THE MANSFIELD MURDERS
The feeling of dissatisfaction with regard to the organisation of the police force is shared in by the Government, and the subject has been under discussion in the Cabinet of late. Action is to be taken at the earliest opportunity, but so far no definite scheme of reform has been sketched out.
It was stated some days ago that a quantity of powder had been found “planted” near the North-eastern railway line, at Benalla. Detective Wilson, of the Railway department, has reported that the powder was found by three lads named William Headland, John Bain, and Henry Airey, in three different places on the Benalla common and that between the common and the railway reserve there is a paddock belonging to a private gentleman. The powder would, doubtless, have been found before had it not been that there were some dead horses lying there, which deterred people from visiting the spot. Detective Wilson is of opinion that there is no connexion whatever between the powder and the Kelly gang of bushrangers. He has an idea as to the reason of the “plant,” but it is not deemed advisable at present to give publicity thereto.
It was stated recently in a telegram from Euroa that a party of four men, fully armed and equipped, supposed to be schoolmasters from Ballarat, had arrived there by train, and at once struck into the bush in pursuit of the Kelly gang of ruffians. The Ballarat Courier remarks in explanation that “although hailing from this neighbourhood, they are not schoolmasters, but four miners, all unmarried, the leader of whom, when a young man, was member of a Californian vigilance committee in ’49. Their ostensible object is to spend the holidays in prospecting that portion of the country, and they hope to strike a patch should they fall in with the outlaws. From a letter received on Saturday from one of the ‘prospectors,’ we learn that on Thursday last, when some distance from Benalla in the ranges, they met a suspicious-looking individual carrying a bag, and followed him for about a mile, under the impression that he was planting provisions for the Kelly gang. On being observed, however, the fellow retraced his tracks. The writer also states that the population thereabouts openly express sympathy with the outlaws, but that this feeling is affected by many who, from their isolated position, fear to do otherwise.”
(BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH)
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT)
In some telegrams I sent to The Argus a few days ago, I mentioned about one of the Kelly’s gang being seen between Yea and Seymour. The report has since turned out to be correct, as I have been informed on good authority that the whole gang occupied a hut in the Switzerland Ranges for a week, while the party of police under Senior-Constable Irvine were searching within a few miles of them. Thye Kellys left their hiding-place last week, and it is supposed that they made direct for Mansfield, as early one morning four horsemen, each carrying a gun before him on the saddle, were seen galloping at a rapid pace through Molesworth towards Alexandra. The person who saw them says he feels certain that they were the Kellys, from the description of the men and the arms they carried; but as it was only just daybreak when he saw them, and as they rode very fast, he could not get more than a passing glimpse at their faces. This statement is confirmed by a report that four men, all well armed and having three bay horses and a grey, were seen on the same day near Yarck, and about eight miles from Alexandra. If these men were Kelly’s gang, it would seem as if they were making almost directly back to their old haunts, as by crossing the Puzzle Ranges, near Merton, they could then very easily get to either the Strathbogie of King River ranges. While writing on the subject of the Kellys, I may mention some particulars which have reached me, and which may, perhaps, be interesting to your readers. It will be remembered that some articles of female clothing―a hat, veil, &c., were found at Younghusband’s station after the Kellys had left. These, it afterwards transpired, were worn by Steve Hart, one of the gang, who was in the habit of going about in female attire, in order to reconnoitre and get all the intelligence possible of the movements of the police. Hart usually went on horseback, and his slender figure and boyish face, together with his general good looks, gave him altogether the appearance of a woman, and dressed as such he was in Jamieson a few days before the Euroa robbery without being recognised by anyone; and I have been told also, he actually walked through the police in Mansfield, and then rode away towards the Wombat, leading another horse, which he was taking to his mates. He was met a few miles from Mansfield by some persons, who, surprised at seeing, as they thought, a lady riding out unattended in that direction, inquired if he was not afraid of meeting Kelly’s gang, to which Hart replied that he was not, nor of meeting the police either, as he had plenty of arms, at the same time displaying two revolvers. He then galloped away leaving, the persons he met in a state of wonderment at the courage of, as they thought, a young lady returning alone into the stronghold of the bushrangers.