Royal Commission report day 1 page 4

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The Royal Commission evidence for 23/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 1 ) Captain Standish giving evidence

11 And that the Kellys had been engaged in that for a length of time?- For years. Before proceeding further, I wish to point out to the Commission the very great difficulties which beset the police in various directions. The Kellys, as is well known had an enormous number of sympathisers in the district, and after their outrages there is not the slightest doubt that a great many respectable men were in dread of their lives, and were intimidated by a fear of the consequences from giving any information whatsoever to the police. Not only their lives and those of their families were in danger but their cattle, and sheep, and horses, and property were liable to be stolen or destroyed; in addition to which there is not the slightest doubt that there was an enormous number of tradesmen in the district who were so benefited by the large increase of the police, and by the consequent expenditure, that they were only too glad that this unpleasant business was protracted for so many months. I may also state that a great many of the local papers never lost an opportunity of attacking the police in the most unjustifiable manner and on every possible occasion; and remarks of that kind, as I think any sensible man must be aware, were not only calculated to do the police a great deal of harm, but to prevent their receiving material assistance from anybody. On the 6th November l878 I proceeded to Benalla to confer with Mr. Nicolson. I arrived there about eight o'clock, had supper with Mr. Nicolson at one of the hotels at Benalla and, whilst we were talking over matters afterwards, we received an urgent dispatch from Superintendent Sadleir who was up at Beechworth, saying that they had received information from a person in Beechworth that the Kellys had been at Sebastopol and believed they were there now. I immediately ordered a special train, and proceeded, with Mr. Nicolson, nine mounted constables. and one black tracker, to Beechworth. which we reached soon after three o'clock in the morning. We started at four o'clock a.m. with these men and an additional body of men from Beechworth from the railway station, and made at once to the house of the Sherritt family, where it was stated the outlaws had been. We arrived there very early in the morning scattered our men all round, keeping them in the bush, and sent a party of seven or eight men, under Mr. Nicolson. to search the house. Soon after we had searched the house we heard a shot fired. It was subsequently ascertained that it was a gun that went off by accident. We all rushed to the place, and found no traces of the outlaws there. We then rode on to Mrs. Byrne's house at Sebastopol, the mother of Joe Byrne, and Mr. Nicolson and I interviewed her; but I need not say we got nothing out of her.

12 She gave no information -None whatever.

13 Did you form the opinion at that time that the information might have been incorrect that Mr. Sadleir got?- I believe the information was correct but we were a day or two after the fair; so after conferring with Mr. Sadleir and Mr. Nicolson, we decided it was no use carrying on matters further, and we returned to Beechworth.

14 As there have been reports made in which the officers have to some extent given different versions of the matter, and in some instances have contradicted one another, I am going to ask you now if you had perfect confidence in the officers who had charge of the district?- You mean Mr. Sadleir?

15 Superintendents Sadleir, Nicolson. and Hare?- I had at the time perfect confidence in Mr. Nicolson, although I have not now. I found very good occasion to doubt him before I left the police force.

16 What tended to shake your confidence in him as an officer of police?- I have ample proof here of his procrastination and inefficiency.

17 Could you give the Commission some idea of that proof?- I have the papers here, but I think it would be better to continue my recital.

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