Royal Commission second Report Part IV ( page 7)

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Story of the KellyGang - the Royal Commission

Second Report

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The Royal Commission Second Report -Part IV


In July 1878 a change was effected in the police arrangements of the country districts. Beechworth and Mansfield and a portion of Kilmore were combined, forming the North-Eastern district, and Superintendent Sadleir placed in charge, with his head quarters Benalla. Mr. Sadleir, upon taking charge, found warrants had been issued against Ned and Dan Kelly for the assault upon Fitzpatrick in the previous April. He at once communicated with the Chief Commissioner, asking for the assistance of a detective to discover the whereabouts of the offenders, and Detective Ward, owing to his previous knowledge of that part of the country, was selected for the purpose. In a communication dated 17th October 1878, Inspector Secretan suggested to Superintendent Sadleir that an organized search should be made about Greta, the Fifteen-mile Creek, and from thence to Mansfield, as it was reported that one, if not the two Kellys had been seen there. This was all the information that Sergeant Kennedy and his party possessed when, on the afternoon of the 25th October, they started from Mansfield charged with the duty of arresting the Kellys. Although early in August an expedition to search the country between Mansfield and Greta had been proposed, various matters had interfered with the project being carried out. In reply to a communication from Superintendent Sadleir, in October, Sergeant Kennedy intimated that the only feasible plan of effecting the arrest was by establishing a depot at some distance beyond the Wombat, say near Stringy Bark Creek. This, he pointed out, would enable the party to keep up a continuous search between that spot and the flat country towards the King River, the Fifteen-mile Creek, and Holland's Creek. He urged that, while the Mansfield men would be searching the ranges and creeks in that neighborbood, the men forming the party to be despatched from Greta could co-operate on the flat country. Sergeant Kennedy's suggestion was approved of by his superior officer, and on the 18th of October Superintendent Sadleir issued final orders to guide the search parties. Two parties of police were to start simultaneously - one, consisting of Sergeant Kennedy and Constables Lonigan, Scanlan, and McIntyre, from Mansfield, and the other, in charge of Senior-Constable Shoebridge, from Greta. The spot indicated by Sergeant Kennedy for the purposes of a camp was, therefore, of his own selection, and the arrangements generally were left to himself. On reaching the site of the proposed depot, at Stringy Bark Creek, measures were adopted by Sergeant Kennedy for camping there for the night. It seems clear that Kennedy had no knowledge of the presence of the Kellys in the locality. He took no precautionary measures against surprise. He seems to have acted with a singular disregard to possible contingencies. He not only divided his party, but allowed McIntyre to fire off his rifle at some birds, thus attracting the Kellys to the spot. The party was armed each with the regulation revolver, having beside a Spencer repeating rifle and a double shot gun. Considering that they anticipated meeting only the two Kellys, and that probably no more than a show of resistance would have been offered, those arms were considered sufficient for every purpose; but the absence of foresight, of proper discipline or precaution, enabled the gang to take the party in detail, and, consequently, at a disadvantage. There seems no reason to suppose that the murders were the result of premeditation; the men were shot down when, with an instinctive sense of duty, they endeavored to repel the attack of their assailants. The cold-blooded despatch of the brave but ill-fated Kennedy when, wounded and hopeless of surviving, he pleaded to be allowed to live to bid farewell to his wife and children, is one of the darkest stains upon the career of the outlaws. It was cruel, wanton, and inhuman, and should of itself, apart from other crimes, brand the name of his murderer, the leader of the gang, with infamy. ....

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