The Argus (23)

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For a long time they eluded all attempts to capture them. In October 1878, Sergeant Kennedy and Constable Scanlan, McIntyre, and Lonigan obtained definite information as to the whereabouts of the gang. Information that had been given to them led them to believe that the Kellys were hiding in the ranges at the head of the King River. Two parties of police were despatched, one from Mansfield and the other from Greta. The latter consisted of five men under the charge of Sergeant Steele, who took so prominent a part in the proceedings of Monday last. The gang was found in the locality which had been indicated, but despite all the precautions of the police the Kellys had obtained information with respect to the expedition and its object. They were consequently prepared for the attack. The police lulled into a sense of security by the belief that their movements had been kept dark, camped on the bank of the Stringy Bark Creek, about 20 miles from Mansfield, on the night of October 25.

The next morning the police, who had adopted no special precautions for their protection, proceeded to explore the locality. A gun shot fired by one of them attached the attention of the Kellys. The gang quickly took the police by surprise, and then followed the tragedy which is perhaps the most deplorable of the startling events that have transpired during the career of the outlaws. The cold blooded murder of Constable Scanlan and Lonigan, the capture of Constable McIntyre, and the other incidents of the terrible tragedy are events of which the public still have a vivid recollection.

The panic created a shock throughout the colony, while in the district in which it had occurred, a panic prevailed among the residents, and search parties, comprising large numbers of men, started from the various centres of population in pursuit of the outlaws. It was at this time that the authorities in Melbourne sent Superintendent Nicolson to the spot to direct operations, and despatched a large number of mounted police to the district. The Government, too recognised the necessity of adopting every possible means of capturing the offenders. A reward of £200 per head was offered for the capture of the murderers, and it was afterwards increased to £500 per head. At a late date the Government increased it to a lump sump sum of £4,000 and a similar sum was offered by the offered by the Government of New South Wales. As the offering of rewards, however, had no effect, notice was given that they would be withdrawn during this month, a notification which appears to have had some effect.

With a view to deterring the numerous sympathisers with the gang from offering assistance to it, and with this object, Parliament was induced to pass a measure proclaiming the perpetrators of the Mansfield outrage outlaws, and rendering any persons who were known to aid, abet, shelter, or assist them, liable to 15 years imprisonment. This measure failed to have any appreciable effect on the sympathisers, for despite the efforts of the police and of the residents of the district, who were determined to spare no effort to bring to justice the gang of marauders who had aroused the public indignation by the fearful tragedy of which Sergeant Kennedy and Constables Lonigan and Scanlan had been the victims, the gang found secure hiding places.

So carefully did they elude the notice of their pursuers that it was confidently believed that they had left the colony, until the public was startled by intelligence of a robbery at Younghusband's station at Euroa - a venture fortunately unattended by any serious occurrence. It was closely followed by the memorable attack on the bank at Euroa, during which the gang, after locking up the officials made off with £1,500 in notes, £300 in sovereigns, and £90 in silver. The outrage was characterised by all the coolness, daring, and audacity which had been displayed in the previous ventures of the gang, and the officials of the bank and residents of the township were so taken by surprise and so terrified by the wild threats of the desperadoes, that they offered no resistance.

This event once more aroused the police authorities, and a large body of police accompanied by the black trackers from the Queensland native police, was sent to Euroa, which township had been quite unprotected prior to the arrival of the gang. After this robbery a detachment of the Victorian Artillery was despatched to the district, but the Kellys again escaped.

A short time after the robbery of a bank at Jerilderie, New South Wales, gave rise to the belief that they had gone to the neighbouring colony. The robbery was committed under circumstances not unlike those attending the Euroa affairs, and was as successfully carried out. Since their appearance at Jerilderie in February, 1879, the gang has again been in hiding, and there have been the most conflicting rumours and speculations as to their whereabouts.

It was stated not long since that the police authorities were gradually closing in upon the outlaws and following a carefully considered plan of capturing them through the instrumentality of some of their former friends, and the murder of Sherritt points to a suspicion on the part of the Kellys that he was assisting in the plans. Be this as it may, it is now matter of history how that murder led indirectly to the capture of the gang and to the tragic ending of their extraordinary career. In Edward Kelly, the police have captured not alone the leader of this gang but one who was arrested just 10 years ago as one of the dangerous accomplices of the notorious bushranger Harry Power, and who has during his 10 years career carried on his nefarious work with almost unexampled daring, and with the boldest defiance of the authorities.


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