Royal Commission report day 3 page 12

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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

839 Besides those notes, were you aware of other notes for large amounts being issued in the district?- I have heard of it, but I have only seen two notes shown to me by a storekeeper there. I wish to add in reference to something said by Captain Standish. In the course of my duty there, hearing various rumors and reports from Aaron Sherritt, since deceased, of the appearance of one of the outlaws singly sometimes singly and sometimes in couples, suddenly out of Sherritt's house, and also assertions that Byrne was in the habit of frequently visiting his mother's house, I formed a party and placed them in a cave just about Mrs. Byrne's house.

840 When was this, you kind left on the 2nd?- This was previous to my leaving.

841 Will you fix a date?- About the 1st of December 1879. This place was thoroughly secret, and is away in the centre of nothing but rocks and stones, and no vegetation at all-nothing to induce any person to go there-and it was unknown, I was led to believe, to every one but Sherritt. I selected four men, and I spent with them, in the presence of Senior Constable Mullane and Detective Ward, one to two hours in going over and instructing them in their duty, warning them against every possible contingency or occurrence that might take place, and impressing upon them that their object was not to be surprised, but surprise again. They had the assistance of the deceased Aaron Sherritt. They started at midnight, humping down their provisions, and blankets, and necessaries, without meeting with any one, and all these precautions were taken. Their practice was to come down the hill. The house (Mrs. Byrne's) watched by Sherritt.

842 He was not in the cave?- No, in the long grass, commanding a view of her house. About between ten and eleven o'clock these men used to emerge from this cave and come down very warily- they had been rehearsed in it all-and take up positions apart from each other, to surprise the outlaws if they should attempt to visit that house. I had other four men who relieved them. They were relieved by four men at the end of each week, once a week. Before daylight in the morning they used to ascend the hill and get back before daylight into the cave. Aaron Sherritt was instructed and employed to go round quietly, and warn them not to leave any traces, footprints, &c.; and he was instructed to hide and conceal any if they did leave any. This was continued on for some time. Whenever I reported it to Captain Standish I received a reply from him to remove them at once.

843 To remove the men from the cave?- Yes.

844 Is that in writing?- Yes, I can produce the letter. That if I considered it was a secret, I was mistaken, that it was actually known in the Richmond depot.

845 What was known?- About this secret cave party. I replied, remonstrating against doing so, and assuring him of the perfect safety of the arrangement, and that it was a perfect secret up there. I also added that I was very sorry that the depot was such a place which received information of that kind so rapidly on such a matter where such matters were concerned, the secret movements of the police.

846 This was in December 1879?- Yes.

847 At that time I understood you to say you had full charge of that district?- Yes.

848 Then why was the necessity of communicating with Captain Standish at all?- I had to keep the head of the department advised of what I was doing, for the Government as well as himself.

849 And he had the power to countermand, by his order. what you did?- Yes.

850 Have you got the letter?- Yes, I have a letter to that effect.

851 You can put it in at some future time?- Yes.

852 Is that the first time that you make the statement that any order of that character was sent to you-is it in your memory that he was in the habit of sending similar orders?- I have other orders that I have received of a similar description.

853 I understood both you and Captain Standish that you were altogether acting on your own responsibility, that he understood you were acting in that way; and I understood you to say also you had sole control?- So I had until he interfered. As Chief Commissioner of Police he had the right to interfere.

854 When would you fix the date of the first interference-was this a solitary instance, or was it a matter that had occurred before the 4th December 1879?- I would rather defer answering that for the present. ...

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