Royal Commission report day 37 page 27

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The Royal Commission evidence for 20/7/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 37)

SConst Patrick Mullane sworn and examined

13509 By the Commission— What are you?— Senior-constable of police, stationed at Beechworth.

13510 How long have you been in Beechworth?— I have been in the North-Eastern district since 1869, with the exception of about two years I was in the Geelong and Bourke districts.

13511 You were actively engaged during the whole Kelly outbreak?— I was.

13512 You remember the cave party?— I do.

13513 Were they under you?— I was at this station when they were sent out.

13514 We wish to confine ourselves principally to that matter, unless you have any important evidence on other points. Before dealing with that, is there anything you wish to speak of?— Nothing, except as to the different parties I was on.

13515 Were you out with search parties with Mr. Hare?— I was out with a search party when Mr. Hare was in the district. He sent me out on the Fern Hill.

13516 What number was in your search party?— I think eight and myself.

13517 Did you go out upon any information at all?— We did not, that I was aware of.

13518 You just scoured the country?— Yes.

13519 Did you think there was any probability of your getting up to the outlaws by that means?— There was a probability that we would get to them; but I think the principal object was to harass them, and keep them in the back country. There was a possibility of our dropping across them in many places, and we knew we were close to them at different times.

13520 Did you know anything of that at the time?— We did. I remember, with this party, going to Fern Hill, we came to a fire on the ranges, near a pool of water. Some of the wood had been thrown into the water to put out the fire. We put a tracker on the tracks, but he seemed not to our satisfaction to follow the tracks, as if he was not inclined to do so, and we had to drop the tracks. He did not follow them, though they were quite fresh at the time. I am confident the party that had been there were not twenty minutes gone, and they must have seen us or heard us coming.

13521 In what way did you go out through the country—did you follow the roads or spread out?— We went as quietly as we could, to prevent the press getting the information that we were going; and we went back roads till we got beyond settlement, and then circled a defined portion of the country.

13522 How did you prosecute the search?— When we had got among the ranges we would spread out and cover as much ground as we could without losing each other, and search it along as we went.

13523 How wide would you spread over the country when you were out?— We would be at times thirty or forty yards apart, and at other times not more than seven, and sometimes together where it was necessary for one to go on the track of the others to get through portions of the country.

13524 Were you out in any of the search parties that Mr. Nicolson organized?— The first one I went out with was by Mr. Nicolson 's directions, and he joined us himself afterwards. That was to the Murray Flats, on the 31st October 1878 .

13525 How many were in that party?— I think seven or eight.

13526 Practically, at first the same system was followed by both Mr. Hare and Mr. Nicolson ?— Yes, the same system of searching was followed at first, and then it was dropped afterwards.

13527 What change was there in it when Mr. Nicolson came up the second time?— He did not send out search parties, and he employed agents to obtain private information. Those agents were at different parts of the district, and he kept the black trackers in Benalla with Mr. O'Connor .

13528 Did you know that Sherritt was an agent?— I did.

13529 Did you know anything of his previous character?— I did.

13530 What character did he hear?— His character was bad. In connection with Detective Ward, we had him convicted at this court and sentenced to six months imprisonment for having meat in his possession for which he could not account. I may mention that he cut the brand from the hide of the beast, and that prevented us from bringing the more serious charge of cattle-stealing against him, and also Byrne, who was charged with him.

13531 Then did it not astonish you that he should shoot Sherritt—as if he doubted him?— No, it did not. At another time I arrested him for a serious assault on a Chinaman, but they were discharged at the sittings of the Supreme Court because the evidence was considered insufficient. They were committed for trial and afterwards discharged, and previous to that again Byrne himself was charged by Weekes with illegally using a horse of his, and he got the option of a fine and paid it.....

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