Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XIX page 3

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

Dr Fitchett, in his account of these events, when relating how Mr Wyatt, PM, had seen the telegraph wires cut away near Younghusband’s station and informed Mr. Nicolson and myself of the fact later, has fallen into error. It was eight o’clock at night when Mr. Wyatt met Mr Nicolson and myself at the Benalla railway station, and the Kellys had already got out of reach of immediate pursuit. I did not hear Mr Wyatt’s story at all, for in his excitement he shut me out of the room into which he took Nicolson. I could see, however, that something must have happened along the railway line, and made inquiry of passengers, and of the guard and driver of the train, but there was not one word of information to be had from them. This reticence was due to Mr Wyatt’s silly injunctions to the guard and others not to make known to anyone that the telegraph line had been interfered with. Mr Nicolson, who heard Mr Wyatt’s story, was not impressed by it, and one can scarcely be surprised at this, for the narrator must have been almost incoherent in the few moments that he had to tell his story, nor had Nicolson time to weigh it before the train continued on its way, bearing him and me to Albury on what at the time appeared a very important mission.


The river Murray still continued high in early December, and all bridges and crossing places were receiving special attention from the police, especially from those on the New South Wales side, for their desire and that of the police on the southern side of the river was to keep the bushrangers in Victoria . In those early days, and before the police came to have better knowledge of the tactics of the Kellys, it was feared that the members of the gang might separate and endeavour to find their way singly to some remote parts of New South Wales or Queensland; and possibly leave the country altogether. Undesirables as they were, this latter alternative would have been regarded, by the police at least, as a great misfortune. It was not known then that the members of the gang distrusted each other too much to separate in this manner, so when fresh news came from Flood at Hedi of certain plans on foot by the Kellys to make their way into New South Wales , it was taken seriously.

Flood had seen a letter, a copy of which reached me a day or two before the robbery of the Euroa Bank. It was to this effect: Arrangements were being made by the editor of one of the small newspapers on the New South Wales border, to provide a boat and fresh horses, to enable the Kellys to make their way across the Murray into New South Wales . The place of crossing was indicated, and it was clear that the date was near at hand. When this communication was received, Nicolson was out with a party of police. What added point to the communication was the fact that the newspaper man referred to was well known to be one of the few cranks who had taken up the cause of the Kellys. I had arranged to go to Albury and consult with the police there, in order that a special watch should be kept up on both sides of the river.

Later on the same day, December 10th, Nicolson returned from his expedition and, though very tired, he considered the information from Flood important, and determined to accompany me. It was when we reached the Benalla railway station to join the Albury train that Mr Wyatt made the communication to Nicolson that Dr Fitchett has referred to. There was no pressing reason why Nicolson and I should both proceed to Albury, but there was little time for reflection, and there was no possibility of returning, once the train had started.

We had scarcely reached Albury when the news was flashed to us of the robbery of the bank at Euroa a few hours before. It might appear unfortunate that the two principal officers should be absent together from headquarters at such a crisis, but as we returned by special train during the night and were out with our several parties at daybreak - I from Wangaratta, and Nicolson from Benalla - the public interests suffered no loss. Nicolson’s party started from Younghusband’s station on the tracks of the Kellys, but the blacks he had with him would not follow, and after a vain but strenuous search he was forced to return. My own party also found traces of the Kellys, as we believed, but our ‘scratch’ trackers failed us also. In the face of so many misadventures and failures, it is well again to remind the reader of the character of the forest country, into which each pursuit by the police led. Every part offered hiding places for fugitives such as the Kelly gang, and all search seemed hopeless unless their very footprints could be traced.

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