Royal Commission report day 1 page 7

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The Royal Commission evidence for 23/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 1 ) Captain Standish giving evidence

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 rumour 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. In 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?- 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. Byrnes'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 rout 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 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.

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