The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 2 page 6

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Story of the KellyGang - the Sup Hare's book

The Last of the Bushrangers.

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

Crime at Back Creek

I will give an instance of the kind of crimes that were constantly taking place. I was in my office, about three o'clock , and a messenger arrived, saying there was a terrible fight going on a mile away, and that a man had been killed. I mounted my horse, and on my way met a Dr. C.; I asked him to accompany me, and left orders for two constables to follow. Arriving at the place I found a crowd collected, and saw a man apparently dead, and beside him a piece of his skull about the size of a man's hand, with brains in it. I ordered the body to be removed into a tent. Some one said, "We are waiting until he dies before we remove him." I asked the doctor to examine him, and he said that he was still alive. The culprit who had committed the offence was sitting on a log close by, perfectly indifferent about the matter. I asked some of the bystanders how the man had been murdered, and was informed that the prisoner and the wounded man had had a drunken quarrel; the prisoner getting the worst of it, knocked his opponent down, and with an American axe chopped the piece I have describe off his skull. I ordered his arrest and sent him to the camp, where he was charged and locked up. I remained half an hour waiting for the man to die, but, finding he did not do so, I gave orders that he should be removed at once into the tent, leaving a constable, and giving him instructions to remain there till he died. The doctor would not do anything to the wound. He said it was useless, as the man could not live. Next morning I went to see why the constable had not returned, and, to my surprise, I found the patient still alive and conscious, and gradually he got better. The skin grew over the wound, and some months afterwards he gave evidence against the offender at the Castlemaine Assizes, who was convicted and sentenced. '

Justifiable Homicide

Another case I can remember. One night I was called about one o'clock , a man informing me he had shot two men whilst they were in the act of robbing his store. His story was that he had closed his place of business before going to bed, having made everything safe; but he was awakened during the night, and through the canvas partition saw two men with a light helping themselves to his money behind the counter. He took his revolver and, without moving, fired at one of the men, who dropped, and then fired at the other, who walked a few steps and also fell. He at once came to report the matter. I accompanied the man to his store, and there found the two men lying as described by the store keeper, with the money beside them. The coroner was informed of the matter, a jury was summoned, a verdict of justifiable homicide was returned, and so the matter ended.

Crime at Back Creek

Another incident took place at Back Creek, which is most forcibly impressed upon my mind. One night the lock-up was crowded with prisoners. The lock-up consisted of two small rooms with a boarded up space between them; within this space was the body of a dead man who had been found murdered on the road, and the supposed murderer was in the adjoining cell. My quarters not being more than twenty yards off, I could hear the sentry pacing up and down guarding the prisoners. I awoke during the night, looked out of my door, which I always kept open, but could see no sign of the sentry. I walked down to the watch-house, attired as I was—still I could see nothing of him. Thinking perhaps he had sat down and fallen asleep in the small apartment where the dead man was lying, I walked in quietly and listened, but could see or hear nothing. The sentry, who had happened to be behind the lockup, hearing a noise, suddenly came round the corner, and on seeing me, in a moment cocked his rifle and presented it at me. I called out, telling him who I was. He dropped his rifle, exclaiming, "Oh! sir, I thought you were the ghost of the dead man, and I was going to shoot him!" From that time I was more careful how I visited the sentry.

A Lively Ghost

It was my duty to attend the court daily and conduct the prosecutions of all persons charged with offences. I was in regular attendance, generally from ten o'clock till five or six in the evening. A great part of the night I spent instructing the men in difficult cases, and giving general directions as to how they should be managed. In those days we were not bound down by red tape regulations, and there were no newspaper reporters inquiring into every act. We had a very limited number of men, and they were worked to death, but there were no complaints even when working for sixteen hours a day! The life was exciting; gold was obtained by the ounce, and there were hundreds of thieves preying on the hard working miner. Theatres, concerts, dancing saloons, were open till twelve o'clock at night, and the scenes I have witnessed in them are beyond belief. During my whole career in the police force, I have never had a hand laid on me. Whether my height and size protected me, I know not. I have been present when fights and every imaginable disturbance have been going on, but no one has ever touched me. I have been stopped at the door of dancing saloons, and implored by my men not to enter—bottles were being thrown right and left— still not a soul has interfered with me, and I have managed to quell the disturbance. It was a common occurrence my being called up at night, and frightful outrages reported to me. My first question was, “Have you arrested the offender?” When the reply was "Yes," I would then turn round in my bed and fall asleep; the next morning I probably would have forgotten the circumstance until reminded by some one. The camp life was very pleasant on the diggings, each man had a separate tent to sleep in, and a large one was used as a mess room, where all the officers in the Government service used to mess together, and spend most sociable evenings, but this state of things only existed at the head quarters of the district, where there were a number of officers stationed.

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