The Royal Commission evidence for 31/3/1881
(see also introduction to day 6 )
Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence
1258 That position has an increase of pay of sixpence a day?— Yes.
1259 Which is the increase of the senior-constable?— Yes, there were no vacancies in the force at the time.
1262 Is Mullane the man who is now stationed at Beechworth?— Yes. From the time those sub officers were sent out in charge of search parties they were told what information had been received. I might explain as to sending out search parties, there were rumors coming in of every sort and kind, some true and some untrue. The search parties were sent out and were left unfettered in every possible way to go into the ranges and search. Besides the men I have mentioned, who were fit to take charge of parties, there were Senior-Constable James of Mansfield, Sergeant Steele from Wangaratta, Senior-Constable Irwin at Alexandra, Senior-Constable Shoebridge at Bright, and Senior-Constable Kelly at Wood's Point.
1263 Is this Senior-Constable Kelly who was afterwards at the Glenrowan affair?— Yes; and there may be other men whose names I have forgotten—those are the men that come to my mind. The first month or so I did not go out with the search party. I remained at Benalla, and my time was fully taken up going about the district making enquiries and getting things in order. About this time all the sympathizers were arrested. (JJK)
1265 Captain Standish was there?— Yes; he was in supreme command at this time. Those sympathizers gave us a great deal of trouble. I had to go up, some five or six or seven times, to Beechworth every Friday afternoon, and remain there all Saturday—sometimes all Sunday, because I could not get away on Sunday—applying for a remand, and fighting for it.
1266 What was the nature of the annoyance the sympathizers gave which led to their arrest?— I will state first what we did with reference to the arrest of those men, and upon what information. All the responsible men in charge of different stations who had been a long time in Benalla—the detectives and officers—were all collected at Benalla, by Captain Standish's orders. They (the different constables and officers and detectives) all went into a room, and were asked the names of the persons in the district whom they considered to be sympathizers. I had nothing to do with it, merely listening and taking down names that fell from the mouths of the men.
1267 Who asked the questions?— The whole party, Captain Standish and Mr. Sadleir, and I myself asked some.
1268 Did Captain Standish ask each constable, “Whom do you consider a sympathizer in your district?” and so on?— Captain Standish, Mr. Sadleir, and myself asked that. I knew nothing about the sympathizers, but one man came forward and said, “There is so-and-so Smith.” “What did he do?” “Well, I know he is a useful friend of the Kellys. On one occasion I saw him follow us about? Then we said, “Put his name down.” Then the detectives knew a great many men, and they went through the same process of enquiry, and so we selected a certain number of names.
1269 How many?— I should think about twenty. The Government were aware of the action we were about taking, and it was with their consent we did all this. It was necessary for us to arrange to capture all the sympathizers in one day, because, if we had not done so, it would have been just as much difficulty in catching them as the Kellys; so it was done confidentially, and on a certain day all the men were arrested, with but two or three exceptions. There was one case of a man of the name of Ryan, of Lake Glenrowan. There are two brothers, very much alike. We picked out one brother as being a great friend of the Kellys, and the two constables who went out to arrest this man saw what they thought to be the man, but it was really his brother, and when they found their mistake they let him go, he not knowing what was up; but, thinking there was something wrong, took a short cut, and they saw him galloping up to his brother, but the constables caught him before he got there. As to the cause of the arrest: it was found these sympathizers were annoying us in every possible way, watching every move we made. One or two men, I heard before I came up, were watching the police at all times. A man named Isaiah Wright was one.
1270 Were there any remarks about either of them beside watching?— I was not there; I know this was the substance of the complaint. About five or six days before the Jerilderie robbery, Aaron Sherritt came to Benalla (that was the first time I had ever seen Aaron Sherritt), and asked to see Captain Standish. He was away from Benalla. I explained to Aaron who I was, and asked him what he wanted Captain Standish for. He said “I have some important information to give him, and I wish to speak to him privately.” I told him Captain Standish would not be back that night. I led Aaron to believe I did not care to hear his news, but kept him engaged in conversation; I had heard his name and knew who he was. Captain Standish informed me, when he returned, that he had never seen him either from the day that he spoke to him at that Sebastopol affair, at Mrs. Byrne's, which Mr. Nicolson referred to. Some time after—about an hour—Sherritt said, “I think I can trust you with my information;” and then he told me that on the previous afternoon, about two o'clock , Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly came to his selection. This is not Mrs. Sherritt's house; Aaron was not at that time living with his mother, he was living on his own selection; it was mid-way between Mrs. Sherritt's and Mrs. Byrne's. He said Joe Byrne came to him whilst he was working on his selection. He told me Joe Byrne jumped off his horse, and that he had always been his most intimate acquaintance; he said he came and sat down beside him; he had been his schoolfellow and with him in crime nearly all their lives; he said Dan Kelly was very suspicious, and would not get off his horse, and did not get near him, and he said they sat talking for a long time, and then asked him to join them, as they were going across the Murray, and intended going to Goulburn, in New South Wales, where the Kellys had a cousin. He said they urged him to go for a long time as a scout. Sherritt never told me at that time that they were going to stick up a bank. He told me he refused to go with them, and, after some pressing, Joe Byrne said, “Well, Aaron, you are perfectly right; why should you get yourself into this trouble and mix yourself up with us.” He said they were talking to him for about half an hour, but kept looking round and watching every move that was made. I do not remember any further conversation then. I told him not to go into the town. He was a remarkable looking man. If he walked down Collins street , everybody would have stared at him—his walk, his appearance, and everything else were remarkable. I said, “Be careful, now you are in Benalla, that you are not seen here; do not go into the town, but get some hotel near the railway station”; and I gave him £2 for coming down to give this information. ...
This document gives you the text of the report about the KellyGang for this day. The text has been retyped from a microfiche 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. This document is subject to coypright.