The Argus (22)

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Although one member of the gang of bush rangers which has for years past kept the residents of a large portion of the North Eastern district in a state of alarm, and to some extent in a condition of lawlessness, still survives, and now awaits his trial and sentence, the tragic events of Sunday and Monday last may be said to have brought to a close the long and remarkable career of the notorious Kelly gang, and an opportune occasion presents itself for glancing at the principal events in their career of crime.

The police records show that the two Kelly, at any rate manifested their marked tendency to crime and lawlessness at a very early age. The record of their lives is a record of a constant succession of lawless acts carried out in most cases, with such impunity and success that the criminals became emboldened, defied the authorities, growing more and more reckless and daring in their exploits until they developed into the blood thirsty spirit which they have latterly displayed. To the majority of Victorians the names of Edward and Daniel Kelly are now painfully familiar, but it is not generally known that there is another member of the notorious family who threatened to become scarcely less dangerous had not the police of New South Wales put a check on his career almost at its outset.

The individual in question, James Kelly, was the first to fall into the hands of the police. In 1871 James, who was quite a boy, at the time, was arrested and taken to Beechworth on two charges of cattle stealing. The offences were proved, and the youthful cattle stealer was convicted, and sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment on each charge. After his five years imprisonment he was released at Beechworth, whence he appears ti have gone to New South Wales. Resuming his career of crime, he soon fell into the hands of the police of New South Wales, was again tried, convicted, and imprisoned in Denilliquin where he has remained to this day. James Kelly is said to be now 22 years of age, and is two years older than Daniel Kelly. In the same year which saw his brother James committal for five years.

Edward Kelly was brought up at Beechworth on the charge of receiving a stolen horse, knowing it to be stolen. Edward, who was 15 years of age, and described himself as a labourer, was convicted on the 2nd August 1871, and sentenced to three years imprisonment. He was discharged in 1874.

Three years later the youngest of the brothers, Daniel, was arrested on a charge of 'wilful damage to property.' Such was the charge on which he was proceeded against for the historical house breaking adventure with his relatives the Lloyds, in the earlier part of 1877. On the 19th August in that year he was convicted at Benalla and sentenced to three month imprisonment, while one of the Lloyds was sentenced to a similar term of imprisonment for a violent and indecent assault on a woman in the place thus broken into. In the early part of April 1878, warrants were issued for the arrest of Daniel Kelly and John Lloyd on six separate charges of stealing horses from JG Farrell, James Farrell, James Whitty, and Robert Jeffery. The warrants were issued on the 7th April, and the police were soon on the tracks of the thieves. The gang, however, however, were not to be so easily caught as on the occasion of their first ventures.

They had already earned a reputation for their daring, and had inspired many of the residents of the district with a dread of them. They were but the leading movers among a nest of thieves. Their house had become noted as the meeting place of criminals, and the extent to which they carried their crimes showed that they had numerous active confederates, besides their hosts of sympathisers. It was stated by those in the district who knew something of the doings of the gang, that they stole horses wholesale from all parts of the district, and in some instances crossed the Murray to dispose of them, and it was found a matter of extreme difficulty to obtain evidence, to say nothing of arresting the gang, owing to their being surrounded by a perfect network of sympathisers, who frustrated the efforts of the police for a long time.

The first step towards breaking up the large body of confederates which appeared to be carrying on its nefarious proceedings without let or hindrance was taken on the 15th April 1878, when William Skillian (brother in law of the Kellys), William alias Brickey, and Ellen Kelly were arrested at Greta on the charge of shooting Constable Fitzpatrick on the 15th of April. Skillian and Williams were sent to Pentridge foe six years and Ellen Kelly, the mother of the two outlaws, was sentenced to three years imprisonment - a sentence which she is now undergoing in Melbourne gaol. The crime of which they were convicted was perpetrated with a view to preventing the arrest of Daniel and Edward Kelly, for whom Constable Fitzpatrick was searching. The two Kellys escaped, and speedily took to the haunts from which it was found so difficult to dislodge them.


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