Royal Commission report day 45 page 10

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The Royal Commission evidence for 10/8/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 45)

[[../../people/peD_G/gravesMLA.html|The Honorable J. H. Graves, M.L.A.,]] giving evidence

15493 You look upon that as the first cause of disaffection?— Yes, and one circumstance was Ned Kelly being in gaol. It was in consequence of sending men who were inefficient as far as the country was concerned, that the Kellys got ahead—that is my individual opinion. At any time that you went about those places, any of their houses, you always saw strange faces there. If I asked my stockman who knew all these men, who they were, he would say, “He has just got out,” meaning he was a prisoner of the Crown who had met them, and brought up the latest accounts of how their relations were faring in gaol. At that time there was a house in Winton, close to Greta , between Greta and Benalla, which was a place where all these characters assembled. There were then two public houses in the place. From time to time the members of the Kelly family were taken up for different offences, and sometimes they got off—in fact they carried their audacity to almost an incredible extent. As an instance, I may mention just before I left Benalla, which must have been in the year 1876, that I had two very valuable mare” that I had heard for some time would be likely to be stolen, and I determined to remove them. I brought them into Benalla, and on the day they came into Benalla for the purpose of being trucked down here to Melbourne , the Kellys followed them into the town. They were locked up in the stock-yard, and those men remained watching those horses till towards morning. The man I had in charge of them left his own horse, saddle and bridle at the hotel close by. One of the Kellys, I believe Dan Kelly, walked into the stable, and as he could not get the horses he stole the man's new saddle and rode out of the town with it on his horse. He was after some months arrested by the police—the prosecutor was Mr. Smith , my man who swore to the saddle having been made for him, and that it was stolen out of the stable. It was at the Beechworth court, and I think it was Dan Kelly . I am speaking from memory, but you have the documents referring to the case. He was tried for it in Beechworth, and he got a number of witnesses to prove that he himself had bought the saddle, so that it was almost impossible to convict him. He was discharged. The saddle was made for Smith, and there was no doubt at all about it. I think Kelly produced a receipt for the horse, saddle, and bridle, and they got witnesses to prove that, and they were seen with them by the police on the day of the robbery. I instance that to show the audacity of those men, and, correctly or incorrectly, I attribute their getting ahead and the subsequent results to the impunity with which they committed those offences, and the state of the police not making them amenable to justice; and that was from the want of knowledge on the part of the police of their persons and of the country. I desire now to pass from that time to the time of the murders. You have the records of them before you I suppose. It has been stated that in my place in the House I expressed an opinion unfavorable to the police. I wish to put myself right with regard to that. There was only one occasion that I recollect speaking of the matter, and it was reported in Hansard on the 25th of November as follows:— “I am in a position to assert, and to prove when the proper time comes, that a large amount of money was spent by the outlaws at Benalla, under the very noses and to the knowledge of the police.” That has been corroborated, and that is the only assertion I made. I was always willing, to the best of my ability. to assist the police authorities. I have got a series of letters here which were sent to me, but I will only refer to two or three, in order to draw attention to one or two salient points. Of course, being member for the district, matters came under my observation which it is requisite now to mention to you. I was personally acquainted with all the constables except Lonigan. There could not be, in my opinion, more efficient or more determined men. Scanlan and Kennedy knew every inch of the country, and I believe Lonigan knew the persons of the outlaws, the men then known to be out. Sergeant Kennedy did not know them personally, but knew all their mates and acquaintances, because they were continually coming Wild Wright's, and up the Mansfield country. The first document that I wish to hand in is the first message transmitted to me after I heard the account of the murders of the constables, a telegraph message, 31st October 1878, from Mansfield, signed by the President of the Shire of Mansfield. You will notice that the murders took place on the 26th, I think, and this telegram is sent to me on the 31st:— “I have just returned from the scene” (that is where the men were murdered). “On my way home met police in pursuit, all of whom are badly armed. Three rifles among twenty-three men. Revolvers are useless in the ranges, and terrible scenes will be enacted unless a strongly armed force is sent at once. Civilians have done all yet and we must be supported by armed police. Do bring it before the House publicly, for no notice is taken of private representations. (Signed) JAMES TOMKINS , President of the Shire of Mansfield .” Up to that time the residents had done all they could to ascertain the full particulars of the murders, and bring the perpetrators to justice. That telegram, I think, indicates, as far as the Delatite residents are concerned, that they had done all they could, and there must have been neglect on some official’s part in handling his men. The complaint of residents is that after the murders the police were not sent quickly to the scene to follow the murderers—that time was lost. I now pass to the Euroa bank robbery. On the morning after the Euroa bank robbery I was in Mansfield , and it was known about breakfast time that the bank had been robbed the previous day. I will ask you to fix the dates; I think it was on the 10th December 1878 . I was at breakfast at the hotel about eight or nine o'clock , getting ready to come down to Melbourne by the coach, and the bank was robbed on the previous day. In the hotel where I was stopping there was a large body of police stopping I think. I know their horses were in the yard—I will not be certain as to that, but I saw the horses, and there was a large body of constables about the hotel, I think boarding at the hotel. The officer in charge, Mr. Pewtress , came over to me, knowing I was going by the coach, and told me about the bank robbery at Euroa, and asked me if I thought it would not be better to postpone my journey, because I should pass quite close to the place through the mountain road to the Strathbogie Ranges . He then told me that the bank had been robbed, that he had got a telegram that it had been robbed, and that he was going to send a body of police to intercept the robbers. I said to Pewtress, “Well, if the bank at Euroa is robbed as you say, and the robbers were there late last night—and this is before the coach left before nine in the morning—then in my humble judgement it is quite impossible, with an active body of police, that the robbers can escape in the time to their fastnesses in the Glenmore Ranges; and in my opinion they can only get there by coming up towards Dry Creek way, or by going the lower track under Healey's Station through Strathbogie Ranges. I think it is likely they will take this lower track, because if they have got money the probabilities are that they will give it to their relations and friends, and the lower track that I have indicated will bring them very close to their grandmother's house, Mrs. Quin' and also take them out towards the Victoria Sawmills and on the Lima road as it is called, and that will bring them quite close to their aunt’s place, where they have other relations and friends.” Upon bearing this Mr. Pewtress sent for his seniorconstable named James , and told him in my presence what I had stated. Senior-constable James, in my presence, then said that the statements made by me, in his opinion, were accurate, and if he had his own way he would take the track I had indicated, by which alone I thought they would escape. Inspector Pewtress telegraphed down for permission to do so, and I heard he was not allowed to adopt the measures which both Inspector Pewtress and Senior-constable James considered desirable, but was to go another road, which, if my information was correct, was exactly the opposite way to what they ought to have gone. ....

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