The Argus (41)

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The Argus continued with its report of the KellyGang

full text

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Superintendent Hare's Report continued

“I directed Detective Ward to return to Beechworth at once and order the senior-constable to allow matters to continue as they had been previous to my taking charge, as I did not wish to make an alteration in anything until I was in a position to judge what was best to be done.

For the first two or three days of my stay at Benalla I occupied my time in reading up the papers in the office, and obtaining all the information I possibly could on the subject. I had a long conversation with Mr Sadleir, who assisted me in every possible way, and gave me all the information in his power. I conversed with the different non-commissioned officers and constables I came across, and obtained their views on the duty upon which I was engaged. Most of Mr Nicolson's communications with his agents were by word of mouth and not in writing, and the information I obtained from documents in the office was very scant and not of much service to me. I then started round the district to see the non-commissioned officers in charge of the principal stations. I had long talks with them and their men on the state of affairs, and informed them that I intended stationing black trackers, whom I expected from Queensland, at Benalla, Wangaratta, and Beechworth. I also told them that at each of these towns I would have a full party of men stationed, so that, if any information was received about the Kellys, they would be in a position to go in pursuit at once; and all I wished them to do was to communicate by telegraph with me previous to their starting off, so that I might know in which direction they had gone.

“After a few days I returned to Benalla, and started off two three parties of men who had been specially taken on in the police force, in consequence of their knowledge of the country and the outlaws, and directed them to obtain private horses, and go into the country they knew best, and knock about amongst their friends and relatives, in order to see if they could get any information concerning the outlaws. They might go where they liked, and remain out as long at they thought fit. I also made up three watch parties, consisting of four men each, and directed them to watch certain places by night and remain concealed all day. I made sundry other arrangements, which it will not be advisable for me to fully enter into.

“From the date of my arrival at Benalla up to Sunday the 27th June I heard nothing positive concerning the movements of the outlaws, although their agents and sympathisers were particularly active, and I was privately informed that the outlaws were about to commence some outrages which would not only astonish Australia but the whole world.

“On the 24th I received a communication from you that Mr O'Connor and his black trackers were to be sent back to Queensland. I informed Mr. O'Connor accordingly. The next morning he started away from Benalla with his ‘boys.’ I had but one Queensland black of our own at Benalla, and there was another at Mansfield. I telegraphed for the one at Mansfield to be sent down to Benalla at once, so that I might have two trackers in case anything happened before Mr Chomley, who had gone to Queensland for a fresh supply of trackers for our own force, returned, as I did not expect him back for eight or ten days.

On Sunday the 27th ultimo I was at the telegraph office at Benalla, at ten o'clock a.m. I received telegrams from all the stations in the district that all was quiet. I made an appointment with the telegraph master to be at the office again at 9 p.m. About half-past two o'clock that day I received a memo. from the railway telegraph office to go to the general telegraph office, as there was important information for me there, and a memo. to the same effect had been sent to the telegraph master. I lost no time in going there, and received a message from Beechworth that Aaron Sherritt, in whose house I had a watch party, had been shot the previous evening at six o'clock. I immediately sent for Mr. Sadleir, and we consulted together as to the best course to adopt. First of all we decided to give you all the information in our possession, and ask you to request Mr. O'Connor to return without loss of time to Benalla, with his ‘boys,’ as we considered they might have a good chance of tracking the outlaws from Sherritt's house.

“About eight o'clock that evening I received a telegram from you informing me that Mr. O'Connor would be sent up by special train, leaving town at ten o'clock. I also telegraphed to you asking authority to send on a pilot engine in front of our train. Your reply to me was, ‘A good idea; there's no knowing what desperate deed the outlaws may now be guilty of. Have the pilot.’

The whole afternoon Mr Sadleir and myself were engaged in the telegraph office, warning all stations to be on the alert, and at places where there were no telegraph offices private messengers were employed, and sent out to convey the information of the outrage at Beechworth, and to be on the alert also.

“I started off then for the railway station, having previously sent word to the station master to have an engine ready to go to Beechworth as soon as possible, as it was my intention to take up my party and the two trackers, in the event of Mr O'Connor not consenting to return. I told Mr Stephens, station master, that a special was to leave town at ten o'clock, and that I wished the engine that I had ordered to act as pilot to the train to Beechworth, which would reach Benalla about two a.m. .....


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