Royal Commission report day 23 page 9

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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

8957 Are you not aware, according to his evidence, that he exhausted all the resources at his command to follow those tracks?— Yes, but I think that it would have been of great importance for my men to have known about that, so as to be ready to intercept them at some other part of the district.

8958 How far was that spot where the tracks were seen from Wangaratta?— Seven or eight miles.

8959 That would necessitate the sending of men to give you information?— There was a man that came in to post letters or something from Mr. Hare’s party, but he brought no information to me–not officially. He gossiped about what the men were talking about.

8960 In reference to this secret information obtained from the agents, it appeared to be the greatest point you have laid stress on, and it was obtained by officers at Benalla, and you not supplied with it. Can you give any instance where information was in possession of the officer, and you were not supplied with it, from private agents?— Merely what I have seen stated before the Commission here, of what the officers knew concerning the outlaws at Benalla. I heard nothing of that at the time.

8961 Will you indicate some special cases that you have cause to complain of. I mean it from a public point of view?— There was an occasion on which the police went out with Mr. O'Connor's party on some information from Mr. Sadleir. I forget the circumstances of the case, but I saw it in the papers, and I heard nothing about it.

8962 Would it have been of any advantage if you had been supplied with that information?— It might possibly if I had been out with my men. I cannot say.

8963 It is no use making complaints unless you can show the Commission that there was some failure in consequence?— There was information received, I believe, at El Dorado, in reference to the outlaws being seen about there.

8964 At what time?— That was the early part of April. It would be about ten or eleven mouths after they were out. Men were sent up there by special train.

8965 There is a printed list of the reported appearances–[handing a paper to the witness]. Just indicate the one you refer to at El Dorado ?—[ The witness looked at the paper.]

8966 Do you refer to when Mr. Hare was watching Mrs. Byrne's place for twenty-five days and nights?— Yes, that was the time.

8967 Are you aware that Mr. Hare, according to his evidence, was concealed there, and endeavored to keep the fact secret of his being concealed and watching the place?— He was desirous, I believe, of keeping it secret, but it was no secret.

8968 What means could you have taken of any practical use if you had been informed of that?— Watching the crossings of the King River between Whorouly and Wangaratta, and watching the Ovens.

8969 Was that not your duty always?— It would not be possible, with the number of men I had, to look after all of them.

8970 If you knew that Mrs. Byrne’s place had been watched, and they were likely to leave there, could you possibly tell which course they would take?— I think they would make back to Greta–that was evidently their haunt–and back to the King.

8971 I understood you to allude more particularly to the advantage of adopting a system of secret service rather than by search parties?— Yes.

8972 Then I understood you to say that information was in the possession of some of the officers of a secret character, and was kept from you, that you ought to be supplied with. Will you indicate any of those?— Nearly all the information of the secret agents was kept from me, with the exception of what I was told by Mr. Nicolson on his visits to Wangaratta. He was the only one that told me what information he could get from agents.

8973 Did he enter pretty fully into all the information he got, from what you have since heard?— He did a good deal of it. What affected my portion of the district he let me know. I must state that there was a general ill feeling existing about the special party of men being brought from Melbourne , and run about on information, while old district men there received no information during the time Mr. Hare and Mr. Sadleir were acting there. I was not the only sub-officer that complained of this. It was a general feeling existing through what was termed the Bourke men being run about the district, on information obtained by the officer, by special train, and the others kept ignorant of the facts.

8974 Is it a fact that there was a jealousy in the North-Eastern district existing in the minds of the police in consequence of Mr. Hare having taken with him a number of police from the Bourke district?— There was to a certain extent, as I have mentioned, the other men being left out in the cold, getting no information.

8975 Does that feeling exist even to the present day?— No, it died out a good deal; those men were afterwards permanently stationed in the district, and some of them were removed. It died out latterly.....

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