Royal Commission report day 6 page 9

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The Royal Commission evidence for 31/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 6 )

Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence

1293 Was that the occasion Mr. O'Connor referred to that he was at the station?— Yes.

1294 That accounted for the fact he could not send the tracker?— Yes. That afternoon my men were very much done up, and so was I myself. I had not let my pack-horses come with me that day, because the mountains were too severe for them, and they could not travel on them, and I wanted to be very quick. While I was on the top of one of the highest hills I saw one of my constables galloping up with another person. This was a gentleman who lived in the locality. I went down the hill a little and beckoned to them to come up to me. It was on his run. He beckoned to me to come down, and at last I got him up. I pointed him to those loose stones and those tracks that I found on this hill. I said, “Can you tell me who has been up here—has anybody been up here belonging to your station to-day?” He said, “No, we do not go up here once a year;” “but,” he said, “if you come along with me, I will show you something that I fancy will be of some service to you.” I said, “What is that?” He said, “There is a spring, the only water in the mountains, situated up here, and there is a tent erected on it, one of my men told me so.” I collected the whole party and said, “Come and see what it is.” He led the way, and we found a tent, and in it these were some oats and general horse feed, and the full appliances of what they call in the country beemen—men who go about collecting honey in the mountains; but there was no trace of anybody at the place, and the spring was all covered over with tracks of shod horses. We waited about there for some time to see if anybody would come, and no one came. We were very careful when we went down to the tent to leave no marks of our being about, or tracks, or touch a single thing in the place. I took the men away, and said, “We will be here at daybreak to-morrow morning to see if there is anybody here.” We went some distance down towards — station, and camped there for the night.

1295 Had you no person with you?— My party of police.

1296 Had you no person with you who could compare those tracks, or trace them at all?— No, we could not trace them at all. The tracks of horses in the water showed they were all shod horses where they had been feeding on the swamp. The tracks of the heels were men's footmarks, and no tracks of horses on the top of the hills.

1297 I mean the places where you said the tracks of the horses cutting up the grass were?— That is a different story altogether; that was on the other side of the mountain.

1298 You could not make any comparison between one and the other?— There was no party there. These were on a different side of the mountain.

1299 You were on the Warby ranges on the first occasion of the tracks, at the northern or Yarrawonga side?— No, on the Wangaratta side, within eight miles of Wangaratta. Then I crossed over the Warby ranges, towards the Winton side. Continuing my narrative, the next morning we got up very early and surrounded this place, and went down to it. There was still no one in it. Shall I relate the story about the boy Moses' who was with me on one occasion, and when he came upon the tracks Mr. O'Connor referred to in his evidence?

1300 Was Mr. O'Connor put on the tracks?— He was away, and it would have taken some days for him to get down to there with his men.

1301 Was Mr. O'Connor's statement, in your view, correct?— What I want to show is that this man travelled exactly as I say the men in New South Wales do. We had a party there, and we had a black tracker, and we came across, about four o'clock in the afternoon, four tracks of horses going in the direction of the Ovens River . Moses was with us at the time, and he said to me, “Shall I follow them?” I said, “Yes.” He took the cartridge out of his pouch and stuck it into his rifle, and away he started, with his head down, first this side and then on that side—[explaining by gesture]—and kept on riding at a hard gallop, and it was as much as we could keep up with him. He went on three or four miles that way, and suddenly he came upon the road leading down to Yarrawonga from Wangaratta, the main road. There he pulled up, and said, “Lost the track here.” I said, “How so?” and he said, “Got on the road here.” That road was a well-beaten, dusty, road, which lots of bullocks and drays had gone across. Before he stopped I said, “ Have you been following the track all the “way? He said, “Three big horses, one small;” and I said, “Show me now where the tracks are where they got into the road,” and he got off his horse and said, “ There one, there another,” pointing to the tracks of those four horses breaking on to the road. He then galloped up to see if they had broken off the road in any way and come across the other side the same way. The Ovens River was about 100 yards from us, and it was then about dusk, the sun had been down about half an hour. We had no blankets, food, or anything, and I saw nothing could be done that night. I said then to the men with me, “To-morrow, instead of going down that river there to where the tracks lead to, let us work back and see where they come from.” They all agreed it was a very good idea, because we could tell whether they were the police, outlaws, or the time they were made if we knew where they came from. Moses picked up the tracks next morning, and went back again and worked them back, and when he got to a certain place, where there were two big stones, he said, “Take off saddle here,” and I said, “Where?” and he said, “Here, one fellow saddle here and one fellow here.” And we all jumped off our horses, and we found first a tin empty, such as we used to have preserved meat in—it was of the same description as we had—and there I found another one, and found a police strap, a Government strap, and the men came to the conclusion that it was Senior-Constable Kelly's party, because when I had removed him from the house where he had charge of I told him to go and form a camp in the mountain so that he could watch the house, and we gave them some of our provisions—He had none at the time. He came from Wangaratta without any provisions; and we recognized that these were the tins we had given him before. I subsequently made enquiries, and I found this was the very camp, and that he had gone down the tracks towards the Ovens and had gone up that way into Wangaratta. I tell that narrative because I think that is the way the blacks should be worked. One or two black-fellows with a party of police are very useful. We cannot undervalue their services; but in a mountainous country, for a whole cavalcade of black-fellows and white-fellows to go together, I say I do not think it would ever answer as far as catching the Kellys is concerned. I am only giving my opinion from my experience of them. I may be wrong. To resume, I do not know that I have got anything further to say with regard to that. I was removed from the district some time after this.... (JJK)

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