Royal Commission report day 3 page 1

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The Royal Commission evidence for 25/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 3 )

Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence


Present: Hon. F. LONGMORE, M.L.A., in the Chair;

J. H. Graves, Esq., M.L.A., W Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A., James Gibb, Esq., M.L.A.,

G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A., E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.

Charles Hope Nicolson further examined.

The Witness -The Commission asked for something in writing as to the police arrangements and the formation and. organisation of these search parties. I found the original document last night-[Handing in the same]. I would draw your attention to this last note, which is written by Sergeant Steele. I consulted various members of the force, and he gave some very valuable information. I mention that as against the charge of red tape that was made against me:- "From Wangaratta. Ist. Sergeant Steele. From Wangaratta Whorouly; thence Merriang to Buffalo River, to head of Dandongadale Creek, to Rose, Mount Emu to Black Range Creek, to left hand branch of King and head of Glenmore run. -2nd. From Mansfield road. Senior Constable James. From Lancefield on the road to Wombat, Stringy Bark Creek falls (Ryan's branch ?) to Roschiel homestead, Peter Lane's run, between Mason's and Killers, on head of Fifteen mile Creek, to right hand branch of the King. -3rd. Benalla party. Mr. Nicolson. Benalla to Winton ranges, Eleven mile, Bald Hill, taking dividing range at back of Lloyd's, Barnett's, Delaney's, and Tanner's, and follow up left hand side of the Fifteen mile Creek to near head. Special attention should be given to a lane at the head of Tanner's farm, leading to and from McBean's Swamp, known as Cart road Gully. -4th. Samaria, Holland's Creek to the Monument Hill, do not appear to be provided for in the above, and may require a separate party. Nos. 2, 3, and 4, to start at same time. No. I should start in advance of them, to stop them in event of their getting away from 2, 3, and 4. The first batch of men going to the Rose, and thence to Glenmore, will be quite independent of the other parties; therefore, calculating the chances of the men starting to search the Broken River watershed and the Fifteen mile Creek watershed, it would seem better parties either from the commencement of the water, or else from Greta and Winton. With reference to Samaria, Holland's Creek, and the Monument Hill, I am of opinion that it could be worked by the Benalla party (No. 3), either on their way up the Fifteen mile Creek, or on their return therefrom. The paddocks owned by Stampuken, and others in which there is no person residing, should all be searched carefully, both for offenders and recent ridden horses." I had charge of the Benalla party. I had Senior Constable Strachan and Senior Constable Flood with me. They were my two assistants. The next thing I have to produce is the private letter that I alluded to. There is the paragraph I quoted. The date is the 19th of November 1878-[handing in a letter]:- "I am in good health and spirits, only chafed by the patience necessary in the search. The offenders have 2,000 square miles of mountain, rocky, thickly timbered, and scrubby country to play hide and seek in, and with hard galloping about the policemen will never catch them. Nevertheless, we will catch them, but it will only be by a fluke if we catch them at once."

676 I suppose in that letter you have not gone on further to describe the means you intended to adopt?- No.

677 At that time you had full command of the Kelly country?- At that time I had full command of the Kelly country. I was in charge of the North Eastern district.

678 And from the 19th of November, the date when you wrote that letter to your friend, until the 12th of December, when you were sent to Melbourne by Captain Standish, you had not altered the operations then pursued?- No, I had not. I must add, with reference to that, that it was a thought just occurring to me while writing a hurried letter. I still pursued the work I was on, and I never entertained any serious thought at that time of the necessity for changing the tactics we were pursuing, because I considered it a matter of duty to search the country thoroughly first. But that was an opinion in advance of my work, and I did not consider the work completed. In fact, I never thought of the matter at all- very little at all, at the time I met Captain Standish after the Euroa robbery. I am not aware that the matter ever occurred to me. I may have explained myself fully to Captain Standish in the matter, or to Mr. Hare. I may or I may not.

679 Is this it. On the 19th of November you had a feeling that the mode you were adopting was likely to be inoperative except by some fluke?- Yes.. .

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