The Complete Inner History of the KellyGang and their Pursuers (11)
THE FITZPATRICK EPISODE, APRIL 15, 1878
Early in 1878 a resident of Chiltern reported to the police that his horse had been stolen by some person unknown. The police made inquiries, and ascertained that two youths were seen in the vicinity who were about the size of Dan Kelly and one of his cousins. Without any further ado warrants were taken out for the arrest of Dan Kelly and his cousin. The latter was arrested and brought before the court, and had no difficult in proving his innocence, and was, therefore, discharged. This discharge also cleared Dan Kelly.
Constable Strahan was in charge of Greta, but was away on a week's leave, whilst his wife and family remained at the Greta police station. Sergeant Whelan, of Benalla, intended to send Constable Alex Fitzpatrick to Greta to relieve Strahan, who went on leave on Saturday, 13th. But as Fitzpatrick had not yet returned from a visit to Cashel police station the Sergeant sent Constable Healey out on patrol to Greta on Sunday, April 14, with instructions to return to Benalla on Monday, 15th.
Fitzpatrick returned from Cashel on Monday forenoon, and Healey returned from Greta at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Sergeant Whelan then despatched Fitzpatrick at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 15, with definite instructions to take chage of Greta during the absence of Constable Strahan. Sergeant Whelan, on oath before the Royal Commission, stated:-
"At 1 o'clock on April 15 Healey returned from Greta, and I despatched Constable Fitzpatrick at 2 p.m. He received the direction to remain and take charge of the station. At 2 a.m. the next morning he returned to Benalla and rapped at my quarters, and told me that he had been shot by Ned Kelly and wounded in the arm. That was on the morning of the 16th. I examined his arm and saw a mark like a bullet wound. I sent for Dr Nicholson, and had him attended to. I took his statement at the time."
Fitzpatrick left Benalla at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 15, and called at Lindsay's public-house at Winton, which is five miles from Benalla. He had several drinks there. He drank spirits. He arrived at Mrs Kelly's house at 5 p.m. well under the influence of liquor. Fitzpatrick asked Mrs Kelly if her son Dan was about. In replying, Mrs Kelly, who received him courteously, said: "He's not in, but I don't think he's far away; he might be up at the stockyard." Fitzpatrick did not indicate the reason for which he wanted Dan. He rode up to the stockyard, which was about 150 yards from the house, and met Dan there. He told Dan that someone at Chiltern had taken out a warrant for him and one of his cousins for stealing a horse. Dan replied that he had nothing to do with the horse stolen from and added: "All right, I'll go with you, but I suppose I can have something to eat and change my clothes."
Fitzpatrick agreed, and they both returned to the house. They went into the kitchen, and Fitzpatrick took a seat in front of the fire, while Dan explained to his mother that he had to go to Greta with Fitzpatrick. Dan's sister, Kate, in the exercise of her domestic duties, was passing by Fitzpatrick, when the latter seized her and pulled her on to his knee. Kate resented this, and Dan, in defence of his sister, sprang at the constable, and a fierce struggle ensue. Dan Kelly, though only a youth of 17 years, had some knowledge of wrestling, and threw the inebriated constable to the floor. Fitzpatrick, on regaining his feet, drew his revolver just as Ned Kelly appeared at the door. The constable levelled his revolver at Ned Kelly, but Dan Kelly struck him a violent blow as he fired, and the bullet lodged in the roof. The two brothers then seized the constable, and disarmed him. Fitzpatrick, during the struggle, struck his left wrist against the projecting part of the door lock. Finding himself overpowered and disarmed, the constable made the best of his position. He expressed his regret for what had happened, and promised that he would not make any report of the occurrence. The whole party then appears to have become quite friendly, and had tea together. After the meal they were joined by two neighbours, Skillion and Ryan, and at 11 o'clock that night Fitzpatrick left Kelly's house and set out to return to Benalla instead of going to Greta.
He again called at Lindsay's public-house, at Winton, and had several drinks of brandy and arrived at the Benalla police station at 2 o'clock next morning, April 16. Dr John Nicholson, of Benalla, dressed the wound on his wrist, which was only skin deep. Fitzpatrick then reported that the wound on his wrist was inflicted by a revolver bullet which had been fired at him by Ned Kelly. He also asserted that Mrs Kelly had struck him on the helmet with a fire shovel, and that a splitter named Williamson and Skillion, Mrs Kelly's son-in-law, were present at the time and were armed with revolvers. No time was lost in issuing warrants for the arrest of Ned and Dan Kelly, Williamson (a selector), Skillion and Mrs Kelly.
Although Ned Kelly expected that Fitzpatrick would not report the occurrence, as he had promised, he soon learned that there was a warrant out for the arrest of his brother. He decided that Dan should be kept out of the way of the police, and accordingly made arrangements with Joe Byrne, who knew something about mining, and Steve Hart to accompany Dan and himself to Stringybark Creek to work an abandoned alluvial claim. They collected some mining tools and sufficient rations for two weeks, and set out forthwith on this venture.
Sergeant Steele, of Wangaratta, duly received a report of the "Fitzpatrick episode," and on Tuesday, April 16, went to Greta with Constable Brown to execute the warrants for the arrest of Ned, Dan and Mrs Kelly, Skillion and Williamson. When giving evidence before the Royal Commission on May 31, 1881 , Sergeant Steele thus described the arrest of the three latter:-
"I started with Constable Brown for the Eleven Mile Creek. We watched Mrs Kelly's place for some considerable time from the hill opposite the house. At 9 o'clock in the evening we arrested Williamson. I went to Skillion's place, but could not find him, so I took Williamson to Greta and returned again at about 1 o'clock in the morning in company with Senior Constables Strahan and Brown, and arrested Skillion. We also arrested Mrs Kelly. She had not been in her bed at all during that night. I was there on three occasions and she had not been to bed. Jim Quinn, her brother, was in the house."
This document gives you the text of this book about the KellyGang. The text has been retyped from a copy of the original. We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged. We also apologise for any typographical errors. JJ Kenneally was one of the first authors to tell this story from the KellyGang's point of view
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