Cookson, 23 09 1911 1

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23 September 1911

(full text transcription)



DENIES INTERFERING WITH KATE KELLY Tall, stalwart, with thin brown hair and moustache, ex-Constable Fitzpatrick, as he appears to-day, would, with a police uniform on, looks a smart, capable officer. Time seems to have passed him over. It is hard to realise that this young-looking man over 30 years ago was, for some time, the most-talked-of individual in the Victorian police force in connection with the greatest of Australian bush romances.

He lives to-day at Easthorn, in Victoria, with his wife and other relatives, and follows a business which takes him, from time to time, over various in land districts of the State. Ex-Constable Fitzpatrick is handed down in history as the central police figure in an incident which sent the Kelly gang on their wild, reckless, lawless career. It was interesting to hear the story from his own lips, as he sat in his easy front room, pipe in hand. It was with great reluctance that he allowed himself to speak of those days when the exploits of the Kellys stirred a country to the very core.

"I do not like bringing it up again at all," he said. "I have been grossly misrepresented; though I am the only living man to-day who can tell the story just as it happened. I can say with truth, however, that I did my duty."

"At that time I was a young fellow, 19 years of age," he resumed. "I could ride like a centaur, and when I joined the force I was sent to the Richmond police depot as a mounted man. After my training the drill instructor, Sergeant Fagan, recommended that I should be sent to the Benalla district. It was like the hand of fate. At that time horse-stealing was rampant. Whitty's station lost £500 worth of horseflesh in a single year. I had been at Benalla for about 12 months, and one day I received instructions to take temporary charge of the Greta police station. Senior-constable Strachan, the regular officer-in-charge, had obtained some information concerning Ned Kelly's whereabouts. He was wanted on a charge of horse-stealing. It was believed that he was at a shearing shed in New South Wales, and Strachan had been accorded permission to go there and affect his arrest. I noticed, in the 'Police Gazette,' that a warrant was out for Dan Kelly on a similar charge. Two days before this I had attended, on duty, a race meeting in the locality, and, while returning, I met Dan. He was on his way home with a young fellow named Lloyd. I mentioned the matter to Sergeant Whelan, who was in charge at Benalla.

"'If I see Dan at the Eleven-mile Creek, on my way to Greta. I'll arrest him, and take him along with me. I remarked to the sergeant, and he said, 'Be careful how you go about it. They are a bad crowd.' I then rode off to the Eleven-mile Creek, where Mrs Kelly's little homestead was situated. This was on April 15, 1878. I found Mrs Kelly and the young members of the family about the house. Kate Kelly, a girl about 14 years of age, was among them. I asked where Dan was, and Mrs Kelly said, 'He hasn't come home yet.' I got off my horse, and stood talking to Mrs Kelly, Kate Kelly, and Mrs Skillion, the last mentioned being still another of the Kelly family. Suddenly I noticed Dan Kelly riding in. Skillion, Williams, and one of the Lloyds rode with him. They were a good distance off, and I set out to meet them, but they took a cut to an old hut, which Dan entered. I had to go round a paddock to reach them, and while I was doing this Dan went on to the house. When I got to the door I called out, 'Is Dan in?' Dan came out with a knife and fork in his hands. 'I've got a warrant for your arrest Dan,' I. told him, and he replied, 'Let's get something to eat. I've been riding all day. I'll go with you then.' I had got off my horse, and stepped inside the house.

"I had not been inside more than 10 minutes before Mrs Kelly went up to the girls and whispered something to them. They ran out to the back hut. I know now that the old lady had given them a message to carry to Ned Kelly, who was in the hut.

"Mrs Kelly turned suddenly to me and excitedly shouted, 'You'll never take him out of this place alive.'

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