The Royal Commission evidence for 6/4/1881
(see also introduction to day 9)
Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence
Hon. F. LONGMORE, M.L.A., in the Chair;
J. Gibb, Esq., M.L.A., W Anderson , Esq., M.L.A.,
G. R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A., G. W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,
E. J. Dixon, Esq., J.P.
1594 What was Mr. Nicolson?— At that time he was a first-class superintendent. He was receiving £375 a year, and I £350. When I had reached the top of the second-class superintendents, and was about to be promoted to the first class, the whole of the classes were amalgamated. But I was next for promotion, and a vacancy had occurred at the time. Mr. Nicolson's pay, as inspecting superintendent, was £500 a year, and, subsequently, he was Acting Chief Commissioner, for which, I believe, he received £150 a year extra, according to the Estimates.
Mr. Nicolson. —The amount is down in the last Estimates, but I have never received it. I have never asked for it.
The Witness . —When Mr. Nicolson gave up the city police, his successor, Mr. Winch, did not receive that £100 a year as officer in charge of the detectives, but a separate officer was put to perform the duty of officer in charge. I have looked over the Police Gazette, and I find Mr. Nicolson's position in the Gazette of 1869 that he was alone superintendent and officer in charge of detectives. In 1870 his name appears under that of Mr. Winch's; in 1871 there is no list of officers published, that I can find; and in 1872 Mr Nicolson's name appears above that of Mr. Winch. That is all I have to say on that subject. Mr. O'Connor, in his statement, has claimed the credit of capturing, or being instrumental in the capture of the Lancefield bank robbers. He made his statement, and I just wish to make mine, as it occurred in my (Bourke) district, and was away from the Kelly country altogether. I will state exactly what occurred. On the 8th of August 1879 , I was walking down Collins street , Melbourne, when Mr. Gillies stopped me and said, “Did you hear that the Lancefield bank has been stuck up by the Kellys?” I said, no, I had not; and I immediately jumped into a cab and went up to Captain Standish's office, and found he was at the telegraph office in Melbourne . I drove down there as rapidly as possible, and met Captain Standish, who decided that Mr. O'Connor and his “boys” should be telegraphed for at once to proceed to Lancefield by special train, the train taking them as far as Kilmore. This was exactly one o'clock in the day. I took a special train myself at two o'clock, and went up to the Lancefield Road station, got my buggy and horses out of the train, and drove off to Lancefield, with some men, as quickly as I could. I arrived there between four and five o'clock in the afternoon; I had to go sixteen miles by road. Immediately I got there I made all kinds of enquiries, and found that, beyond a doubt, it was not the Kellys that stuck up the bank. I took the necessary steps under the circumstances. Waiting patiently for Mr. O'Connor, I ordered food for his “boys” to be prepared, and at nine o'clock at night I sent a telegram to Kilmore, asking at what hour Mr. O'Connor left Kilmore. The reply was, “He has not left yet, and will not start before morning, staying the night at Kilmore.” The next morning, about eight o'clock , one of the men whom I had sent out returned to Lancefield with the information that the offenders had called at a hotel between Lancefield and Pyalong, had got provisions there, and had a large parcel with them, beyond a doubt the money that had been stolen from the bank. About an hour afterwards Mr. O'Connor arrived at Lancefield, and I told him the information I had received, and asked him why he had not come over the previous evening. I do not remember what his reply was, but I said, “I have got information where those men were late last night; you had better proceed at once with the man who brought me in the information.” He lost no time in going; he started off immediately, without dismounting. After a consultation in the office of ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, he started off at a rapid pace in the direction indicated. Mr. O'Connor picked up the tracks of those men from this roadside inn, and continued them till he got to Pyalong. At Pyalong, just as he approached the township, a terrific storm of rain came on, and obliterated all the tracks, and he remained that night in Pyalong with his men. The next day he proceeded towards Heathcote, but got no tracks whatever. That very day (that would be two days after the bank robbery) a constable at Kangaroo Flat, near Sandhurst— think his name is Sainsbury—obtained information that two men answering the description of the robbers had come from the direction of Wild Duck Creek, which is a place near Heathcote. They kind got out of a cart when they neared Sandhurst ; the cart was sent back, and those men walked in to Sandhurst . The information was given that night to the police in Sandhurst (that would be on the Sunday). The police made enquiries; found that on Saturday night men answering the description of the robbers had purchased a large quantity of supplies, clothing, &c., and the whole of the police set to work to find out where those men were. One man was seen with a bag walking across the square in Sandhurst, and the other was taken up in Eaglehawk, asleep in bed, drunk, with the notes all lying about the bed. Those are the true facts of the case.
Mr. O'Connor . —The Commission can get the full facts from Sub-Inspector Baber, who can give evidence on this matter. Mr. Hare's evidence is only hearsay. We were told the men had gone to Melbourne , and if we had not stuck to the tracks the men might have escaped.
The Witness . —Mr. O'Connor has stated that, through jealousy, the Victorian authorities did not want him to capture the Kellys. I merely mention this to point out that on the two tangible occasions when Captain Standish and I had information, or thought we had, of where the Kellys were likely to be, we at once sent for Mr. O'Connor, namely, at Lancefield and in the Kelly case at Glenrowan.....
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