Royal Commission report day 9 page 2

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The Royal Commission evidence for 6/4/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 9)

Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence

1595 You did it under the impression in both instances that they were the Kellys?— Yes.

1596 And therefore the effect was the same?— The effect was the same. We had only one object in view—to capture the Kellys. We threw away no chance. When I relieved Mr. Nicolson, on the 2nd of June 1880, he gave me no information whatever concerning the Kelly armour, and it was only in conversation with different people—Mr. Sadleir especially—that I picked up that, and found that it was supposed that when the Kellys next appeared it would be in armour.

1597 Were all the men acquainted with that?— No; not one, except Sergeant Steele, at Wangaratta; he is the only one I have heard of that knew anything at all about the armour. Mr. Nicolson first got the information about the armour on the 26th of March 1880 ; that is as far as I am aware.

1598 You went up in June 1880?— Yes. On one occasion, about a month before I was ordered to Benalla, a constable named Phillips came to me at the Richmond depot. He was a horse-clipper, and came to the depot for the purpose of clipping the horses there. He is one of the men alluded to by Mr. Nicolson as never having fired a gun in his life. I said to him, “Well, Phillips, you have not caught the Kellys yet,” just in conversation, whilst I was looking at him clipping the horses. He looked up and said, “No; the Kellys have never been into the Benalla police station yet.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, I have been up there about twelve or thirteen months, and I have never yet been two miles out of Benalla; there has not been a party out searching for the Kellys since you left.” I will now relate to you the circumstances in connection with Jack Sherritt and William Sherritt being taken into the police force. I naturally wished to do something for the Sherritt family, after all that Aaron had done for us, and I thought unless we showed some consideration for the families of those who had assisted us, that on any future occasion we would have the greatest difficulty in getting men to work for us. I had never seen Jack or Willie Sherritt in my life (when my narrative commences), and after I was convalescent, about a month after I was shot, I was in my own house at the depot, when Mr. Ramsay, the then Chief Secretary, came to see me. He said to me, “We have the two young Sherritts on our hands.” I said, “What are you going to do with them?” He said, “We intend giving them a selection of land and allowing them to settle on it.” I said to him, “Those men have no money, and it will be a great difficulty regarding them; would it not be better to let them join the force, if they behaved themselves. They can remain in the force, and if they do behave themselves they will make excellent constables.” I knew nothing about them myself, except what Aaron Sherritt used to tell me. He said that they were not like him; that they had never committed any offence, and I was to be careful not to be seen by them, as they did not wish to mix themselves up with the Kelly business at all, because he looked upon them just the same as the public, that they could not assist me or the outlaws in any way. Mr. Ramsay said, “I think it is a very good idea; will you speak to Captain Standish on the subject? “This was on a Saturday night. I think on Monday I saw Captain Standish, and he told me Mr. Ramsay had been speaking to him about the Sherritts, and he (Captain Standish) thought it was a very good idea, taking them on in the force. He then wrote, and told those men to report themselves at the depot. They were then living at Oakleigh.

1599 Where they then in the employment of the police?— No, they were paid by the Government, receiving 6s. a day. I do not know who sent them to Melbourne , or how they ever came to Melbourne . They came to the depot and they remained there, I think, about ten days before they were sworn in. During those ten days Captain Standish communicated with different people as to whether they knew anything about those two young men. I instituted enquiries, by Captain Standish's direction, and the worst thing I found against Jack Sherritt was that a constable, whilst he was watching in the cave alluded to by Mr. Nicolson, had seen Sherritt killing a sheep; that would be between daylight and sunrise in the morning. I said to the man that saw him killing the sheep, “Did you examine that sheep?” He said, “No.” I said, “Whose sheep was it?” He said, “I do not know, but the squatter who lives on the run said he suspected the Sherritts of stealing his sheep,” and he naturally concluded this was one of them. I said, “There is nothing tangible against this man.” He said, “That is all I know about the case.” I reported to Captain Standish about Willie Sherritt. We never heard a word against him; he had never mixed himself up with the Kelly business, as far as I knew. Upon that Captain Standish swore them in as constables. Those two men remained at the depot I think about six weeks, and during that period no two men I have ever seen—and I have been fifteen years at the depot—worked so hard, or showed such an inclination to become good constables. The two sergeants over them, mounted and foot, gave them most excellent characters, and there was not anything during the time they were at the depot that could be said against them. There was once Jack Sherritt went into Melbourne when he went and applied to the detective office for a warrant against a person; his statement was not clear, and I referred it to the head of the department, Mr. Nicolson, recommending that no further steps should be taken in the matter, as I fancied that Jack Sherritt had not given the full facts of the case; and he approved of my suggestion and said nothing more was to be done in the matter. Shortly after this I called at Mr. Nicolson's office and said to him, “I am going to take Jack Sherritt into my district; there is a vacancy now under a very excellent constable, who will teach him his duty, and if he misbehaves himself he will be reported immediately.” Mr. Nicolson said to me, “It is no use your taking any steps in the matter; to tell you the truth I have recommended their discharge from the service.” I said, “All right, Mr. Nicolson,” and I left his office.........

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