Royal Commission report day 23 page 6

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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

8889 Was Mr. Smith in charge of that party?— Yes, and they were to start very early the next morning; however they did not start until it was pretty late.

8890 Why not?— I believe they were waiting for Inspector Smith. He had some business to transact; he told them he could not get away. They were waiting for him, I believe.

8891 Who was in immediate charge of the police; was Mr Sadleir or Mr. Nicolson there on that occasion?— I think Mr. Nicolson came up the same evening.

8892 As the tracks were found?— Yes.

8893 Do you recollect, about the 3rd November, hearing that the Kellys had passed through Wangaratta?— No, not on the 3rd.

8894 About; I said did you receive any information from Constable Twoomey that the Kellys had been said to have passed through Wangaratta?— I heard it in Benalla, and I was, I have stated, about coming up in the special train on the morning of the 2nd.

8895 How many troopers had you with you then?— Eight or nine.

8896 It would be wrong to say you had twelve or thirteen?— I could not exactly say. I know I had a good strong party of men with me.

8897 What do you consider a strong party; would you be surprised to learn you had twelve or thirteen in your charge?— I do not think I had so many then. I know it was a party of police that came from Mansfield that day and took the special train as soon as we had something to eat. It was two small parties met, but there were not, I think, more than eight or nine altogether.

8898 Why did you not take action then to follow them up?— I had instructions to go to Rats' Castle.

8899 Then your duty you considered–even though you heard of the Kellys–was to carry out the order given to you?— In this particular instance, where there were men available; but I have explained that already.

8900 Then, if the information was good there, you would not have found them in Rats' Castle?— No, certainly not; but I could not say for a certainty; and if they had turned up after in Rats' Castle, it would have been a serious thing for me to have disobeyed orders.

8901 Although you got reliable information, you considered it was your duty under the circumstances to go to Rats' Castle?— Certainly.

8902 Did Inspector Smith lead you to believe he was going to pursue them at once?— I did not see him; I sent a message by Constable Twoomey to him.

8903 You say you were one of the party in search of the Kellys on the Warby ranges?— I went out one morning with Mr. Sadleir, Mr. Nicolson, and Mr. Smith–a large party of men went out. That was after the horses were found.

8904 What were the general instructions on those search parties?— They were altered from time to time–the night parties.

8905 You could act at once on your own responsibility?— Yes, latterly I could; but at first I received instructions. I did not go out anywhere with a party of men, on account of the expense attending it, unless I received orders to go to a particular place. I had been out sixteen days in the ranges at that time. On several occasions I had been out, and generally stopped fourteen or sixteen days.

8906 You could act on your own information and go anywhere you liked when you were out?— Yes.

8907 If you heard reliable information in your barracks could you go?— Certainly.

8908 Without instructions from your officer?— I never was instructed to do so, but I would have done so; but to take a large party of men out in the ranges and keep them there for fourteen days, I would not do that without special instructions.

8909 Have you anything special further to say before you come to Glenrowan?— There is nothing special, only a reference to some tracks on the Warby ranges, where I have been repeatedly, where I have seen stones removed there. It is a place that picnic parties go out to from Wangaratta, and they send those stones down the ranges, and people are continually hunting horses on those range. It is only an hour's ride from Wangaratta.

8910 You think there was nothing in the moving of those stones referred to by Mr. Hare?— No, nothing. I think the outlaws may have occasionally visited their friends there, but I think it is a piece of folly to think they would camp there. There is not a gully. I could not hunt there. I have been through the ranges there. People are continually hunting sheep and kangaroos, and so on. They could not obtain food there for any time.....

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