Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XVIII page 2

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

After conferring with Mr Nicolson, I proceeded at once to Mansfield , some 40 miles distant. So great was the alarm on every side that the carriers on the roads halted on their journey, fearing lest they should run up against the Kellys; and each man I met was astonished that I should ride through the country without an escort, some of them imploring me to turn back. My answer to then was - ‘The Kellys are hundred miles away by this time.’

On reaching Mansfield I found that Sub Inspector Pewtress had done all that was possible under the circumstances. Although he was far from well, he had collected a party of local residents to proceed to the Wombat, where the bodies of Constable Lonigan and Scanlon were found; and a second party was now being prepared to make further search for Sergeant Kennedy, whose fate was still in doubt. This was no easy matter to accomplish, for the people of Mansfield were possessed by the fear that the gang would raid their town, and apart from this there was the danger of their being ambushed by the gang as the unfortunate police had been. It was agreed that the searchers for Kennedy should go out unarmed in proof of their inoffensive purpose should they come in contact with the Kellys. It was told, however, that on some sudden alarm arising during the search, every man pulled out a weapon of one kind or another, ready to defend himself in case of need.

One of the saddest duties that ever fell to my lot when I reached Mansfield was to visit the wife of Sergeant Kennedy and to offer such condolence as I could in her dread uncertainty. Her grief was piteous to witness, and one dared not venture to buoy her up with the hope of her husband’s safety.


It was a stupid and cruel thing to speak of McIntyre’s escape out of the hands of the Kellys - from the very jaws of death - as desertion of his comrades. The members of the Longmore Police Commission, in their inquiry which followed later, seemed to feel unkindly towards him, but these gentlemen are entitled to a chapter to themselves. At any rate when I met Constable McIntyre, the second day following the police murders, I shook him warmly by the hand and endeavoured to set him at ease, on this point. His story, as he then told it to me, was this:—

‘Our party arrived at the camp on Friday, October 25 th, 1878 , and next morning Sergeant Kennedy and Constable Scanlon went out on horse-back, leaving Constable Lonigan and myself in charge. We had no idea that any danger was to be expected, and we occupied ourselves in doing the cooking, fixing up the camp and looking after our horses. About five o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday, while I was at the fire cooking our food for the evening meal, suddenly Lonigan and I heard the call to throw up our hands, and saw four armed men, partly concealed by the timber, covering us with their guns. I had no weapon but a small table-fork, and I threw up my hands. Lonigan was sitting on a log, and on hearing the call to throw up his hands, he put his hands to his revolver, at the same time slipping down for cover behind the log on which he had been sitting. Lonigan had his head above the level of the log and was about to use his revolver when he was shot through the head. Then the four men rushed in on me and searched me for arms but found none, as I had left my revolver in the tent when I went to the fire. While I sat with them they questioned me about the other police, when I begged of them to spare their lives, and I would try to get them to surrender.

After a time we heard the sound of the horses approaching, and I went forward to speak to Sergeant Kennedy. The four men were then hidden behind the logs, and when I told the sergeant that we were ambushed and advised him to give himself up he took it as a joke. Constable Scanlon, however, appeared to have realized the situation, at the same time unslinging the Spencer rifle which he carried. He threw himself from the saddle, and took a step or two towards a tree, when he was shot down. The sergeant by this time had dismounted from his horse on the offside and began returning the fire of the gang, resting his revolver on the saddle. The sergeant had evidently lost hold of the reins, for the horse moved towards him (McIntyre), leaving the sergeant exposed.” This was the position of affairs when McIntyre mounted the sergeant’s horse and made good his escape. But there were a few critical moments before McIntyre was out of the zone of fire. This horse had a trick of rearing up when the spurs were suddenly applied, and of starting off when the rider leant forward over his mane. It so happened that when the horse reared McIntyre lost his stirrup, and as he bent forward on the horse’s neck to recover it the animal bounded away, carrying his rider at once into the surrounding scrub. It is probable that while the sergeant was occupying the attention of the gang, McIntyre’s movements were not at once observed, but now the men turned their fire on him, and as McIntyre bent forward over the horse’s neck they took it as proof that he was hit, and a loud shout of exultation followed. Thus far McIntyre’s story carries us.

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