Royal Commission report day 2 page 6

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The Royal Commission evidence for 24/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 2 )

Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence

397 Who was in charge - you stated just now that Captain Standish did not take charge, but came to consult, and you went out, and he was consulting during the ride. Who was in charge-you, Mr. Sadleir, or Captain Standish, on that morning-there must have been one of you?- I never thought of taking charge. I left the matter with Captain Standish and Mr. Sadleir. (JJK)

398 I want to clear this up. I understood you had no information of what was being done that morning until you received information from Mr. Sadleir - was Mr. Sadleir in charge up to that point ?- Yes. I did not interfere with him, as this was his information that we were out upon.

399 Were you amenable to any instructions that would be issued by Mr. Sadleir?- No, he was my junior officer; but I would never think, on an occasion of that kind, of disputing. I was thinking only of what ought to he done. I never gave any thought about etiquette or rank. I did what I thought was best under the circumstances when he came and spoke to me.

400 When he came up and consulted you in that manner, would it not have been your duty to have taken charge of the party and directed the men, or failing that, to have given him charge?- I did.

401 You gave him instructions to take command-I understood you to state you considered the noise to be detrimental to the object you had in view, you consequently rushed with a few men to search the hut?- I turned to Mr. Sadleir, and I said, "You look to the back of the hut with some men, and put some men in that field, and see to the outlaws not escaping there."

402 You looked upon Mr. Sadleir as the commander at that time?- Well, I grave him his orders then when he came to say, "Mr. Nicolson, you look to this and that." I said to him, "You look after the back and I will look after the front."

403 There was no misunderstanding at this time; you mutually agreed as to the course to be taken. There was no dissension between the officers?- None what ever. I went into the hut. We had to turn a short turn to the left to make for the hut. I rode down the entrance passage, about that breadth- [spreading his arms]-which I did full speed, threw my legs off my horse, and burst in the door, one of the men-Constable Bracken -attempted to pass in front of me. It has been my custom - a well-known custom in the police force-that no one should go before me on any occasion of this kind. I pushed this man aside and his gun went off. I went suddenly from room to room. I have been accustomed to that sort of duty. I rushed into the next bedroom, whipped off the clothes, and ran to the next room and did the same, and so all through, and I found the whole thing was nothing.

404 At what distance could a man have heard that noise of the police you spoke of?- One man told me afterwards he heard us a mile away.

405 Giving plenty of opportunities of escaping?- We went on after that to another hut, and galloped up to that in the same way, and the man said he had heard us a mile off. We went on till at last we came to Mrs. Byrne's hut, and found it empty too. Subsequently, at some distance off, I observed Captain Standish surrounded by a number of men, in conversation with a slip of a lad, a young native of the same class of youth as I supposed the Kellys to be, because I knew Ned Kelly very well; I had been previously acquainted with him. I came up to them, and I found Captain Standish was making proposals to this man to help him and to betray the Kellys. This was in the presence and in the hearing of a lot of mounted constables.

405a Was there more than one of those men of the character of the Kellys?- Only one. I then went and remonstrated with Captain Standish for making such proposals to a man like that in the hearing of others, of any person whatever.

406 Can you give the names of any present then?- I think Detective Ward was one who was present. It would be quite easy to ascertain.

407 Did this whole body of men remain together after you had searched the hut?- After Mrs. Byrne's; after searching three huts the men dispersed; but I remonstrated with Captain Standish, and no person with any experience in police duty would have done such a thing. It was contrary to all practice to make proposals to a man like that, especially in the state of terror the country was in, to make proposals of that kind to anyone.

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