Kelly gang some time later. These told how Kennedy continued firing his revolver as he backed away from his assailants, and how he was disabled just as he was about to discharge another shot, his arm dropping helpless by his side and blood pouring from his coat-sleeve. Then, seated on the ground leaning against a tree the gang sat round him while he pleaded for his life. Dan Kelly, ferocious little savage as he was, wished to kill him straight away, and several times the sergeant pushed aside the gun as its muzzle was laid against his chest. The others were undecided what to do, but Dan Kelly finally settled the question by putting his gun against the unfortunate sergeant’s body and killing him instantly. It appears further, that before leaving the scene of these murders, Ned Kelly insisted on each of his companions discharging their weapons into the dead bodies of the three police, thus fully implicating, as he thought, each and all in the crime that had been committed.
As I talked with McIntyre on the Monday evening after these events, I could see that he was still nervous and excited. He told me that while he was kept a prisoner by the gang, and while any hope remained of saving the lives of his two companions he found himself cool and collected. McIntyre was a devout man, and his faith I have no doubt sustained him. I speak thus from my own knowledge and observation of the man, not from any direct statement by him. He admits, however, that a great dread fell on him as soon as he found himself fleeing through the forest, believing as he did that he was being pursued. His horse stopped suddenly at a little open glade in the forest, and there McIntyre dismounted, supposing the horse to have been wounded. Thence he made his way towards Mansfield as best he could throughout the night. When I spoke with him on Monday evening he had just returned from the long day’s search that discovered the bodies of Constables Lonigan and Scanlon, and it was not a matter for surprise that he should be somehow unnerved after all he had passed through.
ISAIAH (“WILD”) WRIGHT.
From many years experience of bush criminals, and from my knowledge of the features of the north-eastern districts, I was led at once to recognise that in the work now cut out for the police the aid of scouts was a prime essential.
Finding ‘Wild’ Wright detained in Mansfield lock-up on some trifling charge, I was in hope of inducing him to do some serviceable work. Wright was in great fear lest some serious charge was hanging over him and was disposed at first to listen to my proposals. He undertook to go amongst the friends of the Kellys, so as to ascertain if possible the fate of the missing sergeant. Beyond this he would not be persuaded. Intimate as he had been with Ned Kelly in the past, no consideration would now induce him to approach Kelly in any of his haunts. He knew the fierceness of his disposition so well, he assured me, that he would be risking his life in going near him. The past relationship of the two men had been such that I could not, at first, appreciate ‘Wild’ Wright’s diffidence. He related how that one night, when he was a prisoner at the police station at Milewa, Ned Kelly crept up silently to the lock-up and proposed to release him. The plan he (Kelly) suggested was, that Wright should call out and attract the attention of Constable Arthur, so that when the constable appeared Kelly might shoot him down and release Wright. The latter, to his credit, rejected the offer, preferring to be left to his fate. What precociousness in crime, for Ned Kelly at the time was barely twenty years of age! With later knowledge one came to think that ‘Wild’ Wright may have done wisely in keeping away from his old ally, now with a rope round his neck.
Amongst others, proposals were made to old Tom Lloyd, Kelly’s uncle, but he also declined, partly on the same grounds as Wright, and added that the Kellys would trust no one who had been through Pentridge. This suggested a further argument - that as he, Lloyd, was sure to find his way into Pentridge again, it would be well for him to have some friends at court. His only answer was: ‘Pentridge is hell, and no one will ever find me there again.’
When Scott, alias Captain Moonlight, got together later his band of amateur bushrangers, he sent word to Ned Kelly that he wished to join forces with him. Kelly sent back word threatening that if Scott or his band approached him he would shoot them down.
Scott, with his youthful followers, was shepherded to Bethanga by the Victorian Police, who there passed on the further care of the party to the New South Wales authorities. While passing through Victoria, Scott represented that he and his party were out on a ’possum hunting picnic, but the affair at Wantabadgery soon after, where they came so badly to grief, showed that they were after larger game. I have often thought that if Kelly and Scott had joined forces, there would have followed a very lively time for the police. The bold stand of Scott when he fought the police at Wantabadgery, showed that he was a man of different mettle altogether from the Kellys.
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