Royal Commission report day 33 page 12

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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'

12505 The evidence you give now to that effect is a very severe thing for one in your position to say, that you were baulked by the officers–that they did not show the same energy in following the Kellys as the men themselves would have shown?— They did not on that occasion. I am alluding to the 12th.

12506 You have been stationed in the North-Eastern district from that time until very recently?— I was stationed in the North-Eastern district from the 29th of October 1878 until the 20th of May 1881 , when I was removed.

12507 Do you know any case that had arisen since the 8th November 1878 until the capture of Kelly when the police had more reliable information than they had at that particular time?— I am not aware of it

12508 Are you under the impression that if active steps had been taken at that time, the probabilities are that the Kellys would have been captured within three weeks or a fortnight after the murders at the Wombat?— They might, I believe. They might have been captured had we not stopped– been taken at the ranges at that time. I am satisfied we were not more than forty-eight hours behind them. There was some orange peel on the side of the range and it appeared to be fresh.

12509 You mean they had obtained oranges at Ryan's, and they had been eating them and thrown the peel there?— Yes, when we were camped on the hill; in fact, Ned Kelly told me at Beechworth that he did not sleep any that night; that he knew we were on to them; that they held their horses in their hands all the night.

12510 Were you out any other times in the ranges?— I was.

12511 Under Mr. Hare's system, with a large number of men scouring the bush?— I was out with Mr. Hare only once. I went with him once. I was invariably in charge of parties myself.

12512 Was it under his system you were out?— Yes.

12513 Were you out under Mr. Nicolson's system?— I was.

12514 Could you give us your opinion of either of those systems, the supposed efficacy of either of them towards catching the Kellys?— During the time I was out under Mr. Nicolson, the system was similar almost to Mr. Hare's. That was at the outset, prior to Mr. Nicolson leaving, after the Euroa bank robbery–the first time he was up.

12515 Did you have any idea at any time when you were out that you were near the Kellys?— I never considered we were any way close on them after that time in the Warby Ranges, except the morning we went to Euroa after the bank robbery. I know we must have been close on them then.

12516 Had you any information when you were out that led you to believe you were near them?— No, only once when I was informed by one of the spies that he saw them that day in the Strathbogie Ranges.

12517 Did you believe him?— I did not. I did not place any confidence in him at all, although I was despatched with a party of men to the place that night.

12518 You did not find them?— No, and no trace of any tracks where he said he saw them.

12519 Did you consider that either the spy system, or going about with large parties, was at all likely to capture the Kellys?— I did not believe in large parties. I considered that six men and a sub-officer was quite sufficient.

12520 Would you consider six a large party?— No, I would not, to meet four men like what the Kellys were.

12521 Would that other system of attempting to detect them by agents or spies be a better way?— I think in moving about from place to place would be likely to keep them moving, and they might be dropped on by some other party, or by a reserve party, that would work in with the agents.

12522 Upon the whole, during all the time you were out, you never had the satisfaction of knowing you were close to them?— I never had.

12523 Do you think the system that is being devised at present of putting good young men on good horses, and letting them continually scour the district, meet one another at different stations from certain points, is a better system towards keeping these characters in check?— I do. It gives men an insight into the country, and they can travel from one end of the district to another.

12524 And they know all the paths?— They know all the bye-ways and gaps in the ranges where they would be likely to meet any offender who had stolen horses or cattle, and know the people. In fact, my opinion is that constables should have a general knowledge of the whole of the district in which they reside, and they cannot do that unless they do patrol work to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the people and their mode of life.....

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