Royal Commission report day 33 page 6

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The Royal Commission evidence for 28/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 33)

[[../../people/peH_J/johnstonCPC.html|SConst Charles Johnston]] further examined

12354 By the Commission— We want to examine you particularly upon the time you were in pursuit of the Kellys and anything else you may desire to say?— Yes.

12355 Do you remember the time when it was supposed the Kellys had passed Wangaratta, and a party was sent out after them in charge of Mr. Brook Smith?— I do.

12356 Can you fix the date of that?— I can; it was on the 6th of November 1878 that we left Wangaratta.

12357 That was almost immediately after the murder of the men in the ranges?— Yes, immediately after.

12358 How many of you were there in the party?— There were twenty-two.

12359 Did you come upon any tracks?— I might say on the afternoon of the 6th we divided when we went about twenty miles from Wangaratta, at the station where Morgan was shot; I do not remember the name of it.

12360 Peechelba?— Yes, where Morgan was taken. Mr. Brook Smith took one party, and Mr. Kennedy–who was then a first class detective–took the other party.

12361 Did the parties go in different directions?— Mr. Kennedy's party went across the ranges towards Lake Rowan . Mr. Smith's party went on to Yarrawonga. I was with Mr. Smith's party.

12362 Did you come upon any signs of the Kellys having been recently at the place, or did you hear anything?— We heard nothing until the morning of the 8th. I might mention we went to Yarrawonga on the night of the 6th, and we remained there during the night. The following day we left Yarrawonga and arrived that night at Lake Rowan . Coming back towards Wangaratta on the morning of the 8th we passed Mr. Ryan's place at Lake Rowan . After coming across the ranges I saw the stockyard, which I went into, and I found that horses had been recently in the stockyard. That would be within 48 hours prior.

12363 It might have been a shorter time?— It might have been; but I think it would be within 48 hours.

12364 Was there anything remarkable about them?— There were some of the horses shod and some unshod. I told Mr. Smith that there had been some horses in the yard. I do not remember what answer he made, but he had gone on in front with some of the other men, and about a quarter of a mile from the stockyard I picked up the tracks again of five horses. I coo-ee-d on Mr. Smith and brought him back, and pointed out to him that I believed those were the outlaws; and he concurred with me that it was so.

12365 You mean the outlaws' tracks?— Yes, the tracks of their horses. There were three of them riding singly, and there was evidently a pack-horse beside one of the others. The ground was very soft, and on the flat country it was very easy tracking them. We traced them on to the Warby Ranges , somewhere about, I should say, about 25 miles. A man named Dixon and I did the tracking.

12366 Would it be going in the direction of Greta?— It would be partially, but they would have to go round a considerable distance to get to it. It would be going in the direction of Wangaratta more from Lake Rowan .

12367 Further north?— Further north.

12368 But would it be in the direction taken by men who were endeavoring to evade observation to get to Greta?— It would. It would be a very good outline to follow.

12369 Did you think they were then disappointed in trying to get home, and were trying to get back again?— That is my impression, that they had tried to get across the Murray and found they could not and were making back to the ranges, and that they had called at Ryan's, at Lake Rowan, to get provisions. That is my impression.

12370 What followed?— Night came on, and Mr. Smith deemed it desirable that we should return to Wangaratta, as we had no provisions.

12371 The night of the 8th of November?— That was the night of the 8th of November.

12372 You say “deemed it desirable” –how do you arrive at the conclusion he did that?— Because we had no provisions, and night came on, and we had no trackers.

12373 What did he say that made you aware that he “deemed it desirable”?— From what he said, “We will go to Wangaratta to-night and get the black trackers, and be able to run the tracks to-morrow.”

12374 From the impression you formed on the night of the 8th November do you believe then you were on the tracks of what you supposed to be the outlaws?— I do.....

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