The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 5 page 4

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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)

Red Tape

The news of these murders was very soon sent to all parts of the colonies, and caused great consternation. Captain Standish at once despatched the inspecting superintendent to the district, and mounted constables from all parts of the colony were sent in pursuit of the offenders. The police were blamed for being unprepared for such an outbreak, but, to my certain knowledge, for years Captain Standish had been asking for authority to arm his men with proper carbines, but his request was refused, the men not even being supplied with ammunition to practise with, because of the expense. Yet when this outbreak took place, blame was heaped upon the head of the department for being in such a state of unpreparedness. Authority was then given to purchase arms that were thought suitable for the purpose, but rises of the description required could not be obtained. The military sent some old fashioned rifles, but they were not to be depended on. Captain Standish then obtained authority to purchase from a gun-maker in Melbourne a large number of shot guns, breech loaders, and these were sent to the north eastern district, and were well adapted for the purpose, and the men felt great confidence in using them. Each of these breech loading shot guns cost the Government about £8. However, we had to purchase some reliable weapons, and these shot-guns were considered the best, especially for inexperienced men.

£1000 On Their Heads

The inspecting superintendent, and the officer in charge of the district, at once set to work to organize search parties to go in pursuit of the gang. The whole district at this time was in an intense state of excitement, and reports came from all parts of the district that suspicious persons answering the description of the bushrangers had been seen. There were several hundred square miles of country which the murderets knew every inch of, and it was difficult to say in which direction they would fly. One of the parties organized to search for the offenders found, within a few miles of the spot where the murdets were committed, a very strong stockade, built of logs laid one on top of the other, with loop holes all round, thbough wihich shots could be fired, and the person firing remain quite unseen, the trees within one hundred and fifty yards being full of bullet marks, where evidently considerable practice had taken place. It is believed that the bushrangers were living in this stockade when they attacked Kennedy's party, and from all appearances had been living there for some considerable time.

Aaron Sherritt told me it was quite by accident that Joe Byrne and Hart happened to be with the Kellys when they attacked the police. They were always great friends and companions in their horse stealing raids, and Sherritt said they had no idea of shooting the police the morning they started to attack the camp. Their chief aim was to secure some good fire arms and horses, and they were under the impression that all they would have to do was to cover them with their rifles, and the police would surrender. Instead of this they had to shoot the police to save their own lives.

Of course the bushrangers took away everything belonging to the murdered men. The police had good Webley revolvers, a Spencer carbine, and two shot guns, the latter borrowed from some one at Mansfield . The police horses were also taken away by the gang.

The Government immediately offered a reward of £1000 for information that would lead to the apprehension of the offenders, they were outlawed, and every inducement was given to people to inform against them. After the murders the first information that was received concerning them was from the Murray River, below Wodonga, about ninety miles from the scene of the murder. They called at the house of a German, who knew them. They were riding the police horses belonging to Kennedy's party, and had their arms in their possession, and were seen going towards the Murray. They evidently meant to cross the river, but it was flooded, and they got on some of the islands and were very nearly drowned. The police had information of this, but they either disbelieved it, or failed to take action. At all events, a day or two afterwards the outlaws were seen making their way back riding through the water, and obliged to swim their horses to get out. When they reached the shore they had to make a fire to dry their arms, and they remained there some hours.

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