Royal Commission report day 3 page 6

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The Royal Commission evidence for 25/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 3 )

Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence

742 What time is that?- Down from September, October, November, and December 1879. One time I received a telegram from Superintendent Sadleir; he was up at Wangaratta all September. I had better hand in the telegram. -[ The same was handed in, and is as follows]:-"-, whom we have conversed with on previous occasions, met me to day here, on his way to see Sergeant Steele. Saw the Captain Sneak and other two close to T Lloyd's, in the bush, on foot, at eight o'clock last night. He recognized them clearly, but they jumped behind the trees, and he rode on without speaking. He has indicated the spot, so that it can be found without difficulty. Informant says two other horsemen passed almost at same moment, residents of neighborhood, and, as suspicion may fall equally on them, he risks the information. He only asks that tracks may be taken up at daybreak, before people are moving. His manger manner is very confident, and any misstatement can be soon discovered by tracking. He should have come into Benalla last night but that he was followed home by a lad on horseback, he thinks young Lloyd, who probably watched his place all night. I shall arrange here with Steele about local crossings, &c., and with the Eldorado constable. If party goes out, as I certainly recommend, you should send out orders to other places. Spink's crossing, near Tarrawingee, not fordable. Two more constables, without horses, required here, and one, with horse, to Myrtleford; but this can be done best from Beechworth. Will return by six p.m." I telegraphed to Mr. Sadleir to bring that informer down.

743 Where was that from?- From Benalla to Wangaratta. Mr. Sadleir happened to be up at Wangaratta, and met this man, and telegraphed that down to me, and I impressed that strongly upon him, and I went up to the train to meet Mr. Sadleir, and on his return he came alone. I asked him where was the man, and he said he was drinking; he left him drinking at the hotel at some place, that he did not think it worth while to bring him, because he thought he was quite able to lead me to the place himself. Upon conversation with Mr. Sadleir, I found that he could not do so, that his knowledge of the place was quite vague. One ridge on the right, among many other stony ridges-this was in September, and I found that before we could have any possibility of catching up with the supposed outlaws, even if they had left any tracks-those footmen, for they were on foot, not on horseback-the people about the country, who were the greater portion of them sympathizers, would discover us; and if we went to the spot with the blacks, we would be discovered before we got away from it, in tracing the way to where they had gone, and warning would be sent to the outlaws. Without saying more, I will hand in this letter to Mr. Standish, and to which he alluded in his evidence.

744 Is this the case-where the horses were unsaddled, where he said you got reliable information from Mr. Sadleir, and which up to a certain time would be acted upon-Mr. Sadleir thought that you countermanded it-is that the case you refer to now?- Yes. - [The letter was handed in and read, as follows:-]

Police Department, Chief Commissioner's Office, Melbourne,

30th September 1879.

MEMO. -Attached are Superintendent Sadleir's telegrams. The informant was -; he stated he saw five men. From conversation with Superintendent Sadleir, upon his return from Wangaratta, it did not appear that "the spot was indicated so that it could be found without difficulty," nor that "it could be taken up by the trackers at daybreak before the people were moving" and had become conscious of the presence of the police among them. The subsequent examination of Mounted Constable Ryan as to the locality and its approaches did not tend to remove the above impression. It appeared that the neighborhood was settled, and that our party could hardly expect to pass Lloyd's house, even at midnight, without being discovered, and that the trackers might have to search over at least a quarter of a mile before finding the footprints; and considering the precaution said to have been taken by the men seen by in sending a man to dog him home, it seemed likely that they had taken the other precaution of moving off, and, with the fifth man and other friends, each had taken separate directions, so that the trackers pursuing might find themselves running down one wrong man. Sub-Inspector O'Connor was of opinion that the chance of success was a bad one. Considering my other improving sources of information, I determined, upon this occasion, not to disturb the false sense of security into which the outlaws have been lulled. Although I decided upon the above course upon the merits of the report made to me, yet I may remind the Chief Commissioner that --, the informant, was the man who tried to induce me to proceed with the Benalla police and meet him at the head of the King River on the day before the Euroa bank robbery. (Signed) C. H. NICOLSON, A.C.P.

To the Chief Commissioner of Police.

745 Can you give an idea of the locality-was this near Tom Lloyd's house?- Yes.

746 At Kilfera?- Yes. I may tell you the man intended to come down to Benalla and lead us there himself to the spot. Considering the success of the system that I was following at that time. I was determined not to throw away the chances I held of securing the outlaws by running any risk of alarm at this time and frighten the outlaws away, and perhaps losing sight-losing all run of them-for months. I formed no cordon at any time. It was often supposed by people that the police had formed a cordon round; that was attributed to me-that I was endeavouring to form a cordon round them. I never intended or attempted to do such a thing, excepting of secret agents. On the contrary, I had very strong reason to apprehend that if we started them and betrayed to them the knowledge of the possession of good information against them and they escaped, that they would abandon that part of the country altogether and move away eastward to the north east corner of the district, across the river, to Tomgroggin, in New South Wales, a very inaccessible district, and remain there until the vigilance was relaxed-in fact, remain masters of the situation till vigilance was relaxed, and then come down and make another raid upon the district. My determination was to prevent them making any raid; and I felt quite capable, from the means at my disposal and the way my system was working, of doing so, and I succeeded in that. I have often been out with mounted police at night; and any experienced member of the police force will tell you that going out at night with a party of mounted men on anything like vague information into the bush to make an arrest is a very unwise thing. Experience shows that it is a thing that should not be done unless upon good information, as it results-as I have seen it often do-in the men being humbugged, kept out all night, and returning home, the laughing stock of the people all round, without success. I may tell you that about this time, on the 26th July 1879, I visited a camp. A camp was discovered of the outlaws, up a creek in those ranges, between Chiltern and Beechworth. I found a camp in a depression in the low lying ground alongside the creek, amongst some bushes. There were the marks of their horses standing there, and the marks of the bridles chafing the bushes, and very small quantities of ashes spread over about a couple of yards, and no appearance of the fire where they had come from. On removal of leaves and rubbish, there was a round fire-a mark; on the ground of black, showing where the fire had been, which they had carefully concealed in that way. Before abandoning this camp, they had put the fire out and thrown the ashes away and covered up the fire place in this way. At last there were reports came in from the neighhorhood of some distance from Greta, and between Greta and Oxley, of their stealing a number of mould boards of ploughs.. ...

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