The Royal Commission evidence for 7/9/1881
(see also introduction to day 50 )
Ass Com Charles Hope Nicolson further examined.
The Hon. F. LONGMORE:, M.L.A., in the Chair;
W. Anderson , Esq., M.L.A., I E. J. Dixon , Esq. , J.P.,
G. R. Fincham , Esq. , M.L.A.
16861 By the Commission. –We are ready to hear anything you wish to say now?— I anticipated at the commencement of this enquiry that a series of charges, both direct and implied, would be brought against me. The result has proved my expectations to be correct. I desire to review some of the evidence which has been tendered, and in so doing will deal with matters demanding attention in their proper sequence, talking first Mr. Hare 's report, dated 2nd July 1880 . I have only brought in names of officers where absolutely necessary to refute the charges brought against me. I will begin with the first statement to which I take exception. Mr. Hare has stated that he was directed to organize the whole pursuit of the bushranger Power. This assertion I never heard of, nor can I learn that other officers of police did, until it was made in that report, 2nd July 1880 . Mr. Hare 's duty as officer in charge of depot was to forward men and material to whatever district authority was issued to him to supply. But that is not organization. In April I was down from Kyneton on sick leave, and heard of a reported appearance of Power, near Lauriston. I immediately gave up my leave and went back to my district, about 28 th April, and in company with Inspector Disney I was in search of Power, with the assistance and co-operation of inhabitants of the district, particularly from Trentham, for over a week. We ascertained that Power had passed through the north part of the district. He returned by McIvor to his old hands (North Eastern District). If Mr. Hare , then a junior superintendent, had been directed to organize the whole pursuit, what steps did he take upon that occasion? I volunteered to Captain Standish to go up in pursuit of him. He accepted my offer most gladly, and upon this, or perhaps a subsequent occasion, he said, “ Nicolson , as you are not strong yet, I will send Hare to drive you up instead of allowing you to travel by coach, and he, perhaps, may be of use to you.” I most readily agreed. We drove up together, and upon arriving we met the gentleman who had given information of Power's appearance, as obtained from an informer. While talking to this gentleman Mr. Hare went on to speak to this informer who was then in sight. He returned, saying, “The man knows nothing; why, he is a Pentridge man,” and more to that effect. I will hand in this affidavit from the gentleman referred to, the president of the shire there, on the subject. [The same was handed in, and is as follows:—]
“I, Robert McBean , of Benalla, in the colony of Victoria , auctioneer, and president of the shire of Benalla make oath and say:-
1. That, in or about the month of April 1870, I sent Captain Standish information that I knew of a man who would be likely to give valuable assistance to the police sent in pursuit of the celebrated bushranger Power.
2 . That Messrs. Nicolson and Hare came up to my station to meet the informer, who arrived about dusk in the evening; and I went forward to meet him. Mr. Hare accompanied me, Mr. Nicolson remaining behind. I introduced Mr. Hare to the informer, and they entered into conversation; and I retired, and rejoined Mr. Nicolson . In about ten minutes Mr. Hare returned to us and said he did not think the informer would do, as he was an old Pentridge man, and that he refused to give any information, and in any case could not be trusted. I was very much disgusted, and said to Mr. Hare , ‘If that be the case, what risk do I run now, having trusted and arranged with this man to take the reward.’
3 . Mr. Nicolson then went forward and spoke to the informer. Mr. Hare and I remaining out of hearing. After about ten or fifteen minutes Mr. Nicolson returned to Mr. Hare and myself; and informed us that it was all right, and that the informer would let me know within a month, when he ascertained exactly where Power was concealed; and I promised to send to Captain Standish when I received the information.
4 . I had several consultations with the informer, and ultimately sent word to Captain Standish that the informer would be able to point out the exact hiding place of Power.
5 . That soon afterwards Messrs. Nicolson and Hare arrived at my station, where they met the informer, and started on their memorable pursuit, which ended in the capture of Power.
6 . That during both the interviews I had with Messrs. Nicolson and Hare, I understood that Mr. Nicolson was in command of the party, nothing transpired, to my knowledge, which could convey any other impression. –
ROBT. MCBEAN. Sworn at Benalla, in the colony of Victoria , this fifth day of September, One thousand eight hundred and eighty-one, before me — F. McDONNELL, a Commissioner of the Supreme Court of the colony of Victoria for taking affidavits.”
To avoid making our business known we returned to Melbourne, I resuming my duty at Kyneton. About a fortnight afterwards I received letters from Captain Standish and Mr. Hare. The former said:— “My dear Nicolson,-I cannot think of allowing you to go back to this duty in your present delicate state of health; Dr. Ford says it would be injurious to you;” or words to that effect. Mr. Hare wrote:— “My dear fellow, I am so sorry to be off without you,” &c. I was taken aback about those letters, and at once went to Melbourne by that evening's train, and saw Dr. Ford, who said it would do me no harm, rather good, if I felt equal to the fatigue. (I may here state that l had had an attack of fever for three weeks in the end of February.) I then insisted upon going, and went up, Mr. Hare driving me as before, met the informer, and after three or four days reached the hiding place which he indicated. Certainly on this occasion I said to Mr. Hare, “Remember I am in command of this party.” I did so because of the attempt to prevent me going up on this second occasion after I had arranged all matters on my first visit. When smoke was pointed out to me, at a time and in a manner already made known, I ran up, leading the way, and signing to Messrs. Hare and Montfort to go to the back of the gunyah to prevent the man escaping. I ran in at the entrance, saw Power lying there; threw myself on him, seizing both of his wrists and rendering him powerless to escape. Mr. Hare and Mr. Montfort then came upon the scene and pulled Power out by his legs, as described in the Argus of 9th June 1870. I did not take the credit of arresting this man myself at all. I say that I did not make any invidious distinctions, and I did not go into these details in my report to the Chief Commissioner.....
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