Royal Commission report day 49 page 1

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Story of the KellyGang - the Royal Commission Report

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The Royal Commission evidence for 6/9/1881

(full text transcription)

see introduction to day 49

Sup John Sadleir giving evidence


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

W. Anderson , Esq., M.L.A. G. R. Fincham , Esq. , M.L.A.

J. Gibb , Esq. , M.L.A. E. J. Dixon , Esq. , J.P.

16657.1 The witness— I have made some notes of the evidence of my own connection with the Kelly business especially, and with the North Eastern district, and I will read from this, as I think it will be the most expeditious mode of getting through the business. I have made an index of the various points that I may have to refer to, and the Commission can say whether they wish the points referred to or not. The first business I have to deal with is the condition of the district as regards crime previous to the police murders, and previous to my doing there. I took charge of the district in July 1878. The witnesses who testify to the evil condition of the district for years before I had anything to do with it are Captain Standish, myself, Detective Ward, and in fact every person who was questioned on the subject. I have shown by my own evidence, and other witnesses show the same, that even under the best circumstances the district is so extensive as to be quite beyond control. On my taking charge I pointed out this to Captain Standish , and his answer was that he quite agreed with me, but the Government insisted on the new Arrangements being carried out

16658 That was putting two districts into on?— Two and a half districts; nearly three.

16659 Too much for the supervision of any one man?— Yes. The Commission have before them all the correspondence relating to the preliminary search for the Kellys , the gang being formed of the two Kellys only, and not of four men, as Captain Standish has stated in error. I visited Greta police station for the first time on July 30th, 1878 . Besides Senior-Constable Strahan, who was then in charge, I met a gentleman residing on the King River, and his servant, whose names I can give, who informed me in a somewhat mysterious way that the Kellys were in the neighborhood of Connolly's, or towards the Wombat or Holland Creek. I gave this gentleman a seat in my buggy to Benalla, and promised to drive him on to Mansfield next day, as I hoped to get his assistance and that of his servant, who could, I believe, have given useful information. This gentleman was the worse of liquor when I met him next, and I had to travel alone. At this same visit to Greta Senior-Constable Strahan told me that he and Constable Ryan lately saw two horsemen standing on a point of the Bald hill, whom they suspected to be the Kellys; that they rode up as quietly as they could to try and capture them, but when the police reached the spot the supposed Kellys had disappeared. It was on the information of these several persons that I gave my first written instructions to Sergeant Kennedy , dated August 10th, 1878 . Subsequently, in consequence of further correspondence with Captain Standish , Detective Ward was sent up, and I had no other information of any description of the Kellys ' whereabouts, further than is shown in Mr. Secretan 's letters given in my evidence. While the preliminary inquiries were going on I saw Sergeant Kennedy several times, and no doubt I made him acquainted with my own views on the subject. I had, before this, gone myself with him through the country, where the murders took place. This was in search of the Kellys for shooting Constable Fitzpatrick , and with the view of getting the man ( Perkins is the man I refer to), to assist the police. This man was from home, his wife told us, making inquiry about the Kelly's in Sergeant Kennedy's interest, as he had previously promised, and that he would see the sergeant as soon as he returned. Soon after this I saw Sergeant Kennedy who informed me that this man ( Perkins ) had not kept his promise; that he had been once or twice in Mansfield , and had kept out of his way. I did not wish to interfere myself further, for I knew I could trust entirely on Sergeant Kennedy's discretion, and he in fact knew the man's character much better than I did. I do not think Sergeant Kennedy had one word of information beyond what I told him, and I am quite satisfied the insinuation that he left with Constable Scanlan, so as to have an advantage over Constables Lonigan and McIntyre is groundless. I think his conduct in allowing McIntyre to go out shooting is proof enough that he had no notion that the Kellys were near. I received information of the police murders at Dookie on morning of 29th October. When I got to Benalla I found Mr. Nicolson busy despatching parties of police in various directions. I left that business altogether in his hands, and rode on to Mansfield, forty miles further, that evening. The bodies of Lonigan and Scanlan had been brought in, and I arranged, with Mr. Pewtress ' assistance, for a search party on the following morning to find the body of Sergeant Kennedy . His body was found on the following day (31st). The Mansfield people, in the first scare, thought that the Kellys would be still in the neighborhood, but I urged on them that they were sure to clear out across the Murray , as actually proved to be the case. The next item in the index I have made is Mr. Nicolson 's position and my own in the district at this time. As regards Mr. Nicolson 's position in the district, this is clearly defined in the evidence of ( Captain Standish , Mr Nicolson , myself and Mr. Hare , and the same evidence explains my position. The witnesses all show Mr Nicolson to be in charge of the Kelly operations, Mr. Sadleir in charge of the district, and the definition has been accepted right through by the Commission until Mr. Graves and Mr. Winch gave their views. It is a perfectly well understood thing in the service that Mr. Nicolson as Inspecting Superintendent had the entree of every district whenever he chose or was desired by the Chief Commissioner to go there. Captain Standish , with Mr. Hare , took exactly the same position in December 1878, when Mr. Nicolson left, and the latter again resumed his old position in July 1879. My original duties were never taken out of my hands, and I was never, in any sense superseded. Captain Standish , in his evidence, has made this plain, and shows he knew it to be impossible that one and the same person could take charge of the double work. The same remarks apply to the question of responsibility in the Kelly business. My own certain conviction is that I have properly no responsibility in any transaction, even where I acted as a free agent at the time, so long as my action was afterwards approved by my superior officer. But I am not going to shield myself behind any mere technicality of this sort. As far as being equally responsible, or responsible in the same sense as my seniors, that is quite out of the question. An officer can only be responsible where he has the power of carrying out his own opinions, which I had not. As a junior officer I had to follow the opinions of others.....

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