Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter V page 1

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)



We were such a numerous company on the ss Great Britain , and of so many classes, first and second saloons, third class and steerage, that it was no wonder many of the passengers scarcely knew each other by sight. The total number (I am speaking from recollection only) was I believe nearly 600. After landing and going our different ways, one constantly found oneself in the company of supposed strangers, who proved to be fellow passengers.

One of my earliest discoveries of this kind was a man named E----, one of the very first batch of prisoners I escorted to the gaol at Geelong . E---- had been a saloon passenger, and was clearly one of those wastrels who had been a failure in the old country. Though well-mannered generally, he was an inveterate drinker. He was now under sentence for stealing potatoes. He pleaded guilty to the charge and stated that he had been starving, which was probably true. Instead of being ashamed of his lapse he assumed the ear of bravado of the most hardened of his fellow-prisoners and said the thing he regretted most was that his spectacles were taken from him. The two or three weeks of evil companionship while awaiting trial had done its work.

The next instance of recognition, however, was more tragic.

Early one day in February, 1853, a man came to our camp at Canadian Gully with the startling information that he had come upon a man, still alive but desperately wounded, lying in a dry watercourse behind the camp. When we reached the spot we found the unfortunate fellow rolling and tossing himself about, evidently in great pain. When asked his name he was understood to say Mossell. To the inquiry as to the person who had assaulted him his reply invariably was: “You did. You did,” no matter who it was that put the question, showing as we supposed that it was some familiar companion who had assaulted him. The marks on the ground all round showed signs of fierce struggle. The unfortunate fellow’s face and hands were covered with a thick coating of dust and congealed blood, so that he was scarcely to be recognised as a white man.

He was placed in a cart and brought to Ballarat, a kindly cadet named McKeon supporting him in his strong arms. Superintendent Henry Foster had him washed and his wounds examined. The injured man resisted every attempt to remove his trousers, gripping them firmly by the hand. I saw him after the blood and dirt had been washed off, and thought I recognised him as a young man named Maunsell, a fellow passenger in the Great Britain , but his head and face had been so battered and disfigured that his most intimate friend could not make sure of his identity. Maunsell was the son of a clergyman, I think, with whom my people were slightly acquainted, but I saw very little of him on the voyage. The wounded man lived but a day or two, and was buried in the clothes in which he was found.

In about a week or so Henry Foster received a letter from an officer named Maunsell, quartered with his regiment at Geelong . The writer had heard of the murder, and was anxious lest the victim should be a relative of the same name who had recently left for Ballarat, having a considerable amount of money in notes in his possession, with the intention of buying gold. He was accompanied by a man named Sexton, and for the sake of security had sewn the money in the lining of his trousers. Foster had the body disinterred; and sewn in the trousers that the dying man had gripped so firmly were found the notes described.

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