Royal Commission report day 7 page 6
The Royal Commission evidence for 1/4/1881
(see also introduction to day 7)
Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence
The Witness. — My reason for writing to him on the subject was that Captain Standish told me that when he told Mr. Nicolson I was to relieve him, he said, “What ! be relieved by an underling !” Well, I thought the term used towards me was rather uncalled for in the position I held in the force, and the way we had always worked together, and I wrote that letter to him. I told him if I had my own way I would stay where I was. Shortly after this, a person waited upon me in Mr. Nicolson's interest, and discussed the matter over with me, and endeavored to get me to use private influence to prevent my going up there. I said, “No, but I will be delighted if Mr. Nicolson can arrange it himself but after what Mr. Ramsay has said to me, I decline to take any further steps in the matter.”
1436 Mr. Nicolson. —I do not wish to interrupt. Are you sure that that person called upon you at my instigation?
The Witness. —I do not say at your instigation; I said in your interest. I received orders from Captain Standish, about the end of May, that I was to proceed at once to Benalla to relieve Mr. Nicolson. Accordingly, on the 2nd of June I went up there. I arrived at Benalla by the eleven o'clock train. I went first to the hotel, and after some time I went to the office of the superintendent of the district, Mr. Sadleir, which was also Mr. Nicolson's office. I need hardly tell you I felt it very much being sent up there, going to relieve a senior officer to myself, and knowing also that Mr. Sadleir was strongly opposed to my coming up there. I walked into the office and shook hands with each of the officers, as I have already said. We discussed all kinds of subjects for the first half hour after I got into the office, and nothing was said in relation to the Kellys at all. I wished to receive charge of everything, and I was waiting for my senior officer to commence the conversation and the handing over. Mr. Nicolson took a letter from his pocket, of which this is a copy, dated Melbourne , 28th May 1880 :—
Mr. Nicolson being aware that the Government has decided that he should be relieved from the special duty in connection with the outlaws on which he has been engaged since July last, I beg to inform him that Mr. Hare will proceed to Benalla on Wednesday the 2nd prox., to take charge. I beg that Mr. Nicolson will be good enough to supply Mr. Hare with all the information he is possessed of, and to give him the names of the secret-service men be has been employing of late. When Mr. Nicolson has done this, he will return to Melbourne and resume the duties of Inspecting Superintendent, which have not been carried out for upwards of a year and a half. There is no doubt that the country stations are in want of a thorough inspection.
(Signed) F.C. STANDISH,
Chief Commissioner of Police.
He produced the original of that letter and commenced reading the second paragraph. He opened the drawer of the table he was sitting at, and pulled out a sheet of paper and said, “I have paid up the agents up to date with one exception.” Then he went over his account of this agent and that one, and showed me that this man or the other had been overpaid a pound or so, or anything of that kind. He then referred me to some papers. He said, “Here are the papers connected with the matter.” Those papers he showed me were private letters sent to Mr. Nicolson from his agents, not those that the clerks had any connection with, but that he alone and, I presume, Mr. Sadleir had read, and they were all in a row in the drawer. He then said, “There are a lot of letters here from a certain agent—(naming him)—I think I will take them away with me.” I said, “Do-not do that, let me have the benefit of them to read them over.” He then turned round with his hand and said “Mr. Sadleir, will you tell the rest.” To confirm my statement in that respect, as Mr. Nicolson differs from me to a certain extent, but there are Mr. Sadleir and Mr. O'Connor to give evidence of what they saw. But I will produce a little book in which I made a minute that evening. When I went to Benalla I intended to keep a record, as far as I could, of each day's work, a thing I had not done before to any great extent. So I commenced in this little diary—[showing a book]—and it is continued in this book, which was sent down to me by Mr. Sadleir, without my asking for it, shortly after I was shot. “June 3nd, Wednesday. Left Melbourne by the early train; found Nicolson, Sadleir, and O'Connor in the office. Nicolson gave me the names of special men engaged by him, letters from them, and said Sadleir would tell me everything. He told me all in about ten minutes. Saw Senior-Constable Kelly that evening.” And then I refer to another matter. That was written that afternoon, immediately after after it occurred. There was an agent of Mr. Nicolson's down at Benalla, I was told, who came down from Beechworth specially to be engaged by me. Senior-Constable Kelly told me that he made an appointment with him to meet me at a certain spot at Benalla that evening. I went to that spot and remained for half an hour and he did not put in an appearance. I went up to the railway station as the train was going, thinking he might be going away from there, and I found him there. I had about five minutes' conversation with him. I said, “So-and-so, why did not you keep your appointment with me?” “Oh,” he said, “I am not going to work for you.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “Because you prevented me getting some money from the Government when you were last up here.” This agent had been working for me previous to Mr. Nicolson's coming to the district. I said, “I had nothing to do with that, it was Mr. Sadleir. He told me he had discharged you, and subsequently you came with an account of some £30 or £40, a large sum like that, and you said that you went up to the Upper Murray.” I said, “I had nothing to do with that, it was Mr. Sadleir did all this. I did not have you discharged. I did not see you when you returned.” “Yes,” he said, “But I am told it was your doing.” I said, “1 can tell you it was nothing of the kind.” I said, “Mr. Nicolson has great faith in you, and I wish you would continue working for me.” He said, “I will do nothing of the kind,” and he got into the train and went away, and I have never seen him since. I sent a telegram that afternoon to Detective Ward to come down from Beechworth to Benalla. He arrived in the morning by the early train, the first thing. He said to me, “Mr. Hare, do you know that Mr. Nicolson has discharged all the agents up at Beechworth. He sent a telegram up last night to Senior-Constable Mullane, and he told me that all the agents were to be discharged.”....
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