Royal Commission report day 38 page 5
The Royal Commission evidence for 21/7/1881
(see also introduction to day 38)
Det Ward giving evidence
13850 Did you keep any of them?— I sent them to the office, and I think they are all in the hands of the Commission. About that time there was a letter—that would be on July 2nd 1879 — Received by Aaron Sherritt , who was asked by letter by Joe Byrne to meet him. Aaron went, but reported that he failed to meet him. On July 10th, at Mrs. Jones's, near Beechworth, it was reported that two children coming home from school met two of the outlaws on the road, half way between Mrs. Sherritt's and the Reed's Creek school; that they took some bread from them and ate it; but it being so close to Sherritt's house, and for fear of any danger, we did not consider it advisable then to make any move more than to prosecute enquiries. On September 1st 1879 a threatening letter was received from Joe Byrne to “ Moses ,” and I received these instructions from Mr. Nicolson. —[ The witness handed in the same.]
13851 That is to one of the secret agents?— Yes.
13852 This is as to one of the secret agents?— Yes. I got instructions and I followed them, and that was carried out; and everything appeared in the paper as requested.
13853 Did that letter come from Byrne?— That letter came from Byrne, offering a reward of £8,000 for the apprehension and delivery in Strathbogie Ranges of Captain Standish, Senior-Constable Mullane, and myself.
13854 That was a sort of counterblast to the Government reward?— Yes, that was it. Then we continued our enquiry and did everything we possibly could, up to about the 10th or 11th of November 1879, when Jack received another letter, stating that Joe Byrne wanted to meet him about twenty miles from Wangaratta or Lake Rowan. The letter was handed to me by the Sherritts, and I forwarded the letter to Mr. Nicolson , and here are the instructions I received from Mr. Nicolson how to act, and I acted upon it—[handing in the same]. Jack returned, and stated to us that he saw Byrne. He did not meet him on the night that he promised to meet him; but on the following morning, when he was returning back to Wangaratta, Joe Byrne suddenly came out of the bush, just at the turn of the hill, or in a gully like. He stated then that he was evidently after riding, as blood was on his spurs and trousers. They had a conversation, which will be found in my report to Mr. Nicolson . At that time, after we found what the motive was, that Joe Byrne wanted to know about the banks, we then took every precaution to guard the banks, and I myself, in Beechworth, saw all the managers, and had a consultation with the postmaster, Mr. Deverell, who was then stationed here, and he devised a scheme by which we could erect telegraphic communication between all the bank and the police station, by wires being placed, and the uniting of these wires would cause an alarm at the bank and station, at any hour of the day or night that the Kellys were likely to come. If they came to one of the banks, the station bell would ring, and we would be all then on the alert. I wrote that report, and forwarded it to Mr. Nicolson for his approval, and it was approved, and the banks paid the expenses. Telegraphic communication was immediately placed between the banks, and has been there since then. It was put up secretly at night, and was not to be known to any person but the bank managers, the police, and the Telegraph Department.
13855 That was in Beechworth only?— That was in Beechworth only. All other banks were warned and guarded against the danger. We received information that they were going to take Oxley bank, but we afterwards heard that, on account of their seeing three policemen there in the morning when the bank opened, they thought it would not be worth while for the amount of money they would get there. Byrne also wanted to know how much money they would likely get in Eldorado bank, and “John Jones” was directed to inform them that there would never be more than ten, twenty, or thirty pounds found in that bank. When we heard of them coming to Beechworth, and that they would have two men to join them, I reported the matter to Mr. Nicolson, and in reply here is the confidential note of what I should inform the secret-service men to tell them—[handing in the same]. While this correspondence was going on, our secret-service man became very frightened that he would at that time be carried away by the outlaws, and on the 15th November, from information we then had from this secret-service man, I reported the matter to Mr. Nicolson, and in reply here is the confidential memo., with instructions. In the latter part of it it states, “I cannot promise that Detective Ward will form one of the pursuing party, especially as Inspector Smith has to leave Beechworth on Monday. I feel it is but fair to mention this. At the same time his interest in the capture need not suffer by such an alternative; and as the decisive moment seems approaching I hope he will take every precaution to maintain secrecy and to secure decided action now if practicable.” On 4th October here is another confidential document that I received before the other that I received from Mr. Nicolson, with instructions to the secret service man—[handing in the same]. Then there is very little more during that year, with the exception of routine business and my reports, and in those all the particulars will be found until the establishing of the cave party by Mr. Nicolson on the 27th December 1879 . That was in consequence of these reports that we formed the cave party, in consequence of several reports that came in, and we not being able to take action, the reports coming three days too old, and the danger that might result if we made a mistake, that is to the Sherritt family. The cave party was carried on by four men going out and remaining a week, and being relieved by four others, and coming in and remaining in Beechworth, and then returning to duty. Before the men were sent out Mr. Nicolson, Mr O'Connor, myself, and Senior-Constable Mullane were all in the office at Beechworth. Mr. Nicolson first spoke to Alexander, and told him the object of this cave party, what the object was, and gave the me instructions in writing. He called them each in separately. These are the instructions he gave to me to give to the men on going. These were given to them—[handing in the same]. That duty was carried on with the assistance of Aaron Sherritt, he going with those men at night—he would go down at night-fall himself, watch there until about eight or nine, when the men would come down, and they would all watch there. Their instructions were to remain there till four or five in the morning, and they were to attend to those instructions given. They were to leave before daylight, in order that they would not be observed coming away. The difficulty then arose as to how we could convey provisions to them; and, in consequence of not being able to light a fire, we had to supply them with porter, ale, and whisky, preserved meats and fish. We got a couple of spirit lamps for them, in order that they would be able to make a cup of tea in the morning when they came in, without any light being seen. On the first occasion when it was established we sent out the provisions on pack-horses for a few nights, but it was found that we could not do that long without being noticed by a person named -, who was a friend to Byrne. He lived alongside the bridge that we had to cross. The storekeeper who had been supplying the police for ten years, Mr. Allen, I made arrangements with him, as he had been serving Mrs. Sherritt for years, to forward the things down to her, and made arrangements with Mrs. Sherritt and one of her daughters and one son for those things to be laid at a certain place, wherever they would appoint, and her son Aaron to come and take them; and that was done with the greatest secrecy, that is as far as it ever came to my knowledge. The cave party was called in on the 1st of April. There came in one evening Falkiner, Hagger, Dixon , and McHugh. I saw Hagger on that night, and I said to him, “ Hagger, I am sorry that you have had no luck. It is a strange thing, after the good information, that there has no luck come of it. You had better leave a memo. stating the time that you were employed on this, and the nature of the duty, and I have no doubt Mr. Nicolson will make a favorable entry on your sheets. I am going to Benalla first thing by train, and I will see him.” I left at six o'clock for Benalla on the morning of the 2nd.....
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