The Royal Commission evidence for 7/4/1881
(see also introduction to day 10)
John Sadleir giving evidence
1728 Had Ward information at that time that the Kellys were in that district?— Only the information I have already read. Greta is a large parish of itself, and, on to Mansfield , an uninhabited country, taking forty miles square at least.
1729 Was Kennedy aware that Ward was in the district at the time?— No; I was told not to let him know.
1730 Those men that were of the search party, at Mansfield , were they all police in the district?— Of the district, as I have stated.
1731 Where was Sergeant Kennedy stationed?— Mansfield .
1733 He had been in the district?— Yes. Scanlan was chosen for his knowledge of the country, and some little knowledge of the Kellys; Lonigan, simply for his knowledge of the Kellys. The next I knew of the matter is the return of McIntyre with the report of the murders. I may say the police were expected to return—Kennedy and his party, and Strahan and his party—to return on the Tuesday, and finish their work in three or four days. The information, I thought, was so poor that there was no chance of seeing the Kellys, and we never heard, from any source whatever, of the other two companions—Hart and Byrne—being out. When I heard of the murders I was at Cashel, twenty-five miles north and west of Benalla. I came into Benalla at once, and then started on to Mansfield , where I got that evening. I found the people all along the roads so scared that they tried to stop me, seeing me ride alone; and the people at Mansfield were very much disturbed, and were under the impression that the Kellys were still in the neighborhood, and, of course, it was very hard to get a party to go out and assist and look for the body of Kennedy. The other two bodies had been found, and I was persuaded that it was not likely that the Kellys would stay in the neighborhood. The party started on the Wednesday morning. I returned to Benalla, where I expected most of the others to be, and on my way I heard of the recovery of Kennedy's body. On my return to Benalla, I think Mr. Nicolson was absent on some duty. He had arrived at Benalla, I understood, on the 28th October 1878 —that would be Monday. When I returned to Benalla, from Mansfield , on the Wednesday, I found he was away.
1734 Was he there in charge?— He had come to assist on the first report of the murders on the 28th. He had nothing to do with the district before that. I was in charge of the district.
1735 Was he in charge of the district then?— I had been in charge of the district, but on the report of the murders he came up as senior officer. I was in charge of the general district all along, but he took charge of the special operations about the Kellys.
1736 Have you those arrangements in writing?— No, the instructions appear to have been verbal. As far as I understand, he was simply sent up the country with what men he could collect, and his rank gave him authority over me without any instructions. Before leaving Mansfield , I found Wild Wright in the lock-up there. I promised him £30 if he would go and find the body of Kennedy, or bring him in alive. I put some conditions to this, which I need not explain, to prevent any mischief happening to Kennedy; but as I said, before he could do anything, the body was recovered by the search party.
1737 Was that search party a police party?— One or two police and several of the citizens of the town.
1738 Then Wild Wright really did not start?— Yes, he started. His intention was to see Ned Kelly's sister, and try and get through her any information he could as to Kennedy's whereabouts. Of course we had to consider the point that they were ruffians enough; that if they could earn £30, even by shooting him after they got the information, they might do it, so we provided against that. I took a doctor's opinion, and he said he could tell if a wound was inflicted after death or before, and the age of it; of course in any case it was a ticklish business. Mr. Nicolson was away, I think, at Chiltern at this time. I will put in the instructions on which Sergeant Kennedy acted when he went out. I first wrote to him on the 10th of August 1878 , as follows:—“It seems to be certain that 'Ned Kelly' is in the neighborhood of Greta, or from thence to Connolly's and the bogs near the Wombat. I am very anxious to make some special efforts to have the matter set at rest, and his apprehension effected, if possible. I have consulted with the senior-constable in charge at Greta, and it appears that there is not much likelihood of him and the constable with him there doing much towards arresting Kelly, or even disturbing him from the neighborhood. It has been proposed to collect, for the purposes of a thorough search, what constables are in the district who know Kelly personally, sending say two of them to Mansfield to act with Sergeant Kennedy from that end, and the others to act with the Greta police, and to search simultaneously up and down the King River and neighboring places. I shall be glad to receive any suggestions that Sergeant Kennedy may have to offer on the subject, and whether he is of opinion that anything might be gained by his coming here for a day or so to consult with the sub-officer taking charge of the party starting from the Greta end—that is supposing this expedition should be determined on.” I may say that Sergeant Kennedy did afterwards come and consult with the sub-officer.
1739 Before he organized his party?— Yes, a day or two before he started.
1740 Upon what charge were they seeking to arrest the Kellys at this time?— Warrants were out for the shooting of Fitzpatrick; there may have been other charges......
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