Royal Commission evidence day 5 page 1

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The Royal Commission evidence for 30/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 5 )

Stanhope O'Connor giving evidence.

Present: Hon. F. LONGMORE, M.L.A., in the Chair;

William Anderson, Esq., M.L.A., G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A., E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.

James Gibb, Esq., M.L.A.,

1104 Will you go on?- In my opinion, Mr Hare's energy was misdirected. Mr. Sadleir, upon several occasions, remonstrated with Mr Hare, and tried to show him the folly of his going out, as he did, upon no information. Before going any further, I wish to state that Captain Standish often spoke of Mr Nicolson in the most disparaging terms. On one occasion, after Captain Standish had been running Mr Nicolson down, Mr Hare replied- "You should not say that; Nicolson is and always was a true and loyal friend to you." On another occasion, Captain Standish, referring to the death of the late Hon. John Thomas Smith, said- "Now Nicolson's billet as Assistant Commissioner will soon be done away with, as the Hon. John Thomas Smith got it for him; the billet is a farce, and it will be all up with him now, as he has not another friend left." Captain Standish never once went out with a party of police the whole time I was with him at Benalla. (JJK)

1105 You heard Captain Standish's statement here?- Yes, he went to Melbourne several times, but never stayed long, as he told me he was always hunted out of Melbourne by Sir Bryan O'Loghlen, the Acting Chief Secretary at that time. After Mr Hare came home from his last trip in the bush he was very down hearted and in very bad health.

1106 When was that?- That was just immediately before they went to town, about the end of June 1879. He expressed himself as being thoroughly beaten, and that he did not care about staying any longer, as he could not see his way to capture the outlaws. Captain Standish was most reticent of his information; he would not tell Mr. Sadleir or myself anything until Mr Hare was first informed, and even then not until some days after. Captain Standish and Mr Hare left for Melbourne about the end of June 1879, not together, but one left before the other. Mr Nicolson arrived at Benalla on the 3rd of July 1879.

1107 Was Mr Hare at Benalla when Mr Nicolson arrived, on the 3rd July?- If he was, he was on leave; I know he got so many days' leave. He commenced to work in a totally different manner to his predecessors. He went about and had interviews with several persons who would be likely to have the ear of the Kellys or their friends, and succeeded in getting some to work for him as his agents and spies. He (Mr Nicolson) was not in the least reticent of his information to us-that is Mr. Sadleir and myself- but was always asking about it and advising with us both. On the 15th August 1879, a telegram was sent to Mr Nicolson, from the Chief Commissioner.

1108 Did you see it?- I did; the contents of it were the information of the sticking up of the Lancefield bank, telling Mr Nicolson to start our party by special train for Kilmore, but he, Mr Nicolson, was not to accompany us.

1109 Do you mean by "your party" the trackers?- The trackers. We arrived the same day at Kilmore, late at night. Although it poured with rain all night, we succeeded in picking up the tacks of the robbers, and we followed them into Pyalong, a distance, I believe, of eighteen miles. Here a heavy storm of hail and rain came on, and quite obliterated the tracks, already very faint from the last night's rain, but we had solved the great question, namely, the direction the robbers had taken, and to our assistance the speedy capture of the bank robbers was due. I refer you for corroboration to Sub-Inspector Baber. This gentleman is a Victorian police officer, and accompanied us through the whole trip. The first information we received was on the 29th September 1879, from Mr. Sadleir, who was up at Wangaratta, and, I believe, somewhere about there saw this man, who informed him that he had seen five armed men answering to the description of the outlaws on the road between Tom Lloyd's house and some other place I have forgotten, a distance of about four miles between the two places. Mr. Sadleir wired down this information to Mr Nicolson, and recommended our party to be got ready, and that he would be down by the 6 train to Benalla. Mr Nicolson at once replied to Mr. Sadleir to bring the informer down with him. This Mr. Sadleir did not do, on account of the man saying he was afraid to be seen with the police. When Mr. Sadleir arrived, he informed us that the informer told him that he (Mr. Sadleir) would find the tracks of the outlaws about half-way between the above places, and Mr. Sadleir said to us- "I think I can find the place that the informer means," but, upon Mr. Sadleir referring to me for my opinion, I told him and Mr Nicolson I thought it was a good chance thrown away, as the party would have to find the tracks before daylight, for if we failed to pick them up, the people going to work in the morning would discover us, and the alarm would be spread far and wide, so I strongly recommended our not going unless the informer came and showed us the tracks. Mr Nicolson, after considering my advice, and remembering the previous character of the informer, very properly decided not to go. After this we were unable to get any information fresh enough to work upon, as heavy rains always had occurred before we got the news, until one day, I cannot remember the date, at 6 p.m., we had information that the outlaws had been seen on the railway line about Wangaratta, with the telegraph wires broken. We started within two hours of the notice to the scene, but upon arriving at Wangaratta got word that the whole thing was a mistake, and was explained in the press next day. It was a threshing machine pulled down the telegraph wires in passing across the railway line. After this appearance of activity on the part of the police, information ceased for some time to come in, as the Kellys got a fright that if they showed out we would be after them at once. This we got from their friends, so some time passed before the outlaws began to forget the matter. This put us-Mr. Nico1son, Mr. Sadleir, and myself-on our guard that, unless good reliable information came to us, we, I mean the party, should not go out. After a time, Mr. Nicolson again got information, and told us to be in readiness to start at any moment. ...

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