Royal Commission report day 23 page 17

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The Royal Commission evidence for 31/5/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 23)

Sgt Steele giving evidence

9103 Is it an understood thing that it would be an irregular thing for one man to go and arrest such characters as the Kellys?— I do not recollect. I know if I were sending men out I would send a couple.

9104 Would that be from the orders you received, or from your opinion of what was safe?— I do not recollect receiving such an order, but I would not send a man out in that locality by himself to arrest a man.

9105 That would be a wise discretion on the part of any man?— Yes; perhaps more, if they were available, and they had to arrest more than one.

9106 Have you been promised promotion by any of your officers?— No, quite the reverse.

9107 What do you mean by that?— In making that statement I had forgotten that Mr. Nicolson did hold out an inducement to me–that I seemed to be neglected in the service, or something of that sort; and he said that if I took a prominent part in the capture of the Kellys that it would tend to my promotion. That was long before they were arrested.

9108 Was that from seeing the active character of your pursuit?— I think so.

9109 It has been stated in some report in the paper, or otherwise, that the Kellys had suffered some insults, or otherwise, or ill-treatment, from either Strahan, you, or Flood–is it true, as far as you are concerned?— I think I only went once to the place, and then I treated Mrs. Kelly with every courtesy.

9110 Have you ever insulted any member of the family?— Never in my life. I tried to pacify all, and treated all as well as I could, under the circumstances of my being obliged to arrest them.

9111 Do you know constables Flood and Strahan?— Yes.

9112 Have you any reason to believe there is the slightest truth that the Kelly family have-suffered insult from those men–the female branches of it?— I could not say, not of my own knowledge. Strahan is rather a gruff and he says some queer things to people, that might annoy them, but I think it is more a jesting manner. He has made some remarks, I believe, but not with any bad motive.

9113 Was Flood at the station?— Yes. Strahan was there only a short time before the Kellys broke out.

9114 Would a man then be of the least use for keeping those outrages in check if he were unacquainted with the country and the people?— It would he much better to have a man that was acquainted, but of course a smart man that took an interest in his duty would soon become acquainted; it is only a limited locality there, and could be known in a short time.

9115 Are you aware on the removal of Flood and other efficient men the shire councils and inhabitants petitioned Captain Standish not to remove his efficient men, or that results disastrous to the country would ensue?— I am not aware.

9116 Were you there when Flood was removed?— Yes, I was at Yackandandah. He was stationed with me at Yackandandah when he went to Greta.

9117 Was there any complaint made amongst the police or the civilians about the three days Mr. Smith was out after the Kellys?— Yes, there was some.

9118 That he had neglected that duty?— They blamed him for not following up the tracks.

9119 Would that not be a neglect of duty?— Yes, certainly it would.

9120 Do you know whether Mr. Nicolson was then at Wangaratta?— He came into Wangaratta afterwards, I believe. He came in, I think, the same evening that one of the horses were found.

9121 If an outrage is committed in your district, as a sergeant, what action are you bound to take upon hearing of it?— I report it to the superintendent of my district; or I would start myself and make enquiries into it, and do the best I could to try and find the offenders.

9122 Without waiting for any instructions how you were to proceed?— I would not wait for any instructions how to proceed.

9123 Is it your duty to repress outrage and arrest offenders as soon as you hear of it?— Yes, I would in my district. I report the matter if I could to my superintendent and circulate information generally to the surrounding police stations.....

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