Royal Commission report day 45 page 13

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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

15509 Here is another telegram:— “To Mr. Pewtress, Mansfield.—Yes, portion of James' party to remain at Mansfield and portion to go to Broken River; those for latter place to take up the duties of James' party, by which, on enquiry from him, will be explained to them.—S. MAUD, for Superintendent. (Received at 11, sent at 11.8)”?— That is exactly the opposite direction to which he proposed. I think that is the telegram. At all events, that would exactly adopt the opposite course to what had been suggested. My first allegation is about the police at Mansfield , and you have got the evidence to see whether the police were sent up in time. My second is, that I did not consider the search made sufficient; and my third allegation is, that, in my judgment, the attempt to make the party altogether amenable to justice, instead of individually catching them, was wrong. I think you will find that the police waited till eleven o'clock that day, and then took the opposite course to what James and Pewtress said was desirable.

15510 Do you consider that telegram the reply?— It must be, because it was exactly the opposite course to what Constable James advised.

15511 Here is another telegram, dated 11th December 1878:— “Re Sr. Const. James' telegram.— He must carry out instructions given, as they are those of the inspecting superintendent; and as he is now away, I cannot say what his arrangements are. The Mansfield and Broken River police should co-operate in watching the Mansfield road, to intercept offenders should they attempt a crossing from the Strathbogie ranges.—S. MAUD , for Supt. (Received 12.5, sent 12.10 p.m. )”?— I see that is the one and must be taken with the other.

15512 What we gather from you generally is this: that this is one instance in which, had the recommendation of Constable James, of Mansfield, been complied with, the probability is that the outlaws would have been intercepted after the Euroa Bank robbery, before they arrived at their haunts in the ranges?— Yes.

15513 He was the responsible officer in charge of the district?— Yes

15514 And they were prevented from taking these measures, because of information from head-quarters?— Yes, and they did exactly the reverse. I am asked by the Commission why I formed the opinion that if the police had endeavored to catch them singly that they might have brought them to justice earlier. This letter I now produce was sent to me by a dismissed constable named Meehan, who was in the district all the time. As to his character I know nothing. I have merely heard him in courts where I have been adjudicating. He called and said he could give valuable information. The address is torn off, but that is of no importance. The letter is as follows:— “ Sir,—I, having changed my address as above, take this opportunity of informing you I will reside there, pending enquiry. On passing through Euroa I met Constable McGuirk, and in the course of a conversation, re reward, enquiry, etc., he adverted to the fact of having given information to Mr. Nicolson of having found the tracks of two of the outlaws—McGuirk having been sent specially to watch for those tracks—Mr. Nicolson thanked the constable for his efficiency and the promptitude with which he acted. McGuirk then suggested that the trackers be immediately put on, and follow up the tracks, as the ground was soft Mr. Nicolson then said it would not do to catch only two; he wanted the four, and sent the constable back again to watch. McGuirk said that made him indifferent. I respectfully make the above facts known, as he is most anxious to be heard, and thinking it may be material. McGuirk knows nothing of this, I telling him I took no interest in the matter.—I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obt. servant, THOS. MEEHAN.” I do not know McGuirk. That is the evidence that I go on, and a lot of evidence of that kind. That is why I have formed that opinion. I will give another instance where I think that want of—well may I use the word—luck, or want of care was shown. It was well known in Melbourne, and I heard it, that the Kelly family were down for the purpose of buying supplies of ammunition, and food, and clothing, as the case may be. That was known in Melbourne , and the police knew it. I think there was not due care exercised to prevent that ammunition going back to the district. Again passing up the street here in Melbourne, one day, I met a magistrate (this is exactly my difficulty—I do not want to give the names), but in reference to the matter you will see it in the printed list of appearances here, on April 6th, 1879, where it is stated that I had informed the police that Ned Kelly had been seen in Melbourne.

15514 1 “April 6th. Reported by Mr. Graves, M.L.A., that Ned Kelly was seen near Melbourne”?— Now, on that date, I met a magistrate from my district, and in conversation relative to the Kellys, as every one was talking of them at the time, he said that it was well known they were up in the district, in fact they travelled about, and he said further, “You will be surprised to hear that, within the last two hours, I met Ned Kelly in Melbourne.” I said, “Nonsense.”

15515 Was he a person you could rely upon?— Most thoroughly; but of course a man may be mistaken. I said, “ Surely it can be no such thing; he could not be in town.” And he said, “I am quite sure I met him. He had on a short jumper, and his pockets seemed full of apples or something, and the moment he recognized me he jumped into a cab, and there was no policeman near.” He showed me the place where he saw him, and I said, “Can you be mistaken?” And he said he knew Kelly since he was a boy, and was not likely to mistake him, and that anyone who saw Ned Kelly once could not mistake him; that you could tell him because he shrugged his shoulders like his two uncles. That magistrate can be called. I have no objection to give his name to the Commission. And this magistrate in Strathbogie informed me that the Kellys were in the habit of staying at a certain hut there, and that he had sent the police notice that they were likely to be there on a certain date, and that he had no reason to doubt the accuracy of his information, and that the police were not sent. I am telling you who I got the information from, to show why I form certain conclusions; and this magistrate also can be summoned.....

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