Royal Commission report day 14 page 19

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The Royal Commission evidence for 3/5/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 14)

Inspector Montfort giving evidence

3408 Was that a display of courage, their getting under the bed?— It happens that I know one of those men, and I believe he is as sterling a man as any in the force—I mean Constable Armstrong.

3409 Is he not notorious as a fire-eater in the force?— He has a character of great daring. I knew him in the city on one occasion walk up and down Little Bourke street in danger of his life.

3410 The cowardice of three men might have outweighed the bravery of one?— Yes; but I do not want to give an opinion on that case.

3411 You have closely followed the history of all this Kelly business—the action of the police?— Yes.

3412 Is that the only case you know where the slightest attack can be made upon the courage of the police?— It is the only case I ever heard of. I beg your pardon, as I am on my oath—I did hear that some police turned back near Wangaratta, and that the officer in charge displayed an amount of apathy in not pursuing the outlaws when the men under him considered he should have done so.

3413 That was Inspector Brook Smith?— Yes.

3414 Are those the only cases?— Yes.

3415 In regard to Armstrong, who was in charge?— I did not know he was in charge. I would go with Armstrong anywhere myself, and that is the best compliment I could pay him.

3416 You have heard the statement about those four constables remaining in Sherritt's house. After reading that, do you believe they acted wisely in remaining inside on that occasion, purely from a police point of view?— I do not think I would have remained in.

3417 If you would not, you do not think they ought?— I think they ought to have made a rush. That may not be the fault of one—there is no use one man rushing unless they all do it; and besides, as I remember, the manner in which the door was opened, the door obscured the person who was standing outside. They could not see him from where they were standing inside the room. I am judging from the depositions I saw.

3418 The opinion that you formed of the North-Eastern district, more especially what is now known as the Kelly country, led you to believe in those days that it required special police protection?— Undoubtedly it did.

3419 Have you formed the idea that special men should be specially trained for that work—good shots and good bushmen?— I think so now.

3420 And that ought to be done even now, from the latest reports we have received from that district?— Special men should be selected—good bushmen.

3421 Men reared in the locality if you could get them?— That would be much better.

3422 In your experience in the Power business, had you been in charge, or if you were now placed in charge of that district, and another outbreak took place of a similar character to the last, would you explain the course that you would adopt in suppressions or endeavouring to suppress a gang of that description?— I could not answer that question.

3423 Have you read the evidence that has been taken sufficiently to be enabled to express an opinion on the course of proceeding adopted by the officers from the time of the murders to the capture?— That is a very large question.

3424 I am asking if you read the evidence?— The impression I gained from the evidence was that there were two systems in vogue—one was the system of patrol through the bush, and the other was the system of secret service. You ask me which do I think the most effective. As far as my opinion goes, I think the patrols would be useless there.

3425 Why?— Because it is like looking for a needle in a bundle of straw.

3426 Do the roads run up the valleys?— The men will not go on the roads, and they do not require to.

3427 Could the police go any other way?— Certainly they could.

3428 Could they go with their baggage?— They can go with pack-horses through the bush.

3429 Did they as a matter of fact?— That I cannot say.

3430 Would it not be very inconvenient?— No; pack-horses are used in travelling stock through bush.

3431 Would the Kellys go where police could not?— One horse could go where another could.

3432 Are there not horses accustomed to mountain country that can go where no other could?— There are some police horses will go where any other horse will go.

3433 It was stated that the outlaws had such superior horses that the police could not follow them?— I do not believe that.

3434 If it was a system of waiting for secret information, do you believe, after reading the evidence tendered by the officers, that the system adopted there of the secret service was likely to eventuate in the capture of the Kellys?— I think so—more so than the other.

3435 Will you tell us why?— For this reason, the outlaws could choose their own time to go out— there is no necessity to go out and meet the police, they can always avoid the police—there is any amount of scope to do so. It would be their own fault if they did meet them; and another thing, I got information from a private source, which I cannot mention of course, that the outlaws used to travel by night; well, even if the police did travel by night, they could not see them even if they did meet them.....

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