Royal Commission report day 3 page 7
The Royal Commission evidence for 25/3/1881
(see also introduction to day 3 )
Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence
747 What date?- About the beginning of February 1880.
749 Can the Commission see it?- I think so. I had three suits of armour at the depot.
750 Can we have Ned Kelly's armour brought here?- Yes; that can be done. [ The Chairman requested that that might be done.] I sent the police out to enquire into those matters, and the enquiry was very actively prosecuted. It was personally in the hands of Senior Constable Kelly. Some footmarks were discovered; but though they were out for several days enquiring, they could not discover who had been the offenders. Those mould boards were taken from more than one man. There were two or three different farms they were taken from.
751 Within a radius of what?- About eight miles. There were traces of footsteps discovered; and I also received from another source a description of the footmarks of the men, and I believe they corresponded exactly with the description the police gave. One of them described was the footstep of a man with a very small boot, with what is called a "larrikin" heel upon it. I received information from one of my agents that the Kelly gang were the offenders.
752 Were the black trackers then under your control?- Yes; there were two black trackers went out with this party.
753 I mean the special detachment?- Yes; the Queensland blacks. There were two went out on those enquiries. There were other things stolen. There was a man named Carney, a selector, lost, I think, two sides of bacon, which were taken by the same party.
754 Was that from the same neighborhood?- Yes; from the same neighborhood. Subsequently I heard that they were being made into, and were intended for, armour.
755 How long after you got the first information about it did you hear that?- It was on May 20th. I will read if you will allow me-[handing in a letter]. We wrote those letters in a special way. Each of my agents had a special character given them. This one was supposed to he an inspector of stock, and the term "diseased stock" was supposed to mean the outlaws, and under that veil he wrote to me as follows:- "Greta, May 20, 1880. -Mr. William Charles Balfour, Benalla. -Dear Sir,-Nothing definite re the diseased stock of this locality. I have made careful inspection, but did find (sic) exact source of disease. I have seen and spoke to and on Tuesday, who were fencing near home. All others I have not been able to see. Missing portions of cultivators as jackets are now being worked, and fit splendidly. Tested previous to using, and proof at 10 yards. I shall be in Wangaratta on Monday, before when I may learn how to treat the disease. I am perfectly satisfied that it is where last indicated, but in what region I can't discover. A break out may be anticipated, as feed is getting very scarce. Five are now bad. I will post a note giving any bad symptoms I may perceive from Wangaratta on Monday or Tuesday at latest, and will wait on you for news how to proceed on a day which I shall then state, before end of the week. Other, animals are, I fear, diseased. -Yours faithfully, B.C.W." I would draw particular attention to the date of that-May 20th.
756 That is a week before you were removed?- Yes. [The witness handed in a list of his appointments.]
757 You were a cadet were you not?- I was.
758 Will you proceed?- I had interviews with my agents from time to time, the one who wrote previous to that, and other agents as well, that the outlaws were in the vicinity of the Greta ranges, and were reduced to great straits. Their horses were worn out, and most of them were abandoned. They were on foot, and used to conceal themselves during the day on the ranges in various parts. They were for a short time, from information I was led to believe, on the edge of the Greta Swamp.
759 The ranges come quite close down to Greta Swamp?- Yes, and the outlaws used to move from there back; then they would go round and get across the Ovens River by the near bridge or some of the other crossing places that make away to Sebastopol, and make away towards the Pilot Range near Wodonga night. They used to travel until before daybreak. They were generally accompanied by their sympathizers; their immediate aids and active assistants were reduced to about four.
760 What month was this?- About the months of April and May. One of the four, I may mention their own sister; one or two of those sympathizers, when they travelled, used always to go about ahead on the look out, and they would follow at the usual distance, just within sight. One of those sympathizers-the principal of them, and the most active of them-told them that they must get some money; they must go and "do a bank," or "another bank."
761 This is a portion of the agent's information you are now giving?- Yes, that agent in particular.
762 Received about the time you got the correspondence?- Yes, I was in communication with them some time before that; the outlaws had been settled at somewhere in the low ranges between their uncle, old Tom Lloyd, and the paddock along the Oxley road-Wilson's paddock; they had settled down for a time, concealed there. At that time, perhaps you may recollect, notice was taken by the press of very disorderly conduct at the Glenrowan Hotel....
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