The Royal Commission evidence for 10/8/1881
(see also introduction to day 45)
The Honorable J. H. Graves, M.L.A., giving evidence
15516 Will you give the names to the secretary?— Yes, I will be happy to do so I had a letter, early in the enquiry, saying that Constable Dixon could give very material evidence in the case. I do not know who he is, or whether you have had him before you.
15517 Did you have any conversation with him?— No. Here is a letter from a man named Henry Perkins . The police will know how far this man gave them information or not. “Wombat, Mansfield , May 2nd, 1881 . To J. H. Graves , Esq. , M.P. Sir. —I hope you have not forgotten to call on me in the Police Enquiry, please inform me if it is coming to Mansfield , and when. In consequence of my arrest as a Kelly sympathizer I have lost three situations. My family are still debarred from selecting.” One of the complaints in the district is that the police have given the names of people who are not entitled to select, and although a great number of those were cases of men well known to be connections and friends and sympathizers of the Kellys, still the indiscriminate way in which that power was used by the police has alienated a great number of people from the police.
15518 Do you know anything of this Perkins?— No, he was one of the sympathizers arrested.
15519 Have you had any conversation with him?— Yes. He is a selector, but the Government have deferred his application. He was one of those who were arrested. He is a man who, in my opinion, must have known the Kellys ' position at the time of the murders, because he resides at the Wombat.
15520 Do you think he was aware of the whole proceedings connected with the murders of the constables at Mansfield prior to the actual commission of the deed, that is, the intention to murder?— I would not like to say that of any man.
15521 Have you ever heard any information that would lead you to suppose that he was in possession of information of their intended movements?— You are asking me now to swear as to matter of belief. The general impression is that he was the man who gave information to the police where the Kellys were, and afterwards told the Kellys the police were coming after them. That is the general impression. That somebody told the police where the Kellys were is certain, and that somebody told the Kellys the police were after them.
15522 Did you ever know whether Sergeant Kennedy knew where the Kellys were?— That would be hearsay evidence.
15523 I will put it in a different way—Did you ever hear it said that these men, Kennedy and Scanlan, had information as to where the Kellys were?— They must have. They would not have gone to that place without some pretty well grounded information.
15524 Did you ever hear any comments upon the fact of two of the policemen being left behind while the other two went away?— Now you are asking again a matter of opinion.
15525 I am not asking for your opinion, I ask whether you heard rumours that those two men must have had information ag to where the Kellys were?— I think they must have got instructions from somebody about the locality. The Kellys were digging there, but the police did not know exactly the position the hut was in, and the country was new to those men, except Scanlan; and I think they would keep as close as they could to the part where the diggings were; and from my knowledge of Kennedy and Scanlan, I think they did not know exactly the place where the hut was, and that they left the other two men in camp while they went to reconnoitre and find the exact place and then surprise them. If the Commission visited that place they would get the information much better than I can give it.
15526 It is asserted, I do not know with what authority, that this was a part of the pre-concerted plan to lead them into a trap, in connection with the information which had previously been given to the police, and from which information they arrived at this spot, and also the two separated from the others?— I am sure that is not correct. I am sure when they got there they camped at the most likely place for a camp, and they did not know where the hut was, and Kennedy and Scanlan went to find it.
15527 I understand you that the police received information which led to the formation of this party and proceeded to the spot where they first camped?— Yes.
15528 And which was subsequently left by two of the party?— Yes.
15529 My question is, do you think the object of the information given first was with a view of leading them to this position there, and the fact of the two leaving was part of a pre-concerted plan to bring those police into a position that they might be betrayed?— I do not think so. My impression is this: that soon after the attempted shooting of Fitzpatrick occurred, the Kellys took the same horses that they had used that morning and a pack horse, and went up towards the very place where the murders were committed, having previously been there with other people who were evading justice, and therefore knowing perfectly well where to go to. I think that this hiding place was known to prisoners in jail. The police will know how they got the information, but I will read you an extract from a letter which induced me to come to that conclusion. This is written from the Penal Establishment to myself. “On the 19th October, 1878,” (this is before the murders), “during my transit from Beechworth, I informed Constable Reilly, of Benalla, of the whereabouts of the Kellys, which up to that time they (the police) appeared to be perfectly ignorant of, and only one week after was enacted the Wombat tragedy. Again in 1879, about July, I was visited by Sergeant Leahy, of the Richmond Police Station, for information about the Kellys and their friends in Benalla, Major Plains, Broken Creek, and Lake Rowan , which he took down in writing. I understood from him that the information was required for the Benalla Police. I also forwarded a statement through the Superintendent to Captain Standish , giving additional information, but did not put my name to it.” I came to the conclusion that the whereabouts of the Kellys was known to prisoners in Pentridge prior to the Wombat murders, and that the police by that means or some others gained a knowledge of where they were. They must have known where the Kellys were, but they were uncertain of the exact position, and the party went out for the purpose of searching that country. I think they arrived at the Stringy Bark Creek, and it being very rough country, they intended to camp there while Scanlan and Kennedy went to look for the hut. That would be the hour when constables would be most likely to find a place like that, because as the men came off from mining, and would be likely to light a fire, and the constables would be able to see the smoke. My correspondent on the 19th declares he told the police where the Kellys were. It has been stated, I think, that knowing there was a reward for Ned Kelly , that the chances are that Sergeant Kennedy and Scanlan went off together for the purpose of capturing them by themselves and getting that reward. I think that is extremely unlikely. I think it was simply by that they did not know where the hut was....
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