THE POLICE MURDERS
The police murders are still at large, and there does not seem to be any certainty yet as to where they are. Our special reporter telegraphs from Benalla to the effect that the report of the miscreants having stuck up a man named Christian in the Chiltern district has been found to be incorrect, but that more trustworthy information has been received of their having been seen in another part of the same district, where they compelled a farmer named George Munger to furnish them with provisions. Two sons of another farmer named Margery, state that they saw the four men in the same locality, and that one of them was lying on the grass as if he were wounded. An interesting account of the proceedings in the Mansfield and Benalla districts, and a telegram despatched at a later hour by our special reporter, a report of the inquest on Sergeant Kennedy’s body, and other particulars, will be found elsewhere. The funeral of Kennedy took place yesterday afternoon, and the service was conducted by Father Scanlan. Bishop Moorhouse was present, and Mrs. Moorhouse placed a wreath of flowers on the coffin.
SUPPOSED TRACES OF THE KELLY GANG
No official information was received by the police authorities in Melbourne yesterday about the Kelly gang of bushrangers. The report that the miscreants stuck up a man named Neil Christian, at Bungowanah, on Wednesday morning is considered credible for two reasons—first, because the Kellys were heard to say some time ago that if ever they took to the bush they would either make their stronghold in the ranges of Towong or north-east district of Victoria, or else make tracks for New South Wales, and cross the Murray, near Howlong. If they have adopted the latter course, Bungowanah would probable be on their route The second reason is that the man Christian is believed to be a trustworthy person, and one not likely to originate a false report. Detective Brown has been frequently on duty in the Chiltern District, and took an active part in the recent prosecutions against the Baumgartens, one of whom and a pal named Kennedy were convicted last month of receiving stolen horses. The horses in this case were supposed to be stolen by the Kellys, a suspicion that was confirmed to some extent by the circumstance that the convicted Baumgarten and Edward Kelly were seen together in a hotel at Benalla soon after the theft. The Baumgartens are a family of farmers whose holdings are situated near the Bungowanah Punt, on the Murray River. Adjoining their lands is a farm belonging to Neil Christian, but although there was some intimacy between them, it did not amount to friendship. Detective Brown, indeed, states that Christian is a most respectable person, and so far from being in league with the offenders, he gave evidence against them in the recent prosecutions. It is asked why the gang who stuck up Christian, if they were the Kellys and their mates, did not call for their provisions at some of their supposed friends’ farms instead of showing themselves to a man who would report their visit. The answer given to this query is that they had probably at first mistaken Christian’s place for the house of a friend. Another report was circulated yesterday to the effect that the gang had bailed up a puntman and crossed the river. If this statement is correct and the other report authentic, the punt referred to might be one just below Christian’s house, kept by a man named O’Keefe. On the other hand, however, some regard these statements with suspicion, and consider that the Kellys are more likely to conceal themselves in the most inaccessible ranges of this colony. Those who think so set down the report that they have made for New South Wales either as a ruse to mislead the police, or as an exaggeration of some incident altogether disconnected with the Kelly gang. This view is substantiated to some extent by some intelligence which reached Benalla yesterday. Our special reporter telegraphed the following:—
“Particulars received as to Chiltern case render it highly improbable that the Kellys were the parties. The men were not mounted, it does not appear that they had arms, nor are the descriptions like. The necessary steps have been taken, however, in case the report should be well founded.”
The report is evidently believed in Chiltern, where it came from originally. Our correspondent there has sent the following telegram:—
“Chiltern, Friday Evening.
“Considerable excitement continues. Four armed troopers reached here by last night’s late train, and four more by the 1.30 p.m. train to-day. The first four have gone in the direction of Baumgarten’s, on the Murray, I hear, while two of the second four have suddenly left again—fresh information, supposed.”
If the gang have crossed the Murray, it is to be hoped that they will find the New South Wales police on the alert for them.
The Outlawry Bill passed by the two Houses of Parliament this week was assented to yesterday by the Governor, and the preliminary steps were taken to have the four murderers outlawed. The Governor’s proclamation of his assent appears in last night’s Gazette. An information against the offenders has been sworn by Mr. Mainwaring, of the detective department, before Mr. Call, P.M., and warrants issued. The further steps necessary under the act will be taken to-day by the Attorney-General.
With regard to the complaints contained in our yesterday’s telegrams as to the want of a sufficient number of police, and of proper weapons in the Mansfield district, we are assured by Captain Standish that everything possible is being done to meet the requirements of the case. There are several parties of police in the field, whose proceedings are very properly kept secret. The Government have purchased about 30 double-barrelled breech-loading fowling-pieces, which are stated to be very effective weapons, and the most suitable kind for the use of those who are not trained marksmen. The Spencer rifles are certainly superior both with regard to the number of shots they can discharge and the distance they can carry, but although their mechanism is very simple, it is considered that they would not be so useful in the hands of those who are not trained riflemen as the fowling-pieces just obtained. The latter are of course being despatched to the field of action.
(FROM OUR SPECIAL REPORTER.)
This placed is removed by too many hours’ travel from Mansfield, and the coaches run too infrequently (every other day), for one to supply late information as to the matters in progress there. To-day the telegraph wire to Mansfield broke down, and communication was cut off. The stationmaster has taken steps to find out where the accident has occurred, and effect repairs. To the police, at present, it is of the utmost importance to keep all lines open. This morning a man came down the road, from Mansfield, with some particulars as the action of Thursday’s search party, of which he was one. Unfortunately he was not present in the camp when the deceased sergeant was found, and so could add little to the stock of information already published; but he had some conversation with the police who arrived at the saw-mills on Thursday from Greta. They were the men who started from Wangaratta at the same time that Kennedy and his men left Mansfield. They followed up the Fifteen-mile Creek from Greta, and passed over some very rough ground, but saw no traces of Kelly and his comrades. The only token that they met with of the presence of men on the ranges was a freshly-shot native bear, which they picked up on Tuesday morning, at the head of the Fifteen-mile Creek. Unless Kelly had been trying the Spencer rifle upon it, one can hardly see why he should have fired at the animal. The troopers knew of the murder of the Mansfield police, for they had been followed up by men specially sent out by Superintendent Nicolson.
Both “Wild” Wright and the Dummy were set at liberty on Wednesday, but probably the fact the elder brother is at large has not yet been telegraphed. It is difficult to believe that the police would allow Isaiah to be bailed out after they had once resisted the application, and got him remanded for seven days; but a man who knows Wild Wright well, and came from Mansfield yesterday, states positively that he met the two brothers in the forenoon on the road to Greta. It appears that one or two warm friends of the unfortunate sergeant privately offered to reward Isaiah Wright handsomely if he would fetch Kennedy in alive, or give information which would lead to his recovery. Though Wright declined to accept any offers of payment, he agreed to perform the duties proposed to him, and hence no doubt procured his liberty. The incarceration had done him a lot of good, for all his bravado had disappeared.
One of the most effective instruments for the capture of the bushrangers will be the new act, and it is fortunate that public opinion has been so actively stimulated as to get it passed promptly. Not only will the measure put some wholesome fears into the hearts of Kelly’s friends, but encourage reputable people resident in the ranges to give information without fear, for they have now a guarantee from the Government that the pests will be thoroughly rooted out. There still exists on the part of many disinclination to avow the little assistance they have rendered to the police, and one person who was of Thursday’s party has specially requested that his name may not be mentioned. An excellent spirit pervades the police force, and men from all parts of the colony have volunteered for special service. One man on leave of absence has thrown up his leave in order to go out. It will not serve the public interest to mention the details of the plans already carried out, but a considerable number of separate parties are now out. It is the opinion of some people that the reward placed on Kelly’s head is still too small, but there are reasons why we should not owe the capture of this marauder entirely or chiefly to the treachery of his acquaintances. The interests of the district require that the police shall absolutely clear the horde out, so that for the future bad characters may not be encouraged to look upon the ranges as a safe retreat.
The reported appearance of Kelly and his party at Baumgarten’s, eight miles beyond Chiltern, has not yet been confirmed. It has been already ascertained that Christian is a trustworthy farmer, but the account was brought to Chiltern secondhand, and loafers are rather numerous everywhere. Nothing would afford the police greater relief than to hear positively that Kelly has taken to the open country. Should it be the real men who have appeared at Chiltern we shall soon hear of it. There is one reported fact which gives colour to the statement — namely, that four armed men, taken for police, were seen on the top of the range, about 20 miles from Mansfield, on Sunday. They were on the track which Kelly would be likely to follow if he wanted to make the Murray; but all reports of this sort, even when circumstantially related, have to be received with the greatest caution. For the next few days every party of strange horsemen will be taken for the Kellys.
At the time that Edward Kelly accompanied Power on the trip that that desperado took via Malmsbury to Little River and back, Superintendent Nicolson, who was then at Kyneton, saw Kelly, and was so taken with his appearance that he had a serious talk with the lad, and got him to listen favourably to a proposal to quit the bad company he was in and go to a station in New South Wales. Kelly had not then committed any offence, and seemed somewhat eager to go, but one of his relatives got hold of him, and took him back to Greta. The opportunity to save him from the career of crime upon which he subsequently entered was thus unhappily lost.
(BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH)
(FROM OUR SPECIAL REPORTER.)
BENALLA, Friday, 11 p.m.
The report given by Neil Christian Peter, of Bungowanah, has been ascertained to be incorrect, but four men somewhat like the Kellys were seen in another part of the same district on Wednesday by two farmers named Munger and Margarey, one of whom brought intelligence yesterday to Barnawartha police station, whence it has been forwarded hither by post to-day. It is stated by George Munger that he was stopped by four men on the banks of a lagoon near the Murray. They were armed, and they demanded provisions. They threatened to throw him into the river if he did not get what they wanted. He was detained for three hours, and warned not to make any report before Sunday. Two of Margarey’s sons, who happened to be on their way to the lagoon, were stopped, and turned back. One of the four men appeared to be wounded, and lay on the grass all the time the party stayed. This is consistent with the mode of Kennedy’s death at the fatal camp. If he ran away immediately after McIntyre, he would have time before he was overtaken to draw his revolver and fire at least one shot. The bullet marks on the trees would show that several shots were fired at him besides those that hit him. Munger was confident that the four men were Kelly’s party. The report reached here just before Superintendent Nicolson started by the 8 o’clock train for Wodonga to-night. The facts on which this despatch is founded did not reach me in very clear order, but the story has probability. The weather is very wet, and much against the men in the ranges. McIntyre has been moved from Mansfield on account of the state of his health and nerves, which are still considerably shaken. The Mansfield telegraph line is repaired.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
An inquiry on the body of Sergeant Kennedy has just been held at Mansfield. Constable McIntyre corroborated his previous statements. He believed Kennedy had surrendered, but he heard shots fired while he was escaping. Henry Sparrow deposed to finding the body about half a mile from camp, near a tree that had bullet marks in it. The spot was an open space of about 10 yards, and the tree was between Kennedy and the camp. Constable Orr said there were no signs of a scuffle. Other witnesses corroborated this. Dr. Reynolds deposed that he had no doubt that death took place on the same day as the deaths of the other constables. There was a large wound in the centre of the sternum, caused, it was supposed, by a charge of shot fired at a very short range. It passed completely through the body, coming out of the back. It was believed to be a shot wound from its size, and the appearance of the rent through the clothes. There was also another wound, directly under the right arm, which was probably given when Kennedy held up his arms. Upon escaping, and on seeing that the murderers would show no mercy, he had fallen. The gang, then coming up, had put the muzzle of a gun close to his breast and shot him through the body, which was in an awful state. Father Scanlan has arrived to be present at the burial. About 200 attended Kennedy’s funeral, which was headed by Father Scanlan, the Bishop of Melbourne, and the Rev. Mr. Sandiford, Church of England clergyman. Mrs. Moorhouse performed the gracious act of placing a wreath of flowers on the coffin. The service was conducted by Father Scanlan. All business places were closed. The wire has been interrupted since 11 o’clock, and is supposed to have been cut by some of Kelly’s confederates. Four troopers left here at daylight this morning. No news has arrived from any search party. It has been raining heavily all day.
(FROM THE BENALLA ENSIGN, NOV. 1.)
The residents of Benalla have been interested by the constant arrival of bodies of police to join in the pursuit, strengthen the protection at the smaller townships, which, it was thought, might be stuck up, and to patrol the Murray. The authorities adopted the plan of securing all the mounted men who had ever been stationed in the north-eastern district, and as a consequence they have got together a body of men well acquainted with the district, and at a great advantage over members of the force unaccustomed to the bush. Benalla contributed its quota. From Sandhurst, Kyneton, and the Western District as far as Balmoral, men were brought, and after a brief stay to rest themselves and horses, were told off for duty in the district by Superintendent Nicholson, who is in charge in the place of Mr. Sadleir. We had a look at one body of these men at the station, dressed in common dress, and certainly they are a class of men in every way to be relied on for dangerous service. The men were all roughly dressed, but well armed, although not so well mounted. The horses, as a rule, are not the best for active service, and there seems good reason for the complaint that country troopers have to put up with inferior animals, whilst the best horses are kept in and around Melbourne for show. The men had not been practiced with firearms, and were ill-acquainted with the arms they had too use, which appears to us to be a serious defect in the service; but they were eager to mount and be off. Amongst them was Trooper Flood, whom Ned Kelly has sworn to “roast” if he catches him. The reason for the outlaw’s hostility to this constable appears to be that Flood, whilst stationed at Greta, kept a strict surveillance over him and his friends. Sergeant Steele, of Wangaratta, is another of the force on whom Kelly has a determined “down.” Steele was mainly instrumental in bringing the Baumgarten or “Greta Mob” to justice, and revenge has been sworn by Kelly. This criminal appears to be a man of most vindictive and bloodthirsty character. His threats of murder have been so numerous that it would be hard to recount them. When crossed by the officers of justice, or by any one, in fact, it was his invariable custom to threaten what in bushranging parlance is called “colonial law.” He is said to have stated before the late Beechworth Assizes that he would wait to see if his mother was convicted. If she were not he would give himself up to answer the charge of horsestealing preferred against him, whilst if she were he would shoot every man concerned in bringing about the conviction. Mrs. Kelly was convicted, and Kelly appears to be taking his revenge on the force. As showing the nature of the murderer, we may mention that he has also threatened to do for Mr. McCarthy O’Leary, barrister of Benalla, the only reason apparently being that Mr. Oleary ordered him out of his office on one occasion when the fellow was talking about giving colonial law to certain members of the police force.