The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 5 page 1

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At the time the murders were committed the police of Victoria were under the command of Captain Standish, a retired military officer, who held the position of Chief Commissioner, while the officers under him who played leading parts in the events which followed were Mr Chas. Hope Nicolson, Assistant Commissioner; Superintendent Sadleir and Superintendent Hare, all of the Victorian police force; and Mr Stanhope O’Connor, a Queensland officer, whose services were borrowed by Victoria at a later date, together with those of a party of black trackers under his command. Mr Sadleir, with his headquarters at Benalla, was in charge of the North-Eastern police district, which comprised an area of nearly 11,000 square miles, much of it mountainous and uninhabited country; while the total number of police charged with the duty of keeping order therein did not exceed 120.

On the news of the murders reaching Melbourne Captain Standish promptly sent reinforcements, not only to Mansfield , but to Beechworth, Benalla, Wangaratta, and many other stations in the disturbed district, and on the main line of railway from Melbourne to Sydney. At the same time, after communication with the Chief Secretary, he dispatched Spencer rifles and such other arms as the Department had in stock, and obtained authority for the purchase of a number of double barrelled breech loading guns. In these measures he was influenced, not only by the desire to capture the Kellys and to protect peaceful citizens from their raids, but by a deep distrust of many of the inhabitants of the Kelly district, who were known to be sympathisers with the outlaws. In giving evidence before a Royal Commission on the Police Force of Victoria in 1881, Captain Standish mentioned some facts serving to make more intelligible the apparently great strain which the pursuit of four miscreants put upon the resources of the colony. ‘The Kellys, as is well known,’ he said, ‘had an enormous number of sympathisers in the district, and after their outrages there is not the slightest doubt that a great many respectable men were in dread of their lives, and were intimidated by a fear of the consequences from giving any information whatsoever to the police. Not only the lives of those of their families were in danger, but their sheep and horses and cattle and property were liable to be stolen or destroyed; in addition to which there is not the slightest doubt that there was an enormous number of tradesmen in the district who were so benefitted by the large increase of police, and the consequent expenditure, that they were only too glad that this unpleasant business was protracted for so many months. I may also state that a great many of the local papers never lost an opportunity of attacking the police in the most unjustifiable manner, and on every possible occasion; and remarks of that kind, as I think every sensible man must be aware, were not only calculated to do the police a great deal of harm, but to prevent their receiving material assistance from anybody.’

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