Royal Commission report day 49 page 9

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Story of the KellyGang - the Royal Commission Report

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The Royal Commission evidence for 6/9/1881

(full text transcription)

(see introduction to day 49)

Sup John Sadleir giving evidence

16716 And, therefore, though Home little inconvenience might be experienced, it is better than for one individual to suffer?— There is no doubt a great deal to be said on both sides, I would ask the Commission to remember that it was my duty to make the record on this particular occasion, because Senior-Constable Kelly was leaving the district, so that you may understand that it was not to fix a stigma on him then, but it was opposed of his leaving the district, and for no other reason. I will come now to another matter, chiefly personal to myself, and that is the circumstances under which I applied to be removed from the North-Eastern district. Immediately after the Glenrowan business, I set about arranging for the prevention in the future of any further outbreak. At Captain Standish 's request, I conferred with Mr. Hare . The result was that stations were to be formed at Wombat, Fern Hills, Greta , or Fifteen-mile Creek, Black Range , and Glenmore. I took a great deal of trouble in making provision for quarters and so on, and when the question was submitted again, the Government would not allow the expense. I almost foresaw this, and turned my attention to utilising the agents formerly employed by Mr. Nicolson . In a short time I felt satisfied that, with their help, I need not put the Government to the expense of more than one or two new stations in the Kelly country, and all that was really necessary beside was to keep the banks for a time safe from attack, and to have the nucleus of a party at Benalla ready to turn out in case of outbreak. The Government would not allow the trifling expense of paying an agent for his work and information, nor would they allow the guards necessary to keep the banks even moderately secure. I still tried to work, through relying on the agents; and I arranged with the Stock Protection Societies, and with private persons, to guarantee rewards up to the first sitting of the Commission. I was receiving such help from the agents that before three months I should, I believe, have put the district out of all danger; and in a year or two I expected to see every dangerous man cleared out of the district or in Pentridge. I am not intending any slight on this Commission; but it was inevitable that the agents should take fright at the disclosures by some of the witnesses. At the last there were two agents left. One of these came to me, rushing away from his farm. He had not a penny of money. There was £20 due to him for a reward, and the money was actually coming by post for him, yet he would not wait for it. The other came to me the following night in very much the same state. Further, the Government, or the Acting Chief Commissioner of Police—I do not know who was responsible—Had actually ordered the camping-out equipments, pack-saddles, tents, compasses, &c., to be collected, with the view of being sent to the depot. I did then what I think every officer of independent mind should do in the same position—that is, when I was denied the means of carrying on the work, with safety to the public and credit to myself, I threw on the head of the department the responsibility of carrying it on with insufficient means. What was the immediate result? The officer who took my place was given a dozen additional constables, and Mr. O'Connor was appointed also to the district, and to take the management of the black trackers. Now I know it has been asserted out of doors, and in this room, that it was through personal fear I left the district. The statement is absolutely untrue. May I recall your particular attention to page 356 of the evidence. You see there the first letter is from myself, in which I wish to have a change of district, and that is dated the 22nd April 1881 . If you look at the letters further down the page, you will see that the danger came to a crisis after I sent in my application for removal. First there is Constable Graham, who reports on the 26th of April—four days after my application was written; for the first time he reports:— “I beg to report, for the information of the Superintendent, that a number of them were here yesterday drinking”—He gives the names of several, and says:— “From their manner, I am led to believe that another outbreak among them is imminent.” That could not have influenced my application—that is dated four days afterwards. Then again from Mr. Baber; on the 27th April, he writes:— “Matters are looking serious, and the police are certainly unprepared for another outbreak. It is out of the question to know where to turn for private information.” That is his endorsement, I think, of Constable Graham 's report, and that is five days after my application. He certainly consulted me about it, and had my opinion about it, as he says this on the 26th April. Senior-Constable Elliott, from another station, writes:— “And I have also very little doubt but that the saws were stolen for the purpose mentioned in—Sergeant Steele's telegram of yesterday.” This is after I wrote my application for the change. Sergeant Steele's report is given immediately after:— “Stolen, last night, from Acock's, Seven-mile Creek, two large pit saws, supposed taken to construct armour of.” That was two days after—the saws were actually stolen two days after my application went in. Then in the article from the Benalla Standard, that is dated the 26th April, it is stated— “There is not the slightest doubt but what the formation of another gang of bushrangers is being meditated in the Greta district,” and so on. You see that ie four days also after my application. Then Mr. Chomley(question 9873) quotes the conversation he had with Sergeant Whelan ; you asked him the question— “Generally was he under the fear of outbreak?” and he says— “I do not think he was under fear of outbreak. Sergeant Whelan stated (I took notes at the time) he had heard it was intended to take the life of Skillian or Williamson , he did not exactly know which.” If that is not an outbreak, what is an outbreak—to commit a murder on a man who had been giving information to the police? “He said the newspapers which contained the evidence were eagerly looked for, with the view of finding out who had been giving information. He said they were great savages, but he hardly thought they would turn out unless convicted for horse stealing.” Now what is more likely than that they would be convicted for horse stealing or something else—what are the police there for but for that? This is the date of Mr. Chomley 's visit, a week or ten days after I made my application, I do not see the date given here. He said “they would not hesitate to take the life of one of the informants first, and perhaps of the police afterwards.” He -- thought would be the leader if a party were formed, and then he gave the names of the others who would probably be of the party.” Sergeant Whelan says there is no fear of an outbreak, yet what is all this but symptoms of an outbreak. I am only pointing out that this information all came after I had made up my mind that it was time for me to throw the responsibility on to the head of the department. Now Sergeant Steele's statement, question 9873, is “That a man named—told Constable Healey that the police would have hotter work than they ever had before with the last mob: and that a man named — told a friend of his he believed another mob was getting ready to turn out about Greta. He said that he thought that the saws were taken for the purpose of making armour, and heard that a saw had been taken for the same purpose before, but had been found too light; those saws were pit saws. And then he said he thought, if there was a fresh outbreak, the names he gave me would be in it.” I only point out, not that this information was correct, or that it proved other assertions of mine about things being serious, but to prove that my application for the change of district went in ten days before any of these particulars came to hand, so you can establish no connexion whatever between the two things. I have given an honest and perfectly just explanation of the reason of my desire for the change, and I must say it was the last thing that decided me, that in spite of the full knowledge of the district, the very equipments for camping out were ordered into the depot. I am aware (I believe Mr. Chomley told me) that he did not intend that by the order, but the order reads to me that we were to collect all those equipments and send a catalogue, with a view to their being sent to the depot.....

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