The Argus at KellyGang 17/11/1879

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Since the impudent visit of the Kellys and Steve Hart to the house of the latter's father, an active search has been prosecuted by the police, acting under secret instructions from the chief commissioner. Further particulars of the visit have now reached us, together with some important information as to the change in the appearance of Steve Hart and of the movements of an armed party supposed to be identical with the outlaws. Our informant, who has special facilities for obtaining information, and is therefore reliable, states that the man who saw the Kellys at the time referred to in our previous issue is a farmer named Smith, residing upon a piece of land adjacent to that occupied by Hart's father, near the One Mile, Wangaratta. Smith is acquainted with all the members of the Hart family, and particularly with Dick Hart, the brother of the outlaw. One moonlight night in October Smith was out opossum hunting at the back of Hart's house, and while indulging in the pastime saw a man dodging behind a tree as if endeavouring to screen himself from observation.

The night was particularly clear, and thinking be recognised the man, he called out, "Now then, Dick Hart, come out of that, and let's have none of your larks." At this summons the man supposed to be Dick Hart came from behind the tree, and, running up to Smith, pointed a revolver at him, and said, " I'm not Dick Hart, come along with me. Smith was astounded, not only at the resemblance of the stranger to Dick Hart, but also at the manner in which he was treated. Fearing personal injury, he followed the man, and shortly afterwards they joined three others. The five of them then went to Hart's house, and there Smith recognised the four outlaws. The strangest part of the affair is the singular change in the appearance of Steve Hart. When seen previous to the police murders he was a beardless stripling, but now he has grown a long beard, and in appearance so strongly resembles his brother Dick as to be mistaken for him by those who know the latter well. After remaining some time at Hart's house, and conversing carelessly with the inmates, the gang decided upon leaving, but before doing so threatened Smith with severe penalties if he divulged their visit for at least a month. For about a fortnight afterwards Smith kept his mouth closed, and as a reward for his secrecy he received a letter through the post containing a £10 bank note.

Finding himself unable to keep his secret any longer, he went to the police and gave the information, together with the £10 note, which, on inspection proved to be one issued by the National Bank at Euroa. Now that this has leaked out, it transpires that these periodical visiting to Hart's house have been carried on at intervals for some time. A girl named Maggie Heiner, employed by a farmer named M'Donald near Wangaratta, has stated to a Mrs White, who was formally a midwife at Wangaratta, but who has recently gone to New Zealand, that she had more than once seen Steve Hart at her father's place since he was outlawed, but that she was frightened to communicate with the police. This report was furnished to the authorities, but so many false alarms have been raised that it was looked upon with distrust, and no steps were taken by the police for some days. It is now believed, however, that it is the most authentic report received of the movements of the gang since the Jerilderie outrage. After the arrival of Assistant-commissioner Nicolson in Wangaratta on the 17th October, some additional information was obtained, and an active search was then instituted.

Last week, we believe on Friday, a startling report was received by the police that a gang of eight or nine men, principally dressed in policeman's uniform, were seen between Shepparton and Yarrawonga, and proceeding towards the latter place. The police informant who saw them states that from the manner in which they were acting, from their conversation and from the heterogeneous and large collection of firearms which each carried, he was convinced that they were not members of the police force. On communicating his information to the authorities, it was found that no such band of police were out in the locality named. Suspicion was at once aroused, and about 30 police from Wangaratta, Rutherglen, Benalla, and Shepparton, in Victoria, and Urana, Corowa, and Tocumwal in New South Wales, were ordered to centre on Yarrawonga (which is situated on the Murray, about 30 miles below Corowa), and to keep a sharp look-out for the masquerading force. The police are still out, but to the present no news has been received.

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