The Royal Commission evidence for 1/6/1881
(see also introduction to day 24)
Sgt Steele giving evidence
9248 By the Commission— That is rather an extraordinary statement.–Do you mean to say that except for you, in your opinion, Ned Kelly would not have been captured alive–do you mean that he would have escaped or been killed on that occasion?— I believe he would have gained the house, because there was no person to intercept him between that and the house except myself. I brought him down. The men had opened out that he stuck up that way, and must have intended coming up under the shelter of the scrub. Had it not been for my arresting him I believe he would have been burned with the others.
9249 Do you mean that but for your advancing in that way, and the covering fire of the outlaws, he would have joined the rest of the outlaws?— Yes.
9250 And then you presume, had he joined them, he would hare come to the same fate as the rest of his companions?— Yes, that is my opinion.
9252 Away from him?— Across me to the railway station.
9253 Do you mean to say the other constables cleared away except yourself?— There was not a man near Ned Kelly. He was a quarter of an hour almost from the time he fired, and as he did so they opened right and left of him. I saw no constable come to my assistance till I shot him and had him on the ground. I saw Senior-Constable Kelly coming from cover and seize him by the whiskers; Constable Bracken was the second constable that came up, then Dr. Nicolson, then Mr. Marsden, the clerk of the court at Wangaratta, and constables Dwyer and Montfort; but Senior-Constable Kelly was the first to join me from the Wangaratta side from round the tree. That was when I had disarmed him and had him ;on the ground.
9254 Can you inform the Commission who fired at him first?— I think Arthur was the first.
9256 Was that before you fired at him?— Yes, some time before.
9257 Could you and Kelly and the other constables be distinctly seen by persons on the railway platform at that time?— They could not see me, except leaving the tree.
9258 Could you or any others be seen where the capture took place from the platform?— Yes.
9260 They should see what took place?— Yes.
9261 I will read a few lines of Dowsett's report to the Award Board, dated December 13th, 1880:–“I saw Senior-Constable Kelly was coming up, and I told him he could get a shot at him with his rifle if he came to where I was; he did so, and fired twice, hitting his hand on one occasion. I got closer to him, when, all at once, he left the sapling, and came straight for me. I emptied my revolver at him, not twenty yards away from him (and as a proof I was hitting him, one of my bullets was found embedded in his box of cartridges), but he came on steadily, saying “Fire away, you bloody dogs, you can't hurt me.” I thought it was all over with me, and threw myself down at the butt of a large fallen tree, reloading as quickly as possible. On looking up I found he had walked into a trap, between two large limbs of the tree I was at. I could now see Steele circling from the left, and Kelly on the right, so I called out to the figure to give up (so as to distract his attention from them), but he said, “No, never while I have a shot left.” As I thought I had a good shot for his head, he being not more than fifteen yards away, I fired, hitting him full on the head, but not having the slightest effect on him. As I fired I said, “How do you like that, old man?” He replied, “How do you like this?” and he leant over the log, firing as he did so. I saw Steele fire twice, I think, and he seemed to fall backwards. I ran up, and jumping over the log, saw Steele and he on the ground. I grasped the revolver from him as he fired, and Senior-Constable Kelly, coming up almost at the same moment, pulled his headgear off. Steele at once recognized him, and would have shot him, but I said, “No, take him alive.” I mention this because you did not recognize Dowsett in the matter at all. He must have been very close to you at the time. Is that statement true?— The statement in regard to pulling the helmet off is incorrect. The moment he touched the ground the helmet dropped off. The statement in reference to wrenching the revolver out is not correct. I got the revolver like that–[showing his meaning]–and seized him by the wrist, and twisted it out of his hand, and threw it down. Mr. Marsden was present when Dowsett put his hand forward to take the revolver. I said, “ Do not take that; that is my property.”
9262 Where is that now?— I don't know. I made a report about it. I handed it to Mr. Marsden and he read “ New South Wales ” on it. I told Mr. Sadleir about it when I went to the station.....
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