Royal Commission report day 3 page 10

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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

801 Were those the constables that were afterwards in Sherritt's house when Aaron Sherritt was shot?- No, I believe not. On Sunday I had the telegraph office open all day, I think, and I attended very closely to the telegraph office at Benalla all day. Then I had an agent that had been down watching and discovered young Tom Lloyd in the hut. I sent him up there into that country. I removed him from where he was up to the Sebastopol ranges, and that country, and I had a party of men ready, and warned the Beechworth men also to be ready, and I had the trackers also ready with the view of proceeding. I received a communication in the course of Sunday that a man, believed to be Joe Byrne, had been seen by my agent at the back of a rock, at the head of a gully near a place called London-a gully along Mrs. Byrne's house, at the mouth of which her house is situated; it is a very long gully, remarkably steep. After a consultation with Mr. Sadleir and Mr. O'Connor, I determined to go out, and acting upon that information, started about five o'clock by the early train on Monday morning from Benalla, with the trackers and five or six men. We reached Everton, and got out there, meeting my agent and Aaron Sherritt, who had been employed even before I came up in enquiring into the tracing of the outlaws with the police. We proceeded on through the bush, guided by Sherritt, so as to avoid coming in contact with any individual, and reached Crawford's paddock. We proceeded on foot through that country until wo came to the head of that gully. I sent three of the mounted men to take one side, and three to take the other side, on the very top of the precipices and cliffs. I myself went down with Mr. O'Connor and the trackers and one or two men. We left the horses. I kind brought some of the men mounted to take the sides of the gully; however, down we went to the place with the guide to point out the spot w here he had seen the man. The trackers went to the place. We could see the trace of footsteps, and we could see along the gully, but when we came near to this place, and we went up to the rock behind which he saw the man appear, there were no traces of any one whatever, and Mr. O'Connor told me the blacks explained to him there were traces of a young man with a foot just such as described as Byrne's, with a small foot, driving a cow up the gully. Mr. O'Connor and the blacks followed down this gully to near - 's house, and, looking for traces all round for a mounted man on either side of the cliffs, we examined the gully all down, and the men up above examined the - country above, and without any trace whatever. I had no doubt at this time that this information of - seeing a man was perfectly true, other information about seeing the man at the hut, and about his being at Mrs. Byrne's, I was very doubtful of - at any rate, I was quite satisfied, after the search we made, and seeing this agent was wrong in this instance, that these (the outlaws) men were gone from there at this time. They had been there two or three days before, but they had returned back to Greta. I know that since then immediately after that they went to, and came round by, Greta, and crossed Glenrowan; they went away beyond Lake Rowan. In that direction I was watching before, and there the horses were stolen which were found when they were arrested, but I hand to return and meet Mr. Hare.

802 The horses found on the capture of the Kellys they found afterwards were horses belonging to a man called Ryan, at Rowan?- Yes.

803 And those were the horses you speak of?- Yes; in fact I may state this with reference to that: I saw the convict Ned Kelly, after his conviction; had an interview with him; I knew him pretty well before, and he said to me in a sulky sort of way, "I hear, Mr. Nicolson, you have been saying you surrounded us, and we could not get away from you?" I said, "Well, Kelly, I did not say I surrounded you, but you know very well I did disable you, that you were disabled and starved; you were on your last legs." And his reply was, "Oh, how was that? Look at the horses we got, and where they came from."

804 Did you see those horses?- Yes. "Look at those horses we got." "Ah, but," I said, "You stole those horses in June?"- "Yes." "Are you not aware that I left before June; I left in the beginning of June?" "Oh," he said, expressing the greatest surprise.

805 Were those stable fed horses?- I do not know; I never saw them.

806 You have brought us up to the 27th or 28th of May?- No; I have brought you up to the very last.

807 What day was that?-31st May. On the 1st of June we slept that night at Crawford's.

808 At Beechworth?- No; we did not go near Beechworth. I sent a party of men into Beechworth.

809 I want to get the time that your connection with the Kelly search ceased?- On the 1st June, at daybreak. After that night we slept at Crawford's paddock, and after that I broke up the party, and despatched them to search through the country. I returned with the trackers, and with Senior Constable Kelly, the two constables, and Mr. O'Connor, to Benalla. Next morning, 2nd June, I had a meeting with Mr. Hare, and I left Crawford's on the 1st of June. On the 2nd I met Mr. Hare by appointment, and then I myself returned in the evening to Melbourne.

810 That was your last connection with the Kelly business?- Yes.

811 Do I understand that you had nothing further to do with the Kelly capture after that date?- Nothing whatever. I received orders to proceed to the Wimmera, the North Western district, and on the day they were captured I found myself away on the border of the South Australian colony, as far away as I could. be.

812 Were you at Benalla or in Melbourne at the time of the Jerilderie bank robbery?- I was in Melbourne....

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