Royal Commission report day 2 page 7

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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

408 Did you believe from what you saw that the Kellys had been in that immediate neighborhood?- From what I have heard since I believe they had. I will come back to that. The information that was acted on, on that occasion, was given by a laboring man, who had been stopping back amongst those ranges in the neighborhood of Mrs. Byrne's house. Several days after he came into Beechworth, and got drunk, and began what is termed "blowing" about this. The matter came to the knowledge of the police on a day that Mr. Sadleir happened to be at Beechworth, and the action I have described was taken on that.

409 Was that some days after this raid you have told us of-after that those men came back?- Some days previous-this was old information.

410 It was his information that led up to the proceedings you have described?- Yes; but it was too old.

411 Did you remonstrate with Captain Standish after searching Sherritt's hut about keeping that body of men together before you went to the other?- No, I did not. I did not know what was going to be done.

412 This was all done without your knowledge?- Yes. The next thing that occurred was about the 12th of November. I had come down from Beechworth to Wangaratta, and a messenger came in at night to tell me that a party of police under Sub Inspector Brook Smith had traced the outlaws from Lake Rowan and Ryan's from along the Warby ranges, and had tracked them with blackfellows, and had recovered one of the police horses, which had been taken from the murdered police by the outlaws. I sent back word to them (they were undecided whether to come into Wangaratta or to remain where they were) to remain where they were, and by all means to keep the fact of their finding the horse secret. An hour or two afterwards I heard a party of horsemen riding into Wangaratta in the dark, about eight o'clock in the evening, and leading a horse.

413 Were those the police?- Yes.

414 And leading this horse you have referred to?- Yes, I ascertained that was the horse. I remonstrated with Mr. Smith, and he stated that he found himself within five or six miles of Wangaratta, that the men were hungry and fatigued, and that he thought it as well to come in and sleep there and rest and feed the horses as to remain out, and that be would be at the spot where he stopped by daybreak in the morning.

415 Had he a black tracker there?- Yes, two-one an old man, a good tracker, from Coriander, one of the old blacks, and therefore possessed of more skill than the present lot, and a young man whom the old fellow called his pupil, named Jemmy, a very inferior useless fellow. Next morning I found Mr. Smith had not started. I got him up, went and roused him up, and sent him after his men. I examined the horse either the night before or the next morning with Sergeant Steele of Wangaratta, and we came to the conclusion that the horse must have been dropped about a fortnight from the appearance of the animal, his having been fed on grass, and from the swelling of his fetlocks that he had not been ridden for a week or more. Inspector Smith returned to his party, and his report to me was not satisfactory. Mr. Sadleir and I happened to come up to Wangaratta, and I went out with this party back again to the Warby ranges to see to it. We took one part of the country-Mr. Sadleir and I; and Inspector Smith and to the other Sergeant Steele, in whose experience and ability I had reason to have great confidence. We came back without any result. Then I sent Inspector Smith back to Beechworth with instructions to attend to the duties of his district and not interfere with the Kelly business any more.

416 Was that a sort of rebuke?- Well, I did not feel confidence in him; and that was the only occasion that came under my notice in which the men showed dissatisfaction with their officers.

417 What sergeant was with him?- Senior Constable Johnson....

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