The Kellys were to be taken while asleep in a hut, yet the morale of the police was so seriously affected that nothing less than a cavalcade of 50 horsemen was considered necessary to make sure of their capture. If the Kellys had been in any of the huts visited, the thundering noise of 50 horsemen travelling over stony country would have been sufficient to give the outlaws a most effective alarm. This expedition was the laughing-stock of the whole countryside. Captain Standish, who was over all as Chief Commissioner of Police, was in doubt as to his position in this big failure, because Supt CH Nicolson was in charge of the pursuit of the Kellys. Then, again, Supt CH Nicolson, who was in charge of the Kelly hunt, was in doubt, because Mr John Sadleir was superintendent in charge of that particular district. Each of the three heads said he left the leadership of this fiasco to the other two.
The next move by Standish, Sadleir and Nicolson was to try and catch the outlaws by persuading the friends of the latter to betray them. Supt Sadleir was informed who Aaron Sherritt was, and that he (Aaron Sherritt) was likely to know all about the Kellys.
Superintendent Sadleir on oath said: “I spoke to him (Aaron Sherritt), and asked him just to do what he could to assist us, and made certain promises which I forgot. I was a stranger to him, and he was not satisfied with my authority. I then called, I think, first to Mr Nicolson and asked him to come and speak with him, and I think he was still uncertain about whether we had any authority. I then told him of Captain Standish, and I asked Captain Standish to speak to him. I think we were out of hearing of the police standing around us, but they could see all that we were doing. He seemed to promise. I expected that he would do something; in fact, there was a promise to that effect from him. We came to an understanding. I do not know what the terms were. I think I was the first to speak to Aaron Sherritt. I am pretty sure of it.”(RC1784)
Question— “Did Aaron Sherritt accompany you from the time you met him at Byrne’s house?”
Supt Sadleir: “We had searched Byrne’s house when he turned up. We searched to see if any of the property of the murdered men was there; and when the whole thing was over, a light-looking, high-shouldered man walked in, and Strachan said, ‘Here is the man that knows the Kellys well, and will be of use to you; he knows all that is going on.’ And then I went and spoke to Sherritt; and as I have explained the matter went on to the end.”(RC1798)
On November 11 the Kellys were reported as having been seen on that date crossing the railway at Glenrowan, going from Greta to Warby Ranges. Supt Nicolson met Supt Sadleir next day, the 12th, at Glenrowan. They had two black-trackers with them, in addition to a party of policemen.
This search is described by Supt Sadleir on oath as follows:—
“We had one or two trackers with us. The tracks were perfectly plain, and the tracks took us to the foot of the ranges without any trouble. It will be a mile or two, altogether, where the tracks are still visible. Those trackers took us clean away from them; they left the tracks. . . . They took us off the tracks, and took us to a swampy ground, where there were thousands of tracks, where all the cattle of the neighbourhood came to water, and we could not get the trackers back again to take up the tracks where they left them. I am perfectly satisfied that they were simply misleading us.”(RC1875)
Question— “Were they (the trackers) actuated by a spirit of fear or sympathy?” Supt Sadleir: “They (the trackers) were actuated by the spirit of self-preservation, because they knew they would be the first to be shot. In fact, it was too much to ask them to lead you into a place where an ambush might be, and ask them to go first. Our police could not go first, because they would interfere with the tracks and obliterate everything, but these men would not show us—would not follow the tracks any further. We then had to strike out for ourselves independently of the blacks, and while waiting for luncheon a small party under Sergeant Steele, through some mistake of orders, got out of sight, and we could not pick them up again.”(RC1880)
It would have been very unwise for the police to venture forward when nearing the outlaws, because they (the police) would interfere with the tracks. Apparently the “heads” thought it safer to retire from the search than run the risk of obliterating the tracks made by the Kellys. If the Kellys were close at hand the tracks were not wanted, so that the search ended, like others, in the police returning home safely.
On December 6 the Kellys were reported as having been seen at Gaffney’s Creek. The local Gaffney’s Creek police, however, made inquiries, and could not find a trace.
By the time the police reached Euroa after the bank robbery the Kellys were at home at Eleven-Mile Creek, visiting again their friends and relatives about Greta. Shortly afterwards Supt Nicolson gave up the Kelly hunt on account of ill-health, and was superseded by Supt FA Hare.
This document gives you the text of this book about the KellyGang. The text has been retyped from a copy of the original. We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged. We also apologise for any typographical errors. JJ Kenneally was one of the first authors to tell this story from the KellyGang's point of view