I am mentioned by the KellyGang in the Cameron letter as sending search parties with Const Strahan and Fitzpatrick at the Kelly home for Ned Kelly and a man called Newman who had escaped from the police at Wangaratta.
Nicolson wrote the following report about me in 1877 "Second-class Sergeant Steele, of Wangaratta, keeps the offenders referred to under as good surveillance as the distance and means at his command will permit."(RC1026)
I arrested Steve Hart for horse stealing in July 1877. At that time a great many horses were stolen from the neighborhood of Greta, which were traced to the Murray-Baumgarten's place. The two Baumgartens, and a man named Studders, and another named Kennedy. (RC8812)
I received a report, by telegram, on the 16/4/878, that Constable Fitzpatrick had been shot at the Eleven-mile Creek by Edward Kelly, when effecting the arrest of Dan Kelly. I received this telegram about nine o'clock in the morning. Ass Com. Nicolson, was at Wangaratta the same morning, and I waited until twelve o'clock for instructions from Benalla, but I received no instructions, and I started with Constable Brown. I was informed in this telegram I received that warrants had issued for the arrest of Edward and Dan Kelly, Skillian, Williamson, and Mrs. Kelly. (RC8817)
Consts Brown, Strahan and I arrested Brickey Williamson at about 9pm on 16/4/1878. Bill Skillion was arrested at about 1am on the 17th near the Kelly home and later Mrs Kelly was taken from her home. (RC8821)
They were taken to Benalla on the 17th. From there they were taken to Beechworth Goal then back to Benalla for their committal on 17 May. On 9/10/1878, with Sir Redmond Barry as the judge.
I was unable to go in the ranges, in consequence of being subsequently served with a subpoena to attend the equity court but I did search the area around Greta. (RC8829)
See Sup Sadleir's reason for sending Sgt Kennedy from Mansfield and me from Greta into the same area at the same time. (RC15554)
After the Murders, on 29/10/1878 I took a search party of police out after the KellyGang including Const Faulkiner and Fitzpatrick out from Wangaratta, to Whorouly; thence Merriang to Buffalo River, to head of Dandongadale Creek, to Rose, Mount Emu to Black Range Creek, to left-hand branch of the King River to the head of Glenmore run and down to Mansfield on 3/11/1878.(Argus5/11/78) (RC 676) (RC12966)
But rather than follow up on that news, on 5/11/1878 after talking to Sup Sadleir, I started on the train from Benalla for Beechworth with a large party of men, including Const Faulkiner We were sent to search the ranges near Yackandandah where the KellyGang were supposed to have been seen. (RC8856) see also (RC5658)
Const Twomey says that he warned me about this when the police special train I was on with 16 or so other police traveling from Benalla to Beechworth stopped at the Wangaratta railway station at about 12.15am on 4/11/1878. I referred Twomey to Insp Brooke Smith. See (RC14701) (RCsee also (RC17307) (RC17403) (RC17439) (RC17466) )
Even though I was off at Sebastopol the Royal Commission attacked me for my lack of action in relation to Insp Brook Smith and the search party onto the Warby Ranges that occurred at the same time. They said
"Sergeant Steele was most blameworthy in this matter. If, as has been frequently urged, the men and more particularly the sub-officers were allowed to act upon their own discretion, upon the receipt of reliable intelligence, then surely it was the clear duty of Sergeant Steele, when informed by Constable Tuomy of the gang's appearance, to have immediately gone in pursuit. When the circumstance was communicated to him, he at once and rightly surmised that the men seen crossing the creek were the gang, and that they were guided by Steve Hart. The tracks were plainly discernible; he had a large body of armed troopers under his command, and was then actually engaged in the search for the outlaws; it was only men flying for their lives that would have attempted the passage of the creek at the time; the murderers and their horses were completely exhausted, owing to the journey to and from the Murray; so that, had this sub-officer acted with vigor and judgment on the occasion, he must have been instrumental in effecting the capture of the gang, and preventing the loss of life and the large expenditure of money which was subsequently incurred in bringing about the extermination of the gang. It would be unjust to lay down as a general principle that an inferior officer may be punished for the laches of his superior, but the circumstances of this case are exceptional. No one knew better than Sergeant Steele the personal peculiarities and unsuitability of Mr. Brook Smith for the work, and to have referred his informant to that officer was simply an attempt to evade responsibility" (RC 2nd reportVII)
They did not give me any chance to respond to this attack.
On 5/11/1878 my search party arrived in Beechworth and we then searched the ranges around the Rats' Castle and Main Divide between Yackandandah and Middle Creek on the 5th. On the 6th Mr. Sadleir met us at The Gap with other police. He split the party into 2 groups one under Const Flood and I commanded the other party. My party of about 9 or 10 (13?) were due to go to Myrtleford but we joined in going to Sebastopol on the cavalcade. See also (RC1768)(CHC)
Although I was in charge at Wangaratta I did not you receive any information that the KellyGang was likely to be provided with provisions from Mrs. Skillian's hut. In fact I knew very little till Mr. Nicolson came. Everything was kept secret, to a great extent, from me. (RC8882) (CHC)
I rather approved of abolishing the police station at Greta after the murders, in order to give those men a little scope to knock about and place the police in a better position to get information. (RC8844)
Sup Sadleir stated 'The instructions under which I noted in sending Sergeant Steele to Beechworth and Rats' Castle were received from Mr. Nicolson, who was then on the only certain clue of the Kellys. In fact it was absolutely certain that they had been at Margery's, and it was so important that police should be placed so as to intercept their probable route from Margery's back to their old haunts, that unless the information at Wangaratta were of a much more positive character, I should not have felt justified in stopping Sergeant Steele's party.'(RC16665) We returned back on 7/11/79.
WE watched the home of Richard Hart for some time. This is a report on that work
1st. That during the month of May 1880, I received instructions from Charles Hope Nicolson, Esq., Assistant Commissioner of Police, to place a party of police at Three-mile Creek, to watch the residence of Richard Hart, senior.
2nd. That, in accordance with such instructions, I placed a party of police at the Three-mile Creek, and had the house occupied by Richard Hart, senior, watched.
3rd. At the time Superintendent Hare took charge of the pursuit of the Kelly gang, during the month of June 1880, Hart's house was being watched by a party of police from Wangaratta between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. every night.
4th. When Superintendent Hare came to Wangaratta, a few days before the capture of the gang, and during the month of June 1880, he asked me what duty my party was doing in connection with the pursuit of the Kellys, and I informed him that we were watching Hart's and Byrne's alternately.
5th. He said I had better continue this duty, as he considered it was the best we could be employed at. (RC16097)
Glenrowan Siege 28/6/1880
I rode a horse from Wangaratta to get to Glenrowan. I got there a bit before the people who came on the train. (RC14014)
I left Wangaratta at 3.45am and I took up a position at the Inn at 5.03am. (RC14063)
I was accused of trying to shoot Mrs Reardon
and her children. (Argus6/8/80)
see also (RC10321)
I took a shot gun to the seige (BWC)
I provided the Royal Commission with clarification of my earlier comments about Mrs Reardon (RC14062)
I was involved in the arrest of Ned Kelly,
see also (Argus11/8/80)
Dowsett said that I was going to shoot Ned Kelly when we captured him (RC10934)
I took Ned Kelly's cartridge bag (BWC)
The following is Sgt Steele's statement after the Glenrowan Siege
Arthur Loftus Mauld Steele states-"I am a sergeant of police at Wangaratta. I arrived here with five men about five a.m. We were at once challenged by police, and answered, 'Wangaratta police.' My men were then distributed around the hut, and I got to the tree near the back door of the hut. There was no firing then. A woman and child came to the back-door screaming, and I told the woman if she ran in quick she would not be molested. A man then came to the backdoor, and I asked him to throw up his arms or I would fire on him. He was only about twenty-five yards distant. The men stooped and ran towards the stables and I fired. He then turned and ran back to the house, and I fired again. I am certain I hit him with the second shot, as he screamed and fell against the door. There was then some hot firing, and' the bullets whistled all around me. The firing was kept up for some time, and some of the men behind me called out. It was then breaking day. I looked round, and saw a man stalking down. I thought he was a black-fellow, and called on the others to be careful. I then saw him present a revolver and fire at the police. I could see the bullets hitting him, and staggering him for a moment, with no further effect. I therefore thought he had armour on, and determined to have a close shot at him. I ran towards him, and when within ten yards of him he saw me, and turned round to fire at me. I then aimed at his legs, and he staggered, but he still tried to aim at me. I then fired the second barrel on the legs. We were then in the open. He fell, and cried, 'I'm done, I'm done.' I ran up to him then, and he again tried to shoot me, but I caught the revolver and pushed it down. I was behind him, and he could not turn on me quick enough to shoot me. Whilst I held the revolver away from me he fired the revolver. Senior-constable Kelly then came up and assisted me to secure him. So did O'Dwyer, and a host of others at once followed. We only found one revolver on him, and a bag of ammunition. We divested him of his armour. I was strained after the scuffle which ensued." ((FH), see also earlier version of this statement in the (Age29/6/80) and (Argus 29/6/1880) (SMH30/6/80) (Argus5/7/80) (Argus8/7/80)- different statements) (FH)
See also the Royal Commission's comment on my role (RC2nd reportXV).
They killed my dog (Herald1/7/80)
Ned Kellys trial
On 1/8/1880 Consts Bracken and Faulkiner and I were given the task of meeting the train at Newmarket Station near Melbourne and taking Ned Kelly up to Beechworth to attend my committal hearing. While he would not answer any questions he did talk as the train took him back to the scene of his many criminal deeds. (Argus2/8/80)
Following the meetings of the Reward Board in December 1880 I recieved a reward of £290. 13. 9 and I was recommened for a special reward
"In April 1881 I forwarded a report by SConst Elliott's about possible future attacks by the KellyGang's sympathizers. Matters are looking serious, and the police are certainly unprepared for another outbreak. It is out of the question to know where to turn for private information. I have consulted with Superintendent Sadleir, who has sounded two persons who formerly acted as agents, but they have declined (as Mr. Sadleir informs me) on account of the disclosures which have been made. They will not act now under any circumstances; and they say it is hopeless to look for private agents again. It only remains to be considered what preparation the police can make, and additions which should be made to the strength." (RC9870) (RC16716)
The Royal Commission made the following finding about me
"9. That in the opinion of your Commissioners the conduct of Sergeant Steele was highly censurable in neglecting to take action when, on his arrival at Wangaratta, on the 4th November 1878, he received reliable information that the outlaws had been observed on the previous morning passing under the One-mile bridge at Wangaratta. There was no reason why, as he had a large body of well-armed troopers under his command, and was then actually engaged in the search for the outlaws, he should not have gone immediately in pursuit. The tracks were plainly discernible; the men observed were undoubtedly the outlaws, and had they been followed they would most probably have been overtaken in the Warby Ranges, inasmuch as their horses and themselves were exhausted by their journey to and from the Murray. Sergeant Steele had full power to act upon his own discretion, and there can be little doubt that, had he exhibited judgment and promptitude on that occasion, he would have been the means of capturing the gang, and preventing the loss of life and the enormous expenditure of money incurred subsequently in the extermination of the outlaws. Your Commissioners therefore recommend that Sergeant Steele be reduced to the ranks. " (RC2ndReport) (JJK)
What was the reaction of the press to the Royal Commission? (Argus9/11/81)
Inquiry into my conduct at the Glenrowan seige established. (Argus23/3/82) (Argus3/3/82) (Argus4/3/82)
The start of the inquiry and evidence. (Argus28/3/82) (Argus29/3/82)
The inquiry cleared me. (Argus30/3/82) (Argus31/3/82)
was interviewed in 1911 by the jounalist WB Cookson. Hear my story. (WBC)
I did a good deal of farming in my retirement
I died in 1938 (Argus22/8/1938)