Story of the KellyGang - the Royal Commission 9/6/1881

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Summary of the evidence on day 28 of the hearings
Question number
10989 - 11075 9/6/1881 Insp Montfort
11076 - 11283 9/6/1881 Const Arthur
11284 - 11432 9/6/1881 Const Phillips
3168 - 3489
3490 - 3570
See these dates for the start of Insp Montfort's evidence
20 Minutes of Proceedings at Meetings Held by the Royal Commission
Index to documents



Ned Kelly

Joe Byrne

Dan Kelly

Steve Hart

The KellyGang



Stringy Bark Creek



Mrs Jones' Glenrowan Inn

News papers
The KellyGang's letters
Government & other documents
Books written at the time
Modern authors
events of the day

Summary of the evidence on day 28 of the hearings

9/6/1881 Insp Montfort continued his evidence - some brief highlights

The Royal Commission commenced by askng Insp Montford. "If it was there be another outbreak in the district such as the last do you think you would be prepared in any degree to cope with it with the present force." See also Appendix 1.

Insp Montford got Const Kirkham to report on the new aboriginal trackers. The report starts with the following, "North-Eastern Police District, Benalla Station, June 8th 1881 - Report of Mounted-Constable Kirkham, 2986, relative to ability of Queensland trackers. - I respectfully report for the information of Inspector Montfort, that during the period I have been in charge of the above trackers and on all occasions when out with them in search of offenders and otherwise, they have worked with alacrity, determination and good will, and are most obedient and attentive, and require very little skill in order to work them. The following is a return of duties performed by them, under my immediate observation:-

The new trackers were seen as being better than Inps O'Connor's, "if any other person told one of Mr. O'Connor's trackers to do this, that, or the other, or gave him any instructions at all, he would say, "Oh, I am not going to attend to you, you are not the boss.""

Insp O'Connor responded, "The native police in Queensland are taught only to look to their officer-to take no commands from anybody else. If the Chief Commissioner came up they would take no commands from him. That will account for their not listening to any one else."

The exchange between Insp Montfort and Insp O'Connor continued. O'Connor still wanted a job with the Victoria police. Eventually Montfort responded, ". I am endeavoring to answer you as straight as I possibly can-in fact, I have no reservation in the matter. I do not care what the effect of my answer may be, but I can only offer an opinion, of course, on the majority of these questions." O'Connor's response was to accuse Montfort's trackers to be involved in 'play'.

After things settled down the Royal Commission asked Montfort, "Would the appointment of Mr. O'Connor to the charge of the black trackers, in the North-Eastern district, have a tendency to strike terror into the mind of the Kelly sympathizers, or any others that are likely to become troublesome in the district?"

The rules about promotion in the Victoria police were examined.

Eventually Insp Montfort set out his views on Insp O'Connor's appointment, "I am given to understand that Mr. O'Connor's appointment has been proposed, or is about to be made by the Ministerial head of the department, on the recommendation of the permanent head of the department, and it is directly placing me as a subordinate in the position that I am criticising their acts, which I am very much averse to doing. I have no objection to give my opinion; I cannot help holding an opinion. For Mr. O'Connor, I need not tell you for a moment, I have a very great respect; but if you ask my opinion personally as regards whether I consider it would be absolutely indispensable in the present state of affairs to ignore the usage of the service, and incur the dangers arising from setting the police force in a state of ferment over it, I say I do not think the necessity is as great as would warrant the Government in doing anything of the sort, and that is what I mean. I have no personal objection at all to Mr. O'Connor's appointment, not the slightest; but if I am asked my opinion as to the effect on the morale of the force, I consider it will be very deleterious. I do not say the force have a right to have that feeling, but I know as a matter of fact it would have that effect."

There were reports of people making more armour in 1881, perhaps for another siege.

In response to the following question from the Royal Commsiion, "It was stated by Sergeant Steele that it would require political influence for a man to raise himself in the force - is that the general feeling in the force?" Montfort responded, "Yes, it has become very much so of late years."

Insp Montfort was the same age as Sup Hare. He rode ninety miles a few days before he gave his evidence and came back as well and better than when he started.


9/6/1881 Mounted Const James Arthur commenced his evidence - some brief highlights

Const Arthur was in north eastern Victoria right throught the hunt for the KellyGang and he went out on many search parties. They never really had any information to act upon. It was impossible, especially with large search parties.

Const Arthur also commented upon the value of agents and the parties that watched the homes of the key sympathizers. He did not trust Aaron Sherritt and he had his own explanation for Aaron's murder.

He arrived at the Glenrowan siege on the first train with Sup Hare at about 3.00am. "First when I went there I was stationed alongside of Mr Hare, through the gate. He was partly through the wicket-gate when the first shot was fired-just going through. When the first volley went he was clear; he was struck on the second volley." " I was about five yards from him. His hand fell. I saw him loading with the gun between his knees, and I asked what was the matter, and he said he was shot in the wrist."

Just before day light Const Arthur was about thirty yards from the house, on the Wangaratta side of Jones's hotel. At about that time Mrs Reardon tried to leave the Inn, "She screamed out as loud as she could, and had a child in her arms, and when she came out Steele sang out, "Throw up your hands, or I will shoot you like a dog" and the woman was coming towards him, and he fired." "He fired direct at her; we could see it in the moonlight, and then she turned round, and then he fired a second shot, and then I spoke to him and told him not to fire-this was an innocent woman. I could see her with a child in her arms; and then afterwards he turned round and said, "I have shot Mother Jones in the ." Constable Phillips was on his right, on the right hand behind, and I heard him make some remark about a feather. I could not say what it was."


9/6/1881 Const Phillips commenced his evidence - some brief highlights

Const Phillips was at the Glenrowan siege. He came with Sup Hare.

After the first shot was fired Phillips fired one shot straight at the figure that was in front of the house, and then got behind a tree just opposite the verandah. There was a bush fire the other side of the house. He could see three figures plainly, and fired about four shots at them during the encounter. Surprisingly none fell at about forty yards distance, so he fired a couple of shots low, and they walked off at inside at once. Ned Kelly came out a second time and fired about six shots at the police.

When Neil NcHugh carried Mrs Jones's son from the Inn Const Phillips was near by. He though that they might have been two of the KellyGang trying to clear out. He challeged McHugh and he would not stop. One of the police threatened to shoot him, and then he came back, and told them he the KellyGang had armour and there were thirty or forty in the Inn.

After he challenged McHugh I went round and told SConst Kelly about the armour. SConst Kelly was concerned that the KellyGang had got away.He said, "My God ! they have all got away." SConst Kelly stationed me at a tree at the back of the Inn. He showed me the spot where he had found Ned Kelly's rifle.

The first thing Phillips heard was Steele challenging somebody and firing, and then he heard Mrs Reardon and her children screaming. Const Arthur made some choice comments that were directed to Sgt Steele.
The Royal Commission followed with a series of specific questions:
Did Steele shoot immediately he challenged them?
Did you see what happened after-what did the woman do?
She was taken away at all events?
Did you see any other figure besides her?
Where was he?
Did you see that he had hold of a child?
Did you hear any one challenge the boy?
Did you see the boy shot at?
Did you see whether the boy was shot or not?
Did you see whether the boy was crawling?
You could not say whether he had any one by the hand?
Or his hand up?
Did you see any man after the boy?

The Royal Commission was interested in where Insp O'Connor was, in the drain.

Later when Phillips saw Mr. Sadleir he asked him what he was going to do, that the KellyGang had armour; and he said he had heard that, but he had sent for a cannon to Melbourne.

He was also involved in the capture of Ned Kelly.

Generally the Royal Commission asked him, "Are you the constable that said at the barracks (at Benalla) that you had not captured the Kellys because they had not come into the barracks yet"

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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.

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