Royal Commission report day 33 page 11

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The Royal Commission evidence for 28/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 33)

[[../../people/peH_J/johnstonCPC.html|SConst Charles Johnston]] 'giving evidence'

12482 How far from Wangaratta?— It would be about two miles from Glenrowan along the side of the range.

12483 After retracing the steps back?— Yes.

12484 What was done then?— After lunch I intended to go up the range; in fact, I intended to go on up the range on my own responsibility, on the Warby Ranges .

12485 To the place called what?— Hell's Hole, at the back of Morgan’s Look-out. I was called by Mr. Sadleir, and we all went in the direction of Glenrowan. When we got out on the road Mr. Nicolson turned round and headed for Wangaratta, and Mr. Smith told us to follow him (Mr. Nicolson), and we did so.

12486 Was there any reason assigned for stopping upon those tracks at this time?— I did not hear any.

12487 Did you feel satisfied yourself that you were doing your duty in turning back–that is, the police were doing their duty?— I did not. I consider the police ought to have stopped out and followed.

12488 And followed them?— Yes.

12489 On this particular day, the 12th November or some prior date to that?— On the 12th, the day we are speaking of.

12490 Was the scrub thick?— Yes, very thick; but I think by beating about outside we might have picked up the tracks again without going into the scrub.

12491 Did the trackers say they were away?— They said, pointing, “Him going away this way.”

12492 And did not give you any further information that they were near to it?— No.

12493 Could you not have followed those tracks through yourself?— I think we might have.

12494 And brought the blackfellows in the midst of you if they were afraid?— I think we might have been ordered to do so.

12495 And you would not have had any objection to do it?— Not the slightest. The men were all very anxious indeed to follow on.

12496 Did they allow the officers to know they were anxious?— I told Mr. Smith myself that the men were anxious to go.

12497 What did he reply?— He said we must obey the orders we get.

12498 The track of the outlaws was completely given up?— The track of the outlaws was completely given up. I am not aware of its afterwards being picked up, because I was dissatisfied; and the following day applied and left for Benalla with three other men.

12499 Did you express yourself dissatisfied other than to Mr. Smith?— Not at that time; I did afterwards to Mr. Hare and Mr. Sadleir.

12500 Did they say anything about it?— I complained on one occasion when I was talking to Mr. Hare and Mr. Sadleir that I had not been fairly treated at the Warby Ranges, and that if I was baulked again in the same way I would take the responsibility on myself, and go on. I complained also of Steele being allowed to go away and I was left back. Mr. Sadleir said he gave no orders to Steele to go away, but he went himself.

12501 Then if you had been left to yourself, or with a party of four or five others, you would lead us to believe you would have followed those tracks up until you lost them or found the Kellys?— I would, I would have traced them out of the ranges to somewhere else; I would not have given them up at that time.

12502 Did it strike you there was any great remissness on the part of the officers allowing those tracks to be given up?— It struck me they were very remiss in their duty in allowing them to be dropped at this time.

12503 Do I understand you to say that if you were an officer of police placed in the same position again that you were on the 12th November 1879, when your officer instructed you to return, and you believing you were on the tracks, you would have disobeyed, and remained and traced those tracks?— I would have afterwards returned and followed the tracks.

12504 You were then under the impression that if the police had taken active and instant steps, you must have tracked them from that point?— I think if I and the men had been allowed to work as we would have wished from the 8th until the 13th or some later date, perhaps we would have given a very good account of what we would have done in the ranges with the Kellys, for I considered we were very close to the Kellys all through.....

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