The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 21 page 2

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As for Ned himself, his plight was worse than that of his associates, for they at least had the satisfaction of dying in fight, while he was a humiliated prisoner, with almost certain death in prospect. His wounds were dressed as well as possible, and for one night he remained in the lock up at Benalla where he was interviewed by McIntyre and others of the police, and on the following day he was conveyed by the ordinary train from the North East to Melbourne . His expected arrival created extraordinary excitement in the city, with the result that extraordinary precautions were taken to prevent any rioting or disorder among the inquisitive crowd which thronged all approaches to the railway station at Spencer-street when the train was due. Elaborate barriers had been erected near the station entrance where uniformed police paraded, but all this demonstration was a mere hoax which successfully deluded the people. The train in which Kelly travelled pulled up at North Melbourne, the station next adjoining Spencer street, and a few plain clothes police and detectives, who had unostentatiously strolled on to the platform, immediately approached the brake van containing the wounded bushranger and his armed guards. He was quickly carried to a vehicle which was in waiting, with a mattress on the floor, and driven away to the Melbourne Gaol where a bed in the Gaol hospital awaited him. He was, indeed, in a pitiable state, suffering greatly from his wounds, while his face was covered with livid bruises made by concussion with the iron helmet when it was struck by the numerous bullets from the police rifles, which flattened themselves against it. As the bushranger was carried to the prison van a murmur of pity arose from the few spectators, some of whom doubtless had their own grudges against the law, while others merely felt involuntary compassion for a man helpless and fallen, ruffian though they recognised him to be.

Mr O’Connor and his black trackers, and Mr Hare, wounded like Ned Kelly, were also passengers by the train which took the outlaw to Melbourne, and Mr Hare had a good reception at Spencer street, where he was met by the late Sir W J (then Mr) Clarke and his wife, who drove him in their carriage to the police depot at Richmond. For weeks afterwards Mr Hare’s wound was attended to by Dr Charles Ryan, a surgeon lately returned from service with the Turkish army in the war against Russia . Dr Ryan sent in his bill of some four hundred and fifty guineas to the Government, who also saw that Ned Kelly’s wounds were attended to, though at somewhat less expense by Dr Shields, the Government medical officer at the Melbourne Gaol. Over ₤600 was spent on surgical attendance upon Mr Hare; but to prove his desire for rigid economy, the Government, as commented on by members of the Royal Commission which enquired into the Kelly outbreak, questioned the payment of four guineas for the treatment of a black tracker wounded in the head at Glenrowan.

In the hospital Ned Kelly gradually recovered from his injuries, but frequent remands were necessary before he was able to appear at the police court at Beechworth, where, ultimately, he was committed to stand his trial for murder. In the meantime, matters were going ill in the police force, in which the smouldering jealousies and bitterness, engendered largely by the Chief Commissioner’s favouritism for Hare, broke out into fresh flame, and the public became painfully aware that the affairs of the police department were in a thoroughly disorganised and unsatisfactory condition. Apart from the chief officers employed in the Kelly business, trouble arose in the lower ranks owing to the unwillingness of certain sergeants and police constables to accept service in the neighbourhood of Greta, since they considered their lives would be in danger from the vengeance of Kelly sympathisers. Black marks were put against the names of one or two of these, a proceeding which, in view of the extraordinary condition of affairs then existing, the Police Commission considered was not warranted.

On August 11, after a hearing extending over many days in the Beechworth Police Court , Ned Kelly was committed for trial on the charge of murdering the police party at Stringy Bark Creek in 1878. Every day the court had been crowded, for though in Beechworth the gang had not many sympathisers, there was great curiosity to see the notorious outlaw and his sisters and other relatives, who were constantly present at the proceedings and who took an affectionate farewell of him when he was ordered for removal to Melbourne Gaol. There he remained until the end of October, when he was put upon his trial before Mr Justice Barry at the Melbourne Criminal Court. The trial, which created intense interest, was not a very long one, and ended in the only way possible, with a verdict of guilty and sentence of death against the outlaw, who was convicted on evidence largely contributed by himself in his boastful conversation with his prisoners at the sticking up of Faithfull’s Creek, and on the evidence of Constable McIntyre, who had been an eye witness at the murders at Stringy Bark Creek.

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