The Argus at KellyGang 3/5/1881
THE KELLY COUNTRY
The recent visit of Superintendent Chomley to the North-Eastern district was, as has been already explained, in consequence of reports that the more unscrupulous members of the criminal class there were assuming a threatening attitude. It appears from inquiries we have made, that these reports are far from groundless. There are about a dozen youths and men belonging to what is termed in the district the "Kelly Clique," who might take to the bush at any moment. They are at present following no lawful occupation.
When they do work it is only as shearers, horsebreakers, or labourers and at this season of the year there is next to nothing for them to do. This circumstance would alone give reason for apprehending mischief, but there are additional grounds for the distrust expressed by the police. It is known that the more dangerous characters are in an organised state, and certain members of the fraternity have uttered threats of revenge for the destruction of the Kelly gang, which are regarded as being more serious than mere bluster. So real do the persons who used to supply the police with information as to the late notorious gang feel the danger to be that one by one they have been and still are leaving the district, believing that it is no longer safe for them to live there.
More-over, horse-stealing has been prevalent for some time back, and on the 21st of last month occurred the rather significant theft of two saws from the saw-pit of Mr Acock, at the Seven-mile Creek, near Glenrowan. Regarding the last-mentioned larceny, it appears that the saws taken were 6ft. long by 11in. wide at the broad ends, and that a smaller one was left. It is argued that had these saws been stolen for legitimate work, the small one would not have been left, but would rather have been taken in preference to the other two, as being the most serviceable.
The conclusion, therefore, is that the articles have been stolen for the purpose of making them into armour, and that an effort is being made to find lighter and more convenient material than the plough mould-boards used for the same purpose by the Kelly gang. The horse-stealing has occurred chiefly in the district of the lower Goulburn. About a dozen have been taken from paddocks there, within the last few months. Invariably, however, the thefts have not been reported to the police until too late for tracking the offenders. The last one, for instance, took place on the 21st ult, and was not reported until the 28th. The dilatoriness shown in giving the police information arises from the owners being either unable to tell at first whether their horses have been stolen or have only strayed, or from the distance of their farms or runs from a police station. These unfortunate difficulties enter, no doubt, into the calculations of the offenders in choosing their fields of operation.
There is, however, a more serious thing for consideration than the prevalence of horse-stealing, and that is the terrorism under which the Kelly country still lies. People are as much afraid of the "sympathisers" as ever, and, worst of all, the men who formerly acted positively refuse to give any more assistance. These agents are in fact panic stricken at the disclosures which are being made in the evidence given to the Police Board. Some of their names have been either mentioned or so indicated that they can be identified by the friends of the late outlaws, and they hold that their interests have been betrayed. As has been already stated, a number of them have already migrated. The others who remain say they never meet with one of the Kelly clique without dread. They are under continual apprehension that from the evidence published their identity has been or will be recognised, and that any moment may be their last. The existence of this terrorism is so real that if there were another outbreak the police would have to rely almost exclusively on themselves, and in that case matters would assume amore serious aspect than ever. To put it briefly, one of the strongest arms of the police force is being paralysed. It will be remembered that the press was admitted to the Police Board on the understanding that when the publication of names or portions of evidence was objected to they would be suppressed. Care has been taken to carry out this understanding strictly in the reports of the evidence given in these columns; but certain sections of the press have been less scrupulous, and so the mischief has been done. As one result of Mr Chomley's visit, reinforcements of police are to be sent to the district, but this highly necessary step will be of little value unless the officers are enabled to regain the confidence of the class from whom they draw their secret agents and informers.
|!||The text has been retyped from a microfiche copy of the original.
We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged.