Royal Commission report day 2 page 16

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The Royal Commission evidence for 24/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 2 )

Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence

547 Then it must have between ten and eleven you started?- It must have been much earlier.

548 Can you trace the time at each point in the journey?- I was at Wangaratta soon after sunrise; that would be about five o'clock. I was then only about an hour going down to Benalla; that would be about six o'clock. Then I suppose I had a long way to go from Benalla to the railway station and back, and it would be perhaps over two hours-half past eight when I arrived at Faithfull's Creek.

549 When you received, at Benalla, this information from Mr. Wyatt, could you not have communicated with the Euroa police?- No; the line was broken between Benalla and Euroa; it had been cut off at Faithfull's Creek, and there was no telegraph station there. There was a little delay at the station, owing to a gentleman who had nothing to do with the matter, and I would rather not mention it-it did not make more that ten minutes' delay-and we got away from him.

550 In Captain Standish's evidence he said there was a want of judgment or procrastination on your part, therefore we are desirous that you should give the exact information as to what occurred, and fixing the dates and so on?- There was a gentleman there, the overseer of the Faithfull's Creek station, who had been amongst the party stuck up, and he knew the country very well. I picked out the man, an overseer on the station, whom I subsequently employed, named Stevens.

551 He had been a groom?- Yes; and I saw the housekeeper, an elderly sensible woman, there, who had been there, in the matter, who had been stuck up all night, and I just asked her, "In what direction did you see the last of the dust of those men's horses?" She pointed the road going down to Violet Town. The men had been looking for traces with a black fellow name Jemmy-a very useless fellow-and they had seen some tracks, and we followed those. We rode ultimately in that direction, and got rid of that troublesome gentleman I spoke of. He had a fall from his horse, which I was not sorry for, and we went on with this groom, who knew the country. Well, we got in, and at last we crossed the line and re crossed the line, and we got on the road running to the Murchison road, to the Strathbogie side of Euroa, and there we found what we believed to be the traces of the men. They turned down towards Euroa. We followed those traces right down. I was riding on the right, with some of the men in front with the blackfellow. Stevens and I were riding together, and there were a number of fine young men in the police party, and they were also observing the tracks too. The spur ran down from the Strathbogie range right down into the road, and the main road was a mile from it, and the paddock rail ran right into this part, leaving the face of the spur the boundary of the road. The blackfellow turned off, and said there were the tracks of two mounted men who had gone off the face of the road on to the range. He pretended to trace them along this spur about half way, and then lost them, and said there was nothing. In the meantime, myself and Stevens, the man from the station, and the others, kept our eyes upon these two tracks remaining on the road. By and bye we lost the whole altogether. After a little pursuing on that road, trying to pick them up, the road at this time being very dusty, we satisfied ourselves there was nothing down on that spur at all, and the young men were the first to discover and pick up the tracks again on the road, at the side of the road, some distance down. The tracks led to an open space on the right hand side, and then going towards the gate leading into a paddock alongside the railway; the men got off their horses and traced them in a very clever manner; and they branched off into the paddock. In the centre of the paddock these traces were lost. I halted there, and I made two or three of the men gallop round; I did so in order to see if the fellows had taken off, if they had jumped their horses over. There was no trace of any such thing. All this time we were in sight of Euroa, and all trace was lost; it was about mid day. I brought the men down. and could not make anything more of that. I brought them down to the village of Euroa, took them to the police station to put their horses up, and we came into Euroa; and then the enquiry was made, for the first time, at the bank, amongst all who could give any information or throw any light on the matter. At the same time I ordered dinner for the men at the hotel; and we had something to eat while the horses were feeding. The men were overpowered at this time (it was a very hot day) with fatigue and the heat, fatigue particularly, because most of them were the same men I had with me just two or three days before; and at the table the men actually fell asleep over their food (there is no exaggeration in saying this) with fatigue, in all sorts of attitudes, not drinking a drop or anything of the kind. Johnson, who was the strongest and hardiest man of the party, a most energetic man, went to sleep on the bush sofa at the side of the room, and the old man of the house-that is, the Euroa hotel-thought Johnson had a sunstroke, and he began practising upon him for that. The man was so dead asleep that he was not awaked, though they poured water over him. I could not take the men out then. I got the men wakened up; I got them into a large barrack sort of room, and allowed them to sleep there for an hour or two. It was bright moonlight weather; and about six o'clock had tea ready for them, and as soon as that was over we started away down the Murchison road to a place we had heard of that they were likely to go to-two or three several places. It seemed when they were at Faithfull's Creek that they were asking from one or two persons-a boy particularly-where a certain boy was living; and they learned this. I was pretty sure they had gone north towards Murchison- due north. We searched all the suspicious places without any result. ..

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