The Argus at KellyGang 16/6/1879
Considerable excitement was created in Melbourne on Saturday by the circulation of a number of sensational rumours with regard to the Kelly gang, which were founded upon the assertion that Kate Kelly, and other friends of the outlaws, had arrived in town, and were about to sail for Sydney. The news quickly spread, and as each of those who circulated the rumour did not refrain from adding something to it the most absurd statements soon gained ground, culminating on Saturday night in a very general belief that the whole of the gang had safely effected their escape from the colony. As usual in such cases the original statement had in it some slight element of truth, but beyond that there was not the slightest foundation for the report. As a matter of fact, it appears that on Friday night Mrs. Skillion, a married sister of the Kellys, accompanied by another woman and a young man, came down by train from Benalla to Melbourne. On the journey they were recognised by a gentleman carrying on business in the North-Eastern district, by whom in formation was at once given to the police.
The party were immediately put under surveillance, and were traced to an hotel in Carlton, where they still remain. None of the party were seen at Sandridge on Saturday. The police are extremely reticent upon the subject, and somewhat bitterly complain that if there had been any chance of gaining information as to the movements of the out- laws by observing the actions of their friends while in town, it has been entirely spoilt by tho attention which has been called to their presence in Melbourne. While it is possible that the visit of Mrs. Skillian may have something to do with a preconcerted plan for enabling tho outlaws to quit the country, there is a very strong impression abroad that the movement may, after all, be but a ruse to divert the attention of the police from some movement in another direction. The authorities have, however, taken every care to provide against such a possibility.
For several months a large body of police has occupied what may be called the disaffected districts, but nothing whatever has come of it. THE KELLYS are not caught, and for all that is known to the contrary their capture is as far distant as ever. There is, in point of fact, no positive knowledge that these marauders are even in the locality. In the meantime property in the centres of population is left without adequate protection, and the criminal class grows more during and enterprising day by day. If a police system is to be efficient there must be no half measures, no suspicion of weakness. The force should be sufficient not merely for the detection of crime, but for its prevention-that is to say, as far as it can be made preventable. But when the means of overtaking and bringing offenders to punishment are-wanting, not only is there no prevention, but crime is posi tively encouraged. This is pretty much the state of affairs just 'now', in Melbourne, where the law-breaker appears to have a tolerably clear coast. And it must not be forgotten that the tendency of crime is to increase. If property, is not protected, the person will be attacked. The burglar will in the natural course of things develop into the garrotter, who may become the terror of Melbourne as he once was of London.
When we have such facts before us and such consequences threatened, the question may well be asked-Is it advisable to maintain a large force in the north-eastern district ; and, if so should it be done to the detriment of the community generally? At all events, should not such measures be adopted as will render property in the larger cities and towns reasonably secure? If it is necessary to keep a portion of the colony permanently in a state of siege, the position should be faced at once, and arrangements made accordingly. If, on the other hand, the men now engaged on special service are not really required let them be brought back and employed where they would be of value. Things cannot be allowed to go on much longer as they are at present. The KELLYS, of course, must be watched and pursued, but while this is being done, property generally must not be left to the mercy of the thief and the burglar. And concerning the bush-rangers, there is no disguising the fact that the fruitlessness of the efforts made to track them has created profound disappointment. Since the raid on Jerilderie no distinct trace of them has been discovered, and nothing has transpired, within the knowledge of the public, to show that the trail has been actively sought for. We are aware, of course, that secrecy on the part of the agents of the law is to a great extent ne cessary, but up to a certain point information might be communicated without disadvantage, and a little authentic intelligence as to the move ments of the police in the north-eastern district would be received by the community with much satisfaction. We would suggest, therefore, that the Government should call for a report as to the steps which have been taken, and the use which has been made of the ample means in men and money placed at the disposal of the police department. The Government has a right to know-perhaps it does know-all that has been done; and the public is also entitled to whatever in- formation may be safely given, not only as to past action, but as to the measures proposed to be taken in the future. But in any case the community will demand adequate police protection for every city and town; in other words, that security for life and property without which society cannot exist.
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