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Side of Authority
This page contains content from police and those who supported authority.


Aaron Sherritt (also known as Moses and Tommy) was the most famous of the police agents but there were a number of others. See names.

Com Standish gave a number of agents a note in the following form so they could send me information by telegraph 'Permit the bearer to send any messages to me, F.C.S' (RC276)

After Com Standish and Sup Hare were replaced by Ass Com Nicolson in mid 1879 police numbers and available funds for the hunt were reduced. Nicolson decided to listen to the community and try and build up information about the KellyGang. He was prepared to pay agents. Few in the community were prepared to accept the policeman's money or supply any information. Later there was often a fine line between people who were prepared to help the police and those who wanted to hinder them. Standish was dismissive of many of Nicolson's agents. He said. 'I heard that some of the men whom you employed used to take your money and laugh at you behind your back and tell the' KellyGang (RC270)

The Royal Commission stated in its report:

"At the same time systematic efforts were made throughout the district to induce the well-disposed portion of the population to aid the police by every means in their power, and to afford any information respecting the outlaws that might come to their knowledge. This in time began to bear good fruit. At first the intelligence gleaned would be about a month old, then it was reduced to a fortnight, in time about a week, and sometimes a day only would elapse, before the receipt of news of the appearance of the gang, or the doings of their sympathizers. In fact the Assistant Commissioner appears at this time to have relied almost solely upon secret agents for information, and a reference to the list of reported appearances shows that his plan of operations so far was producing some effect. It was not, however, until he had been six weeks in charge that he obtained positive and reliable information that the Kellys were in the district." (RC2nd reportXII)

See also (JJK)

police agents at KellyGang

In early November 1878 Det Ward followed up on a number of potential agents (RC13840)

See Patrick Quinn (Argus10/11/80)

Sup Sadleir's agents at the time of the Stringy Bark Creek murders. (RC1883)(RC1928)

In early 1879 Com Standish employed four agents in two different parties of two each. Sup Sadleir did not know what arrangements he made with them, and he did not know how much Standish paid them, but they turned out to be worthless. The police were at this time entirely dependent upon rumor for information, and we were then driven to fall back upon the Queensland trackers. Sup Hare proposed this-that we should send for them, and Com Standish was persuaded then to do it. (RC2035)see also (RC16036) (FH) (Argus12/2/79)

Ass Com Nicolson described how he recruited and managed his agents. (RC885)

In early June 1880 when Nicolson left he had only 5 agents. (RC2635)

When Sup Hare went up in June 1880 he needed a credit of £40 to pay the agents. There were no arrangements to pay the agents. In giving secret service money Hare never consulted Captain Standish. He gave a man £2 at night, or £5 out in the bush, as I did on different occasions.(RC1622)

Pat Allen recorded in his ledgers accounts with agents. (BWC)

Agents and incidents

See note 29/8/1878 from Sadleir to Com Standish about the use of an agent to catch Ned Kelly. (RC1755)


In early September Ass Com Nicolson issued orders for agents. Det Ward gave a copy of them to the Commission (RC13850)

At about this time the police had few agents. They had Dickson (who later became a policeman at Wangaratta) and Nicolson who lived at Mansfield.

On about 28/9/1879 Sup Sadleir met Foote near Oxley and he told him of seeling the KellyGang with Tom Lloyd the day before. See Foote for details (RC16698)

When Sup Hare was replaced by Ass Com Nicolson in mid 1879 Aaron Sherritt was the only police agent. (RC2649)When Sup Hare took over he discussed the dismissal of the agents with Sup Sadleir.(RC2913)

John Jones (RC13855)

When Ass Com Nicolson left the hunt on 2/6/1880 and was replaced by Sup Hare. Nicolson's agents were let go. (RC2522) (CHC)

Nicolson had 5 agents at this time. (RC2638)(RC2680)

Value of information

Insp Montfort recognised that the system of agents can degenerates into a system of espionage. Agents can be paid for the information they have to give; and if they have none to give, they will manufacture some. (RCApp1)

Names of agents

The Royal Commission had a list of the real names of the agents (RC9633)

Visit the Book Exchange

At the end of Sup Sadleir's time in North Eastern Victoria in April 1881 there were two agents left. One of these came to him rushing away from his farm. The agent had not a penny to his name. 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. (RC16716)

The the exposure of information through the Royal Commission and the problems of 1881 ment that the police had very little information (Argus26/5/81)