The Argus at KellyGang 6/12/1881
After a long interval, an effort has been made to justify the recommendation of the Police Commission that Sergeant STEELE should be reduced to the ranks. It will be remembered that the Police Commission, while laying down the rule that it is "unjust that an inferior officer should be punished for the laches of his superior officer," yet hold that Sergeant STEELE should have superseded Inspector BROOK SMITH, and should have neglected work he was specially charged to execute, in order to perform work expressly delegated to Mr SMITH. Such a position is clearly indefensible. Sergeant STEELE received certain orders from his superior officer, he carried them out to the satisfaction of that officer, and there is an end of the matter. The defence is to draw a herring across the trail.
The sergeant is to be degraded because he did not disobey Superintendent SADLEIR, and did not depose Mr BROOK SMITH, and the recommendation is justified on the plea that he shot at a woman at Glenrowan! Such a defence is certainly worthy of the commissioners. The commissioners fully investigated this shooting matter. They refer to it at length in their report, and as they do not accuse Sergeant STEELE, it is to be presumed that they acquit him. For acquitting him they have very good grounds. Mrs REARDON and young REARDON tried to effect their escape from the hotel in the darkness. The outlaws at the same moment came out on the verandah of the hotel and fired at the police; the volley was returned, and some of the heaviest firing of the morning took place. Mrs REARDON'S shawl was cut by a bullet. She swears that STEELE fired the shot. And she is corroborated by two policemen. But as STEELE was using slugs, as he brought down KELLY with slugs, and wounded another man with slugs, and as he had no other gun, it is clear that it is not he who put the bullet through the shawl.
And as to the two constables, it must be remembered that there was great jealousy between the Benalla police, to whom they belong, and the Wangaratta police, whom Sergeant STEELE commanded. At all events, the men have a motive for their improbable, if not impossible story. Sergeant STEELE’S own narrative reads like truth. He resents as an insult the idea that he fired at the woman. He did fire at the time, and he reported that he had shot BYRNE, but on further investigation he voluntarily testified that he had no doubt it was young REARDON whom he hit, he being under the impression that the lad, who did not respond to his challenge, was one of the outlaws trying to outflank him. But all this is wide of the mark.
If Sergeant STEELE, the man who barred NED KELLY'S way and shot the outlaws down, had been charged with firing at a woman, he would have to stand or fall by the evidence. But the commissioners made no such allegation. And it is somewhat disreputable if it is with their consent that the exposure of a false charge has been followed by an attempt to trump up another.
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