Royal Commission report day 45 page 12

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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

15497 Wallace swears you did?— I would not swear I did not, but I know he saw it, because l asked him about several particulars in it, as I did in several other instances. For instance, I asked him about the paragraph, “At the present time there are men in the district who have been picked out for their smartness and activity, and they are not allowed outside barracks for fear of their hearing anything about the murders.” That kind of paragraph I made enquiry about, as to its accuracy, and I found out that there were two men who had not been out of the barracks. I see here a note I wrote on the letter, in pencil, at the time that Constable Phillips was one of those.

15498 The impression conveyed to my mind is, that the letter was sent to him by you for the purpose of ascertaining from him if he knew anything ag to the author of that letter?— I would not say it was posted to him, I was up in the district, but that is true undoubtedly that he saw it, for I showed this letter to half-a-dozen people for the purpose of ascertaining whether they believed that the statements therein were true.

15499 Had you any idea at the time you either handed that letter to him or sent it to him that he knew anything as to who inspired it?— I knew that very likely he might, because Wallace knew more about the Kellys than anyone else. My impression was that he could have told me who wrote it.

15500 Are you still under that impression?— I think it was written by a constable of police.

15501 Are you still under the impression that Wallace knew something about the letter prior to his receiving it?— No, I am satisfied in my own mind he did not. He might know many of the facts in it, but my own impression is, from my conversation with him, that he did not know of some of the contents of that letter.

15502 Before Wallace received that letter from you—how long before that had you seen Wallace himself?— That is “ 19th April 1880 .” I think I must have seen him a month before this letter was written.

15503 And at no date between the month before that letter was written?— At this distance of time I could not tell. Wallace was the schoolmaster near Oxley, and I was constantly going by the train to Wangaratta, and I do not think I ever went there without seeing Wallace .

15504 You may have seen him a few days perhaps before you received the letter?— I might; but I do not think I did. I was constantly in the habit of seeing him, and I knew he was a schoolfellow of Byrne.

15505 That is dated the 19th, and I think he swears he had an interview with you on the 17th?— I would not be sure he had not, but I have no recollection of it. I have not read his evidence, and have no idea what he said. I would not even say I spoke to him about this matter before then—I might have.

15506 I think he said he travelled in the train with you on the 17th, or saw you on the station?— My impression was from the first, about this year 1880, that Wallace knew more about them than anyone else in my district, but I have no actual grounds for that except my own supposition. My own belief was that the principal time that the Kellys were out (this is a matter of mere belief) they kept in the immediate neighborhood between Greta and Moyhu. Either at Glenmore Station, or on the Hedi, there were always strange horses whenever I went up, or marks of strange horse in paddocks, and my impression is they were in the district the whole time. That was also confirmed by a statement made by Ned Kelly when he said, “he could have got me” any time he wanted, showing he knew when I was going backwards and forwards in that district. My own feeling was that, on very many occasions, the Kellys, individually or part of them, could have been made amenable to justice; and I thought it was a mistake on the part of the officers attempting to capture them as a body and not taking them individually, because I believe in all history of bands of bushrangers and this kind of thing they have been generally broken up into parts, and it is more effective to catch them when you can, even individually.

15507 May I point out to you that you have just made a statement, that, in my opinion, ought to be borne out by more than statement; can you give data, showing when any one member of the gang could have been taken by the police at any time?— I am giving my evidence as to why I came to certain conclusions, and I make no statement of which I do not give you the opportunity to judge of its correctness by referring to the papers I ask you to look at the telegrams about the Euroa bank robbery, and I now give you an opportunity of ascertaining the correctness of my knowledge by documents I will hand in to you. In any case where I give my evidence as hearsay, I would be glad to be asked the reasons.

15508 Here is the telegram you refer to, 11th December?— I have asserted that if energetic steps had been taken on the day after the bank robbery at Mansfield, and as advised by James, who is one of the best men in the police force, it would have been impossible for the Kellys to have escaped back to their haunts. Now that is the telegram he sent, and I want the reply to him which prevented him taking the steps he proposed. (The telegram, dated 11 th December 1878 , was read as follows :) “I do not see how the trackers can reach Superintendent Nicolson at or near Euroa till late to-night. If he awaits them, then much valuable time is lost, if he does not wait the chances are the trackers and men with them never come up with him. I think the gang likely to make for Strathbogie Ranges and via Double Creeks to old haunts. My party with trackers should go on to table land at back of Dry Creek and Doon , at once, and endeavour to intercept Kelly or cut his tracks and run them. By dividing my party and leaving it without trackers 'tis rendered of little use any way. FRANK JAMES , Senior -Constable, 2339. (Time lodged, 10.15. Time received, 10.27”) There should be a telegram from Benalla to Mansfield , in reply to James ’ telegram. I saw the telegram in Mansfield , stating that the bank was robbed. I never believed the men would go to the Murray , but that they would get back to Strathbogie Ranges , so Senior-Constable James telegraphs to ask permission to go his own way, where he believed they were going, and I think a telegram was sent, directing him to go in the opposite way, otherwise he would have gone that way. There must be a telegram early in the morning, instructing him to go the other road.....

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