Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XVI page 3

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

The three officers proceeded together to Mr McBean’s house at Kilfera, where it had been arranged that Jack Lloyd should meet them. It was well that Nicolson had joined the party, for Hare was soon at loggerheads with Lloyd and said that he would not undertake the search with such a 'Pentridge bird'; but Nicolson intervened and soon smoothed matters over. He would, I believe, have gone alone rather than miss such a chance. It was a rough journey they had before them, the weather was bad and all the creeks were full. The party had made no proper provision for food by the way, and they were reduced at last to digging up potatoes with their hands, without the owner’s permission, for it was part of their plan to keep as far away from all habitations as possible.

To add to their troubles Lloyd, their guide, began to repent of his bargain, and would have deserted under cover of the night, but for the watchfulness of an aboriginal boy whom the police had taken with them. At length, after two or three days and nights struggling through rough scrub, drenched and miserable, they found themselves at daybreak on a winter morning, at the foot of a mountain spur running into the Upper King River. Here the guide proposed a halt while he went up the hill to make sure that Power was at home, and to exchange the cash—fifteen pounds—for McBean’s watch, as had been agreed.

Lloyd returned shortly with the watch. He was in great excitement, pointed to a streak of smoke rising high up the range, and then bolted into the scrub.

The police started along an ill defined track that seemed to lead towards the place where the smoke was seen. They lost the track and were bushed for a time. Hare was disposed to give up the search, the scrub was so dense they could not see twenty yards ahead—but Nicolson insisted on pushing on, and they soon got on the track again. The police walked three abreast, and as they rounded a fallen tree, they saw a shelter of bark, open at the end and built against the trunk of the tree, and a man lying on his back asleep. Nicolson happened to be on the side nearest to the head, and Hare on that towards which the man’s feet pointed, and they flung themselves down together to grasp the sleeper.

Hare at his end was the quicker, for before Nicolson could reach the ground the other officer had pulled the man out by the legs. Power, for it was he, was for the moment to amazed to speak, and when he did find voice it was to say, 'Oh, if I had only seen you coming.' This came about the closing of Power’s career for ever as a bushranger.

There was always a difficulty in getting these officers - two of them in particular - to give the details of the expedition here described, especially of the last few critical moments. Montfort would scarcely speak at all about the matter, chiefly, as I think, that he did not wish to appear to be taking sides between the two senior officers, and Nicolson was little less reticent. Hare, in his Last of the Bushrangers, gives his version of the affair. Yet it is strange that during many months of close fellowship with him in after years, I never once heard him allude to the matter. The story, as I have told it here, is as accurate as anything that can now be given. There appeared, in an evening paper some years since, a statement purporting to be from Power himself, in which it was alleged that Hare, in the excitement of the moment, was about to shot Power after he was a prisoner, but that Nicolson prevented him. In all the years that I knew the three officers, and I knew them very intimately, I never heard any suggestion or whisper to this effect, and personally I do not believe for a moment that anything of the kind occurred.

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