Royal Commission report day 44 page 1

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The Royal Commission evidence for 9/8/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 44)


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

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

J. Gibb , Esq. , M.L.A., W. Anderson , Esq., M.L.A.

Mr. Sadleir — I wish to refer to page -- of the evidence—Mr. Chomley's evidence. “I heard from the Chief Secretary, a long time before, that Mr. Sadleir had written a letter imploring his removal from the district, as he was in danger of his life.” That is a question by one of the Commissioners to Mr. Chomley . I beg to point out that this question was put when myself and the other officers were excluded from the Commission, and this is the first opportunity of learning that such a question was put. I can assure the Commission that there is not the smallest foundation whatever for such a statement.

15212 The Commission (to Mr. Sadleir)— You never did make the application for removal?— I never did, except the one on the 22nd April, which you have before you. I never had any communication, verbal or otherwise, with Mr. Berry or anyone else on the subject. So far from desiring to leave my district, I no sooner heard of another officer being sent up with the means to carry on the work, the want of which means was the only reason for my leaving, than I went to Mr. Berry, in the presence of Mr. Chomley, and said I thought I was the officer best fitted for the work of that district, and I wanted to go back. I can give a copy of everything the last three years. The letter I did write is on page 357, dated 22nd April. The gentleman asking the question, or making the statement, says it was a long time before that he heard from Mr. Berry that I implored to be removed from the district. As I was just stating, I saw Mr. Berry , and asked him to let me return to the district; and his reply was that, as the matter appeared to be critical, and I was likely to be detained before the Commission for some time, he could not do it. I think, with great respect, that I may say I have had more than my share of aspersions of this sort.

15213 What do you object to?— That it contains an aspersion on my character and motives that there is no foundation whatever for.

15214 This seems almost to imply?— That I wanted to clear out of the district from fear.

15215 But your letter of the 22nd says something like that?— But this says long before.

15216 Then the time is what you object to?— You see Mr. Chomley says he can find no other letter than that one. Mr. Chomley mentions having handed in that letter, and then this question I object to was asked. I hope, in consideration of my character and length of service, that the Commission will see me put right in this matter.

[[../../people/peD_G/gravesMLA.html|The Honorable J. H. Graves, M.L.A.]] , Sworn and examined

The Witness — I first of all hand in the document which is the original letter which I was asked to produce. The letter was a private one, sent to me as the member of the district. There is the original letter. It is as I got it, with the exception of the name, and I will explain why that was removed, but I have no doubt that was a false name. The name of the writer of the letter was a false one, and I gave it at the time I gave this letter to Captain Standish . I wish to be called as a witness in regard to this letter and other correspondence received by me. The name to the letter was M. Connor, and I satisfied myself there was no person of that name. It was written by some one in Melbourne , and my own impression is that it was written either at the instigation of or by some constable, but I do not positively know. The name was M. Connor, and I cut it out in order to ascertain in my district, if possible, who was the writer of the letter. I believed at first that that was a genuine signature. I told Captain Standish about it at the time.—[Letter referred to inserted above.] I have to mention also that Sherritt came to me and made certain statements, and my solo object in talking with him was to endeavor to bring the matter before the Chief Secretary, and in consequence of statements made by him, I could not act in the matter unless he verified his statements by an affidavit. I did not wish to put this original document before you while I was on the Commission. The second document I hand in is the affidavit made by John Sherritt . That was based on the letter you have in your hand.—[ The affidavit was read as follows:—] “I, John James Sherritt, of the Richmond police barracks, in the colony of Victoria, formerly mounted constable of police, do solemnly and sincerely declare that I am above 21 years of age, and that about 15 months ago I was a selector on Sheepstation Creek, near Beechworth, and occupied 100 acres of land, being also at the time engaged in a contract for fencing for Mr. Crawford, coach proprietor, which I had taken jointly with my brother, amounting to the sum of about £300. During the progress of the contract I received a message from Detective Ward that Mr. Nicolson , superintendent of police, wished to see me, that in consequences of the said message I had an interview with Superintendent Nicolson in the township of Wangaratta , who asked me to undertake police duties to assist in the capture of the Kelly party of outlaws. I said I would consider his proposition. About three weeks after I met him by appointment at Beechworth, when he again asked me to do duty for him. I told him that the party of Kelly outlaws constantly visited Mrs Byrne's house at Sebastopol , and that they might be easily captured. He then engaged me, and I commenced to do duty, with six other police constables, under charge of Constable Alexander . I therefore had to give up my contract with Mr Crawford, and I continued to do the police duty entrusted to me for over six months; that during this time individual members of the Kelly gang constantly visited Mrs. Byrne's house, and that some time after the robbery of the Jerilderie bank by that party the whole gang came to Mrs. Byrne's house, and I sent word to Mr. Nicolson that they were there, thereupon no action was taken by this officer. I then saw him personally on the matter in Beechworth, and asked him why he did not capture them. He replied that he did not attempt it on that occasion, as if they had found it out they would not come back any more. In about fourteen days afterwards I received a letter from Joe Byrne , requesting me to meet him at Sandy Creek , near Wangaratta. This letter I forwarded to Mr. Nicolson , who instructed me to keep the appointment with Byrne. I accordingly did so, and met Joe Byrne , and had a conversation with him. He told me that the Kelly gang were close at hand, and that they went wherever they liked, as the police were frightened at them. No action was taken on this occasion by Superintendent Nicolson for their capture. I then got thoroughly disgusted with the conduct of the police, and determined to discontinue doing duty for them, and to return to my contract with Mr. Crawford , which I did. Mr. Nicolson again sent for me, and I met him at Allen 's store in Beechworth.

He then persuaded me to continue on doing duty for the police, and he gave me £5 in £1 notes, saying that when the Kellys were captured I would get the biggest portion of the reward; that he would never forget my services, and that he would make me a permanent member of the police force. At his urgent request, I then consented to do duty. Subsequently I constantly saw Byrne at his mother's house and in the township of Sebastopol , and so informed Detective Ward and Mr. Nicolson . Shortly afterwards I saw Mr. Nicolson again in Beechworth, and told him that Ned Kelly had been at Mrs. Byrne's house and at my own house, and I told him that my brother William had seen Dan Kelly in the neighborhood. Shortly after this Dan Kelly called at my house and asked to see me.

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