Royal Commission report day 5 page 12
The Royal Commission evidence for 30/3/1881
(see also introduction to day 5 )
Stanhope O'Connor giving evidence.
1226 On what terms were those men specially selected-for their special knowledge of country life?- Well, no; during Mr. Hare's time generally county Bourke men were, I believe, taken because they belonged to county Bourke and to Mr. Hare. I know one or two of the men had complaints that when Mr. Hare went out that he excluded the men who used to be in my party, he took on new county Bourke men instead. The men came up and did not like it, and at one time two or three of those men Captain Standish recommended Mr. Hare to take, which he did.
1227 Is there anything else?- Nothing else that I remember.
1228 One general question: can you, now the matter is long past, account for the long delay in capturing the Kellys, you being an officer of the service here and of Queensland?- Well, the first principal point I always considered was the want of knowledge on the part of the police of the bush, they did not know the country. In conversation which I had with a gentleman up there, a thorough bushman, he pointed this out. He said to me, "Look here, men in the police here, what they want to do in these country districts is to learn the bush. These men never go off the main road." He said when the men were stationed at Hedi, they just used to ride up and down the road. "I have asked them to come and muster cattle, and to see how those outlaws work." They wanted men more of that kind-bushmen, men who could go through the bush. I know there are some of that sort; there is one constable, Graves, a capital bushman, who led us in one party very well, but it was only in a very small circle or district. This man knew the country, and could go on end for a day and still know the country.
1229 As far as you were able to judge, was there a want of a thoroughly well organized system for the outlaws' capture to be established by the officers in command?- There were two different systems employed; and I most decidedly say the first system of scouring the country, after the first two or three trips, was certainly useless, because you could never get away without it being known; and in that country a large number of men riding shod horses can be heard half-a-mile away; and, unless on certain information, you may ride within half-a-mile of the men you are looking for and not know it. When I arrived, I found they had no information, and never could say the Kellys passed such and such a house at such a time, so that we really never had an opportunity of finding the tracks. We got on tracks several times in our travels which we thought were the outlaws'; and we followed, on one occasion, four men following stock on the run; and we thought undoubtedly those were the outlaws, because no one would have ridden over those ranges.
1230 Do you think any information was given at any time that would have been of service, and, for want of promptness of action on the part of the officers, the opportunity was lost in capturing the outlaws?- No, I do not know a single case where there was a want of promptness of action; but, in my evidence, I said I thought there was a chance which Captain Standish interfered with our going out, which I considered one of the best chances. That was the hut referred to in the evidence, where the information came in that the outlaws were undoubtedly in the hut; and by the fact of the man going up and opening the door-the same man who met the police-there is some color for believing the outlaws had been there. I say that Captain Standish showed a great want of judgment, to say nothing of jealousy, in not allowing us to go out then.
1231 Do you think, from your knowledge of the country now, that it would have been possible to cut those men off from their supplies?- No, I think it would have been impossible.
1232 They had supplies at every turn?- They were supplied anywhere they liked by their friends, and had only got to arrange with them where to take up their provisions.
1233 Your impression is that they had a number of friends and sympathizers in that district?- Undoubtedly.
1234 Who always kept them supplied with the ordinary necessaries of life?- Yes. The witness withdrew.
Adjourned to to-morrow at Eleven o'clock.
[See report of Proceedings 30/3/81] ...
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