The Royal Commission rvidence for 6/9/1881
(see introduction to day 49)
Sup John Sadleir giving evidence
16692 In what neighborhood?— The neighborhood of Benalla. The statement I refer to in Mr Nicolson 's evidence is in Question No. 462. I will go on. Mr. Nicolson says, “It was his intention to return from Albury by first train next morning,” and this is no doubt correct as far as he is concerned, for the fact of his appointing to meet Mr. Medley at twelve o'clock at night showed this. My own plans were different. I had to inspect the Wodonga, which I had not visited for nearly two months, and probably also to go to the intended crossing-place. It will be borne in mind that the telegraph wires were cut at about two o'clock p.m. On this day, that Mr. Nicolson despatched a telegram to Captain Standish at 5.45 p.m. , and though we were on the police station at Benalla, or thereabouts, all the evening, no notice was given of the interruption. The fact is the telegraph master had no suspicion of anything beyond some accidental interruption. I have already described the excited manner of Mr. Wyatt . I saw at once that he had some important news, but, as I have said, he shut me out of the room before I could hear what he had to say, and as soon as I could get from him afterwards any clear notion of what was the matter. I went amongst the passengers and the driver and guard, but they had not a word of information to give as to any alarm along the road. Some of the passengers had seen the police at one station and some at another, but there was nothing to show anything to raise suspicion. The fact is that Mr. Wyatt , by cautioning the railway people not to communicate the information to any one, took away all chance of any corroboration of his statements, and in the few moments there were for decision there appeared no sufficient reason to turn from our plans. Mr. Wyatt , in his evidence, acknowledges that the account I gave in my evidence is more reliable than his own; and Sergeant Whelan , in Questions 6228 et seq., says that even hours after Mr. Wyatt did not leave him to believe the Kellys had anything to do with the breaking of the wires. It did seem simply impossible that such an injury could be done to the telegraph lines without either the railway officers or some of the numerous passengers having some knowledge of it.
16693 In your evidence in chief you stated that after you left Wangaratta you had some misgivings as to the information?— Yes; I was uneasy. My misgiving arose in this way. As we were passing Glenrowan in the train, I saw the publican, McDonald (who lives opposite to where Jones's house stood, and was always suspected by us) looking out from a deep shadow, in a most curious suspicious manger.
16694 Where was he?— In a recess on the station, and as soon as he found his nose in the light he would pull back like this—[Explaining his meaning]—and I should have spoken to Mr. Nicolson, but he was lying fast asleep. He was very tired with his long journey, as I have said, but we were in the train and could not get back.
16695 Your impression after that, and the information that Mr. Wyatt had given you, made you feel uneasy; that this man might have been after something?— I thought he was looking for news, and I watched the guard of the Post Office in the van to see if this man would ask him questions, and if he had I should have jumped out and asked what they were talking about. I now refer to Captain Standish ’s report that the police at Benalla had information that a bank in the district was to be stuck up by the Kellys . I have stated, in answer No. 2023, that this part of his evidence was given in error, and I referred to a conversation I had with him immediately after these events. When Captain Standish was writing his report, read before the Commission a few days ago, he stated to me one reason why Mr. Nicolson was to blame was that he knew a bank was likely to be robbed by the Kellys in the district. I replied that this was a mistake, there was no such information. He said, yes there was; he had seen it himself in the newspaper, the Age, I think. I said, “We don’t get the Age here.” He said, “Then you ought to have seen it,” and he seemed still under the impression that Mr. Nicolson did know this particular bank was in danger. To my mind that explains what Captain Standish said the other day, that he still believed that there was information that the bank was to be stuck up.
16696 But he expressed that belief in the face of the strongest evidence to the contrary, and stuck to it?— Well I think that explains his misconception on that.
16697 What number of men had you going to the Murray on that occasion?— There were only ourselves; we had no men. We were going to confer with the New South Wales officers and our own sergeant on the border. The whole of the circumstances are given very fully in the evidence by Mr. Wyatt and myself. I cannot throw any fresh light beyond what has already been given. I returned from Wodonga with Mr. Nicolson on the morning of the 11th December. We started before daylight; I suppose about 2 a.m. , as soon as the engine driver could get up steam. By arrangement with Mr. Nicolson , I took the Wangaratta police to Lake Rowan , via Glenrowan, keeping south along the foot of the Warby Ranges . Before leaving Wangaratta were sent to Senior-Constable Strahan and party, at Greta, to keep watch and make search in the ranges near the Kellys' and Lloyds', and this party were at this work, I believe, for several days. In going to Lake Rowan with the party I took from Wangaratta, a sharp look out was kept for tracks, and some fresh tracks were found crossing a brush fence immediately under the range, and the tracker was put on these tracks. He followed them only for a very few yards. Close in front of the tracks there was a cross brush fence and some wattle scrub, affording any amount of shelter for an ambush; and I saw it was not fair to ask the tracker to go in first. I dismounted, and, with one or two constables, went into the scrub, and then the tracker came in, but no further trace could be found.....