The Argus at KellyGang 16/12/1878 (3)

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The Chief Secretary was engaged on Saturday in business connected with the pursuit of the Mansfield murderers and the protection of property from their depredations. Mr Nicolson, who was in town, had a long interview with the hon. gentleman, explaining what had been done in the past and the plan of operations for the future. Mr Berry is understood to have strongly pressed upon the police authorities the propriety of not endeavoring, to conduct the search from one head centre, but to leave some parties at any rate liberty of action. Mr Nicolson reports that the men are all eager to meet with the gang, and that backwardness on their part is the last thing to be complained of. The men have done an immense amount of work lately, and many of them, as well as the horses, are knocked up by their exertions. He mentions also that one great difficulty the force has to cope with is the lack of information for hitherto all that has been supplied them has had the effect - and in many cases it is believed intentionally - of misleading them is to the position and intentions of the gang.

There has been a difference of opinion about the employment of the local artillery force. Captain Standish desired that the men should be sent up in plain clothes, and should be under the orders of the police officers, to be utilized as might be convenient, while Colonel Anderson submitted that if the men were sworn in as constables, and taken from the corps and put to novel work outside the rules of discipline, complications might arise. Mr Berry 's decision was that the corps should be employed to garrison the townships about the ranges. Parties of seven or eight men will be stationed in each township under the command of a non commissioned officer and they will take then tents with them and will mount guard and establish patrols. Mr Berry arrived at this decision in consequence of an urgent appeal having been made to him on behalf of the banks for protection to their property. The plan was put into operation at once Colonel Anderson left town on Saturday evening by a pilot engine to consult with Captain Standish at Benalla and on Sunday morning a special tram took a detachment of the local artillery and dropped them by parties on the way. The men take their breechloader rifles with, them and they are also armed with revolvers which have been borrowed from the navy.

A great many offers of private assistance are received by the Chief Secretary. There is nothing to prevent private individuals undertaking the search in order to earn the heavy reward offered for the capture of the gang but with regard to paid agencies, Mr Berry does not at present see his way to go beyond the police and the artillery force. The hon. gentleman inquired into the allegation which appeared in Saturdays Argus that the widows and families of the murdered police have not yet received the allowance it was decided to give them. The statement is correct, and is consequent on some clerical blundering, which has not yet received a satisfactory explanation. By to day the error will be rectified. Mr Berry also passed a further account of £400 on account of arms for the force making £1,500 which has been expended in this direction. The amount must not be put down as altogether laid out on account of the Mansfield murderers. Their outbreak has made known the existence of a dangerous ruffianism and lawlessness in the rough North Eastern portions of the colony. The animosity of this semi criminal population against the police has now blazed out, and the men on duty in this neighbourhood will in future have to carry arms and be practiced in their use.


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