The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 12 page 1

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CHAPTER XII - A CHANGE IN THE COMMAND

A curious fatality seems to have attended upon all the police operations in connection with the Kelly outbreak at Euroa. Through someone’s error the bank was left unprotected; even the one constable on duty was absent from the township when the bank was robbed; the departure of Mr Nicolson and Mr Sadlier for Albury took place at the most inopportune moment possible. Mr Wyatt’s well meant effort to detain them failed through mistakes incident to the hurry and confusion, together with the reticence of the train officials, and finally unexpected delay took place in the pursuit. Mr Wyatt doubtless acted wisely in stopping the train at Faithfull’s Creek to learn particulars from Mr McCauley, and at Euroa itself more time was perhaps unavoidable wasted. No officer above the rank of senior constable had accompanied the special train from Benalla, and Mr Wyatt, from his own observation and remarks made to him by Senior Constable Johnson, and Detective Ward, saw good reason to suppose that there was likely to be a dispute as to the command between them. Ward asked him whether he thought it would be wise to start immediately upon the chase or to await the arrival of Mr Nicolson and Mr Sadlier, who had been wired to Albury to return as soon as possible; and, considering the jealousy often arising between the men of the detective service and the ordinary police, Mr Wyatt gave a guarded opinion in favour of waiting for the superior officers. If they were likely to arrive within a few hours, he considered the value of their presence would more than compensate for any time lost. ‘I must put it thus,’ he said. ‘If it will delay you only a few hours, say two, or perhaps only three, I think you would be wise to stay for these reasons, viz., three of those men (the outlaws) are upon grass fed horses and only one of them is shod. On the other hand your horses are all corn-fed, and in fine stable condition, and they are all shod; and in a twelve or twenty-four hours’ pursuit, I do not think it signifies much, if you get well on the tracks, if you are two or three hours behind, compared with having your superior officer with you.’

The men, falling in with this view, went out immediately to Faithfull’s Creek station to pick up the outlaw’s tracks and await the arrival of Mr Nicolson, while Mr Wyatt went by train to Benalla to meet the police officer there and acquaint him with all the news in his possession.

After leaving Benalla Mr Nicolson and Mr Sadlier had thought over the broken wires, and while not believing that the Kellys were responsible, they also deemed it possible that the outlaws or their associates had broken them to stop news coming down as they rode north to the Murray. In that case, by going to the Murray and watching the crossings, the police might intercept them, whereas in any case nothing could have been done towards following tracks from the broken wires during the night. On a small station up the line Mr Sadlier saw a man whom he knew to be one of the Kelly sympathisers, whose manner, which was apparently excited, caused a little uneasiness in Mr Sadlier’s mind, suggesting that something was afoot, but he thought no more of the matter till, at Albury, Mr Nicolson received Captain Standish’s telegram sent via Deniliquin, informing him of the Euroa robbery. Thereupon, with Mr Sadlier, he crossed the river to Wodonga in a spring cart and returned by the same train in which he had come. At Wangaratta a stop was made, and Mr Nicolson went to the hospital with the object of getting the black tracker who had been with him on the Murray on his former search, and who was a patient in the hospital. He was, however, too sick to leave, and Mr Nicolson was compelled to go without him, while on the morning of December 11 Mr Sadlier left the train, got together a police party, and searched for any tracks the Kellys might have made on their way from Euroa to some of their old haunts. They did find a track quite fresh, but after going some thirty of forty yards, the trackers, apparently, as on the former occasion, afraid for their lives, declared that they could follow it no further. Mr Sadlier went ahead into the scrub beyond where the tracks had been dropped in case there should be some ambush there, but found nothing. The purpose was to get to a farmhouse near Lake Rowan in the neighbourhood of Glenrowan, the residence of a friend of the Kellys and to watch it all night, but it was impossible to make the tracker work; consequently the house was not found and searched till next day when no trace of anything was discovered.

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