Royal Commission report day 13 page 9

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The Royal Commission evidence for 14/4/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 13)

Superintendent Sadeir giving evidence

2876 Who?— The friends. They all began to come up at this moment, Mrs. Skillian, Kate Kelly, Dick Hart, and several of the friends. They seemed pleased at my doing this, and afterwards, when Captain Standish arrived

2877 What time did he arrive?— It is a great question. Perhaps within half-an-hour of this, between four and five o'clock. I told Captain Standish what I had done about the bodies. I said, “Please do not interfere now; leave the matter as it stands,” and he never interfered—never said another word about it. He did not interfere at all. I was afraid that he would. Strangers in authority are so apt to fear responsibility that I preferred taking the responsibility upon myself, and not being interfered with. To return now. Before the place was set on fire there were several constables—

2878 Before you pass from that, you seem to throw stress on delivering the bodies up—had you satisfied yourself they were the outlawed men?— There was no question about that. There was no absolute proof. I do not think the sisters could have recognized their brother. You could see they were males; that was all any human being could tell. Before setting fire to the building, there were several of the police who wanted to rush into the building upon the outlaws. The only three I can remember are Dixon, Armstrong, and a constable named Montifort. I believe there were others, but I cannot recall them to mind. I had the same answer for them all.

2879 Was Johnson one of them that offered?— No. The same answer for all— “It is not time to rush yet; stand back and keep your ground.” At this time the crowd of people near the platform were urging the police to make a rush, and remarking upon their not doing it, and it made my men a little unsteady at times, and made it more difficult to keep them quietly to work as I had laid it out for myself and for them.

2880 How long before the firing was this request made to you by the constables?— Almost immediately after the prisoners escaped, early in the forenoon some time. I put in my report of that day of the whole proceedings, mentioning every person. In printing that, it was put as if we (myself and party) had started at five minutes past ten, instead of ten minutes past five, in the morning. I have corrected that. —[ The report was handed in as follows:]—

Superintendent Sadleir’s Report.

Police Department, Superintendent's Office, Benalla, 1st July 1880 .

SIR,—I have the honor to furnish the following report, for your information, of such of the proceedings of 28 th ult., in relation to the capture of the Kelly gang, as occurred whilst I was in command of the party of police carrying on the attack.

I was first made aware of the encounter with the gang by Superintendent Hare’s return, at about 4 a.m.; and after exchanging a few words with him as to the position of affairs, proceeded to Glenrowan by train, accompanied by the whole of the reserve on the Benalla station.

Immediately on reaching Glenrowan, and on dispersing to take up the best positions we could find around the building, numerous shots were fired from the direction of the house, striking the ground and fences close to us. After finding Mr O’Connor and learning what I could from him of the positions of the men, I made myself assured that the buildings were surrounded by the police, and in this I was greatly assisted by Constable Dwyer, 2,507, who was always willing to run the gauntlet under fire from one post to another.

It was not, however, until the capture of Ned Kelly, and then only from his statements, that there was any assurance that some of the gang had not passed through our lines, as the prisoner himself had done. We had occasional firing from the outlaws within the house, and could hear them calling out and rapping on their armour, but after this arrest the remainder of the gang slackened their fire greatly, and only a shot at intervals was heard.

About 10 am I called on the persons kept prisoners by the gang to make their escape, and allowed ten minutes’ grace before recommencing firing, and soon after the word was passed on by the posts nearest to the front of the building a general rush was made by those persons, and no further shot was fired by the police until they had all been examined and passed out of the lines.

We had ascertained from these prisoners that the two outlaws, Dan Kelly and Hart, were still alive, and that Byrne was dead. These two survivors were called on several times to surrender, and, on their failing to do so, several of the police repeatedly appealed to me to let them rush the building. This I would not permit for various reasons, chiefly that the party rushing in could not be supported by those outside; that a long narrow passage through the house had to be traversed before the outlaws—whose exact position in the buildings was not known—could be reached; that they could not be knocked over, on account of the armour, until the police actually had their hands on them; that I knew they still had large supplies of ammunition. that there were yet several hours' daylight; and that the final capture or destruction of the two outlaws was a matter of certainty. I therefore held to the determination, though under considerable difficulties, to sacrifice no life in this way if it could be avoided.

I think it was about 3 p.m. when Senior-constable Johnston, 764, volunteered to set fire to the building, and after a short consultation with Mr. O'Connor and some of the senior members of the force present, arrangements were made accordingly. A strong firing party was placed under cover in front of the building, and another at the end to be fired, and protected by their fire the senior-constable was able to carry out his work and return in safety. This precaution was considered necessary, as a few minutes before it was reported that the two outlaws were seen at one of the windows.

It was known at this time that Martin Cherry was lying wounded in a detached building, shot by Ned Kelly early in the day, as it has since been ascertained, because he would not hold aside one of the window-blinds; and arrangements were made to rescue him before the flames could approach him. This was subsequently done.

When the fire had taken, the Rev. Mr. Gibney, a clergyman of the Church of Rome, with great bravery passed towards the building, in spite of all remonstrance, and the constables and myself, with a view of stopping him, rushed forward, and this movement immediately changed into a general rush for the building, when, as I have stated, Cherry was removed, as well as the body of Byrne, the latter from the burning building.

It was found impossible to reach where the other outlaws were, and it is clear, from the Rev. Mr. Gibney's statement, that these were dead when the fire took place; and it is impossible to say whether they had been killed by our last volley, or had shortly before taken their own lives.

Before proceeding briefly to refer to the conduct of the police under my command, I wish to call attention to that of Mr. Jesse Dowsett, an employee on the railway, who, armed with a revolver only, stood manfully to his ground in the capture of Ned Kelly. His conduct has been specially commended to me by the members of the force who witnessed it. understand also that Mr. Charles Rawlins, of Lake Winton , was also in Mr. Hare's company at the first encounter, but that officer will be in a better position than I for describing what his conduct was.

I have also to acknowledge the readiness with which Dr. John Nicholson, of Benalla, accompanied my party, to afford any professional assistance that might be necessary, and hie services were at once offered to Ned Kelly when captured.

The conduct of every member of the police force engaged was completely satisfactory.

From Sub-inspector O'Connor I had throughout the day continual assistance and advice, and with regard to the members of the Victorian force, my only difficulty was in restraining a few too eager spirits.

I have already alluded to the conduct of Senior-constable Johnston . He did the special work sought by him in the face of special danger, as all then supposed.

I am assured—for I was not present an the spot—that the men who captured Ned Kelly had a difficult and dangerous business for the short time it lasted.

I find that Sergeant Steele (1,179), Senior-constable Kelly (I,925), Constables Bracken (2,228), Dwyer (2,507), and Montiford (2,697) were the men concerned. I find, also, that constables Arthur (2,971), Phillips (2,746), and Healey (2,886) were all more or less directly assisting in the arrest of Ned Kelly.

Ned Kelly from his appearance in the imperfect light, looked like some unearthly being, on whom bullets had no effect. Mr. Dowsett, who was also on the spot, says he thought he was the devil.

The conduct of the Queensland trackers was excellent, and shows, certainly, that in good company at least they may be thoroughly relied on.

The circumstances of the day did not call for many acts of conspicuous daring, and excepting the severe wound to Superintendent Hare, none of the attacking party received any injury.

Martin Cherry died in a few minutes after his removal from the building, and a boy named Jones has since died from his injuries in the Wangaratta Hospital . I also understand that a youth named Rearden is in a critical condition in the same institution. A man named George Metcalf has also been forwarded by your instructions to Melbourne for treatment to an injury received in the eye while the firing was going on.

After the affair was over, the bodies of Hart and Dan Kelly were given over to their relations, as I reported to you on your arrival at Glenrowan.

Their fiends applied to me next day for the necessary order for burial, which I had procured for them, and expressed their acknowledgments for the consideration shown to them.

Subsequent reports as to the conduct of these people have, as I have good reason to believe, been greatly exaggerated.

The body of Martin Cherry was handed to his sister.

The body of Byrne was buried at 4 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon in the Benalla cemetery, and was not claimed by any one.

Attached you will find a list of all the members of the force concerned in this duty, with the hour of their arrival.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Superintendent of Police.

The Chief Commissioner of Police, Melbourne.

Return of Officers, Sergeants, and Constables who took part is the Capture of the Kelly Gang of Outlaws on the 28th June 1880

Regimental Number Rank and Name Hour of Arrival
Superintendent F. Hare* 2 a.m
1925 Senior-constable Kelly 2 a.m
2710 Mounted- constable Daniel Barry 2 a.m
2745 Mounted- constable William Phillips 2 a.m
2971 Mounted- constable J. M. Arthur 2 a.m
2986 Mounted- constable Thomas Kirkham 2 a.m
3056 Mounted- constable P. C. Gascoigne 2 a.m
3100 Mounted- constable William Canny 2 a.m
Sub-Inspector O'Connor + 2 a.m
Tracker Hero 2 a.m
Tracker Barney 2 a.m
Tracker Johnny 2 a.m
Tracker Jacky 2 a.m
Tracker Jimmy 2 a.m
Superintendent John Sadleir # 5.10 a.m
1305 Sergeant James Whelan 5.10 a.m
2271 Senior-constable R. A.Smyth 5.10 a.m
2312 Mounted-constable Robert Graham 5.10 a.m
2688 Mounted-constable C. Ryan 5.10 a.m
3069 Mounted-constable W. J. B. Wallace 5.10 a.m
3105 Mounted- constable P. P. Wilson 5.10 a m
3110 Mounted- constable J. L. Stillard 5.10 a m
1670 Foot- constable Patrick Kelly 5.10 a m
2041 Foot- constable Thomas Reilly 5.10 a m
2684 Foot- constable John Milne 5.10 a m
2963 Foot – constable J. M. Hewitt 5.10 a m
Tracker Moses 5.10 a m
Tracker Spider 5.10 a m
1179 Sergeant A. L. M. Steele 5 a m.
2679 Mounted- constable J. Montiford 5 a m.
6719 Mounted- constable William Moore 5 a m.
2886 Mounted- constable Patrick Healey 5 a m.
3039 Mounted- constable J. F. Dixon 10 am
2057 Foot-constable Patrick Walsh 5.20 a.m.
2507 Foot-constable James Dwyer 5.20 a.m.
764 Senior-constable Charles Johnston 12 noon
2526 Mounted-constable Thomas Meehan 12 noon
3106 Mounted-constable T. E. Dwyer 12 noon
2845 Foot-constable J. H. Stow 12 noon
3072 Foot-constable Peter McDonald I p.m
  • Superintendent Hare in charge of party. Returned wounded to Benalla shortly before 4 a.m.

+ In charge of trackers.

  1. Superintendent Sadleir took charge of entire party during the remainder of the day.

J. SADLEIR, Superintendent of Police.


The Names of the Members of the Force from Beechworth who assisted at the Capture of the Outlaws at Glenrowan, on 28th June 1880 .

Registered Number Rank and Name
2353 Senior-constable P. Mullane
1649 Mounted-constable A. Alexander
2382 Foot-constable R. Wickam
2475 Foot-constable H. Armstrong
2551 Foot-constable R. McHugh
2595 Foot-constable W. Duross
2612 Foot-constable B. Glenny
2766 Mounted-constable R. Alexander
2918 Foot-constable T. P. Dowling
2968 Mounted-constable C. F. Magor
3033 Mounted-constable R. McColl

Date and hour of arrival at Glenrowan— June 28, 1880 , at 9 a.m.

Superintendent Sadleir, Benalla.

P. MULLANE, Senior-constable 2353, 30|6|80.j

J. SADLEIR, Superintendent of Police.

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