Royal Commission report day 13 page 1

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The Royal Commission evidence for 14/4/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 13)

Superintendent John Sadleir evidence

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

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

J. H. Graves, Esq., M.L.A., E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.,

J. Gibb, Esq., M.L.A G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.

2745 By the Commission. —Will you resume?— After Mr. Nicolson left Benalla on the 2nd of June, Mr. Hare and myself went over all the particulars of the Kelly business. 2746 The documentary particulars?— Everything in relation to them—documents and all that I could tell him by word of mouth.

2747 Was that on the 2nd?— No, those are the following days—following the 2nd. I made no concealment from Mr. Hare or anything. I told him I was not so willing to work with him con amore as I was on the first occasion, and he expressed himself as very anxious that I should give him all possible advice and help, and he said he was desirous of not doing anything without consulting me. Then I promised to assist him as far as I could, and I did do so. On the afternoon of the 27th June, about between two and three o'clock, Mr. Hare sent for me. I found him near the post office. He then informed me of the murder of Aaron Sherritt and of the police in his hut being bailed up by the gang on the previous night. After some consultation, I advised him to get trackers with Mr. O'Connor back again. We had some difficulty in getting Captain Standish, either in finding him or in getting him to carry out what was required. I think the difficulty at first was in finding him.

2748 Do you mean you had a difficulty in finding him?— In communicating with him by telegram. I do not know whether finding him was our first difficulty, or getting him to carry out some arrangements that were necessary.

2749 That is, there was not an early reply to your telegram?— There was some hitch; I forget what it was.

2750 You do not mean to say that he objected to carry out your recommendations?— No; there was a difficulty either in finding him or in getting him to carry out some of the arrangements. As we went on arranging, I advised Mr. Hare not to do as he first intended, that was to start with his party from Benalla to Beechworth without waiting for the trackers; and later on, when he came to agree to this, I recommended him to take an engine he intended for his own use as a pilot engine to Beechworth. I see Mr. Hare, in his evidence, says be has forgotten that.

2751 I think he qualified it by saying he thought you suggested it?— I have not seen that. However I mentioned the matter to Captain Standish a day or two afterwards, in speaking to him after all was arranged for the night, and messengers were despatched in accordance with an arrangement of some months standing in anticipation of an outbreak of this sort. I undertook to see everything arranged for the start, so that Mr. Hare might have whatever rest he could. I will put in the papers. This is the 2nd of June. I will put in the document marked in my catalogue C 43.

2752 That was made nine months before this date?— Yes, sealed and marked on the outside, “To be opened only on instructions from head-quarters.” They were handed to the various stations, and kept there to be acted on in case of an outbreak.

2753 What do you mean by “head-quarters”?— Benalla, the district head-quarters.

2754 Were those your own instructions?— Those were instructions prepared and signed, I see, by me, arranged in conference with Mr. Nicolson, who was then in charge, and were to the effect that the police in different localities were, on the report of an outbreak, to send other constables and assistants to different crossings, townships, bridges, and points where the Kellys would be likely to puss in case of a pursuit, either by the ordinary police or the trackers.

2755 Were the places stated in the sealed orders?— The places were stated in the sealed orders. Of course the orders varied for each different district. For instance, at Millewa, Bright, Beechworth, Wangaratta.

2756 North of Wangaratta would be nearer the scene of the outbreak?— Yes; north of Wangaratta would be nearer the scene of the outbreak, and steps were taken from Wangaratta in pursuance of those instructions

2757 Were New South Wales police in possession of those instructions?— No.

2758 You had no concerted arrangements with them?— We had agreed to work with them as well as we possibly could. Those only referred to places in the North-Eastern district.

2759 Was it after the outbreak occurred at Wangaratta instructions would go there, and your men would go where an outbreak was; the others would know where to go to cut off the retreat, if you did not make them amenable to justice?— I will read the instruction to the police at Millewa:— “Benalla, 24th September 1879. Strictly confidential. Memo. —On receipt of instructions to carry these arrangements into effect, Constable Arthur” (the man in charge) “will first have the township of Miliewa patrolled by a constable, for the purpose of watching for the appearance of the outlaws, and should they pass through, it will be the duty of the constable simply to note carefully the direction by which they leave, preserve the tracks, and report without delay to Constable Arthur, who will immediately pass on the information to Sergeant Steele. This duty must be maintained from 10p.m. to 6a.m. 2ndly. Have the—bridge carefully watched by a constable, and, if necessary, a reliable hired assistant, whose wages must not exceed l0s. per diem, chargeable only for the time actually employed. It will be the duty of these men to watch carefully—and, above all, silently—the bridge, and should the outlaws pass, they will note carefully the direction they take and preserve the tracks, so as to enable the trackers to pick up the trail when they arrive. It is not intended to dispute the passage of the river with the outlaws, there being only one man at each point of observation—(that is if the whole party of outlaws should pass together; if but one or two pass, and the constable or his assistant should clearly recognise them, then he should certainly capture them, if an opportunity offers—J. S., Superintendent)—but simply to watch and afterwards indicate the direction taken by them. Too much care cannot be taken whilst on this duty, as the slightest indiscretion might spoil all our plans. These duties require coolness and sagacity, and as very important results may follow the efficient performance of them, I hope no pains will be spared by the men entrusted with them. Should the outlaws pass over the bridge, the watchers must keep them in view as long as possible from their post of observation, but keep themselves carefully concealed from view; and when the offenders have gone out of hearing, they will proceed quietly for a time towards the place where they will have to report to Constable Arthur; but as soon as they consider it safe, they must mend their pace, and make their report as soon as possible. Every care must be taken to guard against giving a false alarm, the result of which might be fatal to our arrangements. The bridge must be carefully and constantly watched, day and night, until orders countermanding these are given. — bridge will be watched by the constable from Beechworth, who will receive his instructions there. — (Signed) J. Sadleir, Superintendent” I will ask the Press not to mention those localities by name. The object of those instructions was to hasten the work of the trackers—that is, for instance, if the trackers were put on the tracks of the outlaws at Beechworth, we could, on receiving information of the outlaws passing ahead at another point, lift them, as you would hounds, and carry them on with fresh tracks from the last point they were seen at. Those instructions, as regards one of the bridges, were carried out. Two of the outlaws were observed to pass after the murder of Sherritt, which was proof to us of the effects of the order.....

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