The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 7 page 5

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

Ned Kelly’s Statement

According to Ned Kelly, his criminal career commenced when he was fourteen years old, and received a sentence of three months' imprisonment for using a neighbour's horse without his consent, as he put it. After this, convictions were frequent, and, says Kelly, "The police became a nuisance to the family." At one period of his life Kelly described himself as a "wandering gamester." He states in this document, "When the affray with Fitzpatrick took place, the constable came to apprehend my innocent brother Dan. Mr mother asked him if he had a warrant, he replied he had a telegram. My mother said to Fitzpatrick, ‘If my son Ned was here he would chuck you out of the house.' Dan looked out of the window and said, ‘Here he comes.' The constable turned suddenly round to look out of the window, when Dan jumped up and seized the constable, and in the scuffle Fitzpatrick was shot through his wrist."

I quote this fully because certain newspapers in the colony published statements to the effect that Fitzpatrick had acted improperly towards Kate Kelly, and that had caused Dan Kelly to shoot Fitzpatrick, and that Ned Kelly took up his sister's cause. By this means they obtained no end of sympathy from the general public, whereas there was not one word of truth in the accusation. And Ned Kelly, not only in the statement that he gave to Mr. Living, in which he said this was a pure invention, but also after his capture, stated distinctly there was not one word of truth in the accusation made against Fitzpatrick; " for," said Ned Kelly, 'if there had been, I would not have been a man had I not shot him on the spot." But from Ned Kelly's own narrative it is apparent that these charges were pure inventions, made solely for the purpose of raising sympathy for these murderers. It was admitted that Fitzpatrick was resisted and assaulted while in the execution of his duty. An account is given in this statement of Ned Kelly's of the terrible tragedy at Mansfield, but it is obviously a string of falsehoods, and it would be quite improper to have it published, but he admitted that the police were not in any way the aggressors at the Wombat, but were surprised and shot down in cold blood.

The outlaws, after the Jerilderie bank robbery, evidently returned back to their mountain retreats in Victoria. No end of Bank of New South Wales notes were in circulation shortly afterwards, but the numbers of the stolen notes were not known, beyond the fact, that the head office at Sydney had sent these identical notes to Jerilderie for circulation, but no account was kept of the notes that were paid out of the bank. Hence no prosecution could be instituted, as the bank officials could not swear the notes found in the possession of the friends of the outlaws had not been paid over the counter. Notwithstanding that all the wires of the telegraph lines were cut at Jerilderie, and the outlaws departed from there at seven o'clock, at nine o'clock that night I received a wire at Benalla from Jerilderie informing me of all the facts of the matter. I at once took steps to give instructions to all crossing places on the Murray river to keep a sharp look out, and sent men during the night to every known crossing-place, to endeavour to effect their capture, but all to no effect. The distance between Jerilderie and Benalla, where I was stationed, was over 100 miles, and the first tidings we heard of their return was that Dan Kelly was seen two or three days after the bank robbery making back to the mountains in this colony, some fifteen miles from Beechworth.

I have written fully on the subject of this bank robbery, because the plans were well laid, and everything carried out in such an able manner. I am indebted, to the newspapers of the day for refreshing my recollection of the facts that took place after the bank robbery, as I did not like to trust to my memory as to the numerous incidents that occurred during that exciting time.

£8000 on their Heads

The Government of New South Wales, together with the banks of that colony, offered an additional reward of £1000 for the apprehension of each of the outlaws; making the sum offered by the two colonies £8000. Sherritt told me, at my first interview with him, that he was the principal agent of the outlaws in that part of the district, and everything that was known about them by their friends would be communicated to him. Besides which he was at this time engaged to be married to Joe Byrne's sister, and she lived with her mother at Woolshed. He also told me that if they did rob a bank, they were sure to call at Mrs Byrne's on their way back, and leave her some of the money. He-said, "Now if you want really to take them, I will lay you on, them." I told him I would place myself unreservedly in his hands and do whatever he suggested, and I arranged to meet him again. When he left, I told the detective who introduced him to me what he had said. The detective ridiculed the affair and said, "He is only deceiving you, sir, please don't trust him; he would not sell his friend Joe Byrne for all the money in the world." I felt convinced my opinion of the man was correct, and he meant to work for us honestly. Sherritt said "You have a most difficult and dangerous job before you, but I will do all I can to assist you." Sherritt had a most exalted opinion of Ned Kelly, and said he did not believe there was another man like him in the colony. He said, "He is about the only man I ever was afraid of in my life, and I certainly give him best in everything." When I found out that the information he had given me about the two outlaws having called at his house was correct, I felt very confident that before long we should fall across them.

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