Royal Commission report day 23 page 5

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The Royal Commission evidence for 31/5/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 23)

Sgt Steele giving evidence

8865 You know the country so well, and knew the time the horses passed there, and the tracks were still fresh–do you think, if immediate steps had been taken to proceed after them, there would have been a chance of capturing them?— Yes, I think so. I could have followed the horses myself without a tracker; the horses were bogging into the ground six inches, the ground was so very soft. We tracked them all about the hills some weeks afterwards.

8866 What occurred at Rats' Castle?— I searched Rats' Castle and the ranges–what they call the Table-land; that was on the 2nd. I then went to search the Stanley ranges; I think that was the 4th, and that we had rested our horses on the 3rd.

8867 Have you anything of importance to tell the Commission of what occurred between that time and the time you went to Glenrowan other than that you were searching constantly?— Nothing further than that we were continually going out on search parties.

8868 Were you one of the cave party?— No, I was not.

8869 Or stationed at Sherritt's house?— No.

8870 You were one of the party that went out with Captain Standish, Mr. Nicolson, and Mr. Hare, to Sebastopol?— Yes.

8871 Do you remember meeting Sherritt?— I do.

8872 Will you describe to the Commission the circumstances under which Sherritt was met, and, as far as you know, what took place at that interview, and between whom?— When we went down, after searching Mrs. Byrne's, we saw Sherritt coming on with an axe on his shoulder, and I think Strahan and I stopped to speak to him; Mr. Nicolson came up soon after, and I think we told Mr. Nicolson who he was, and he took him to one side, and after some conversation I think Captain Standish joined him, and also Mr. Sadleir, but I heard nothing. Sherritt merely made the remark to me, “I know that dog,” referring to the man with the police who had his face blackened.

8873 During that conversation did you hear either of those officers publicly make any overtures to him to assist them in the capture of the Kelly gang?— No.

8874 Did you see or hear Mr. Nicholson remonstrate with Captain Standish for making such an overture to the man in the presence of the police?— I cannot say I heard that; I was too far away. Strahan and I were talking together.

8875 Were you then in as good a position as any other members of the force to hear any conversation that took place between the officers and Sherritt?— I think I should be. Strahan and I were the closest to them, but we retired in order to give them an opportunity; I believe we were closest to them, but I did not listen to their conversation. I knew the object of it, but I had no desire to hear what transpired.

8876 You knew instinctively the object?— Yes.

8877 You did not hear any overtures made?— No.

8878 Did Mr. Nicolson at that time make any remark to you of the inadvisability of making overtures to Sherritt in that way?— No.

8879 Did you hear from Mr. Nicolson or anybody that Captain Standish had been remonstrated with for that?— I cannot say. I do not recollect it.

8880 Between October 30th, 1878 , and November 15th, you were in charge of Wangaratta?— Yes

8881 Did you at any time receive information that the Kellys were likely to be supplied with provisions from any particular spot?— No.

8882 Did you receive any information that they were likely to be provided with provisions from Mrs. Skillian's hut?— No, I did not. In fact I knew very little till Mr. Nicolson came. Everything was kept secret, to a great extent, from me at Wangaratta.

8883 Do you mean what the police knew?— Yes.

8884 You have stated you were in charge at Wangaratta between 30th October and 15th November –do you recollect a party going out with your officer, Mr. Brook Smith?— Yes, I recollect going out.

8885 Were you with that party?— I was–that is with one. Mr. Smith went out, after I had gone on to Rats' Castle, a day or two after, to Yarrawonga.

8886 Were you with the party when Kennedy's pack-horse was found?— No.

8887 Do you recollect that occasion?— No.

8888 Can you give any information about that party from your own knowledge?— Yes; after the hut was rushed at Sebastopol , I returned to Wangaratta, and there was an agent of the police came in that night. Senior-Constable Johnson came in with the party of police and told me about some tracks they had found that night.....

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