The Argus at KellyGang 6/7/1880

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The Argus continued with its report of the KellyGang at Glenrowan

Edward Kelly the notonous outlaw was called upon at the City Police Court yester day to answer a charge of wilful murder As soon as the Court sat however Mr CA Smjth who was instructed by Mr Gurner and appeared to prosecute for the Crown stated that the prisoner was not able to appear and he therefore applied for a remand for seven days.  His application was granted Mr Smyth also intimated that two further remands would probably be necessary before the prisoner was able to appear


  Our Wangaratta correspondent writes:― “In order to show the manner and extent of the terrorism which has so long prevailed in this district, I may mention an occurrence which took place in the immediate neighbourhood of Wangaratta some months ago.  Even now the facts have not been disclosed by the police, but there is no longer any occasion for reticence.  The family of Steve Hart, the outlaw, reside within about three miles of the town, close behind the racecourse.  Before the arrival of the black trackers the gang occasionally visited Hart’s house.  It is unnecessary to say it was under surveillance, but the band were kept so thoroughly posted up in the movements of the police that the watch was without result.  About five or six months since a respectable man, employed by one of the largest traders in the town, in a paddock next the racecourse one night went out opossum shooting―rather a risky sport for the time and place.  He was marked down and challenged, and after being disarmed was marched into the house.  There he found the whole of the outlaws, who accused him of being a detective, placed him on his knees, and told him to prepare for instant death.  Although naturally horror-stricken he succeeded in convincing his captors of the innocent character of himself and his employment, but still they hesitated.  At length they warned him of the frightful fate that awaited him if he reported their visit, and made him solemnly swear that he would not mention his adventure for one month.  Then having presented him with a £10-note still further to seal his lips, they let him go.  So abject, however, was the man’s terror, that for the whole of the specified month he carried the note and the consuming secret about with him, and then only told his employer, who of course gave the information and the money to Sergeant Steele.  The whole affair shows how bold the gang were and how secure and astute were the means they employed in carrying out their depredations.  For it will be evident that to frighten the man out of his wits was a safer course for them than to murder him, and if he had appropriated any of the money his secret would most likely have died with him.  One of the men who is said to have been in the house that night was at Glenrowan on the day of the fight, and affectionately kissed Ned Kelly while he lay wounded there.  The district will never be in a state of peace or security until the nests of lawlessness are rooted out, and the sympathisers themselves stricken with the same terror which they have exercised so long and so ruthlessly.  The appointment of a police magistrate to this district is greatly to be desired.”



The modus operandi adopted by the police in connexion with the unearthing and destruction of the Kelly gang is now the subject of a considerable amount of adverse criticism.  There is no doubt that an inquiry into the whole business would be highly desirable, so that the facts might be clearly known and the authorities placed in a better position for dealing in the future with bushrangers. A reorganisation of the police force for the better control of the North-eastern district―to effect, in short, its subjugation to law and order, because that is really what has to be faced―is, indeed, imperatively necessary, and this, would be greatly assisted by a searching inquiry.  The questions which arise at present, however, are, were the police justified in firing into the inn at Glenrowan when innocent persons were within its walls, and did they act properly in burning the building?

In view of an inquiry these points may be regarded as to some extent sub judice, and it is therefore not intended to discuss them in this article; but as condemnatory letters have been written on the subject, the following remarks may be permitted, in fairness to the police and their officers.  In the first place, then, it may be premised that the police in their efforts to capture the outlaws were heavily handicapped. The character of the country alone made their task a very difficult one, but in addition to that there were more persons actively engaged in keeping the gang concealed than there were policemen in pursuit.  No one could have any idea of the number of the Kelly sympathisers without paying a visit to the district.  Moreover, so powerful had the prestige of the gang become that the law-abiding and respectable residents of the district were, as a rule, more inclined to bear the displeasure of the police and of the public generally by keeping their mouths closed, than run the risk of offending the gang by giving the police any assistance.


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