THE POLICE MURDERS
The report that the Kelly gang of bushrangers have been at the Murray near Barnawartha is now pretty generally credited, and whether they have since crossed the river, are concealed in the ranges about Chiltern, or have returned to their old haunts, seems to be the present problem. The hunting parties appear to be busy, and some definite intelligence ought to be soon received from them. The Murray is said to be well guarded on both sides with police and volunteers, who are continually patrolling the banks. The searching parties will have to adopt some plan of recognising each other, or some serious mistake may happen. It will be seen that the Wahgunyah police have been fired on by another party of police, but fortunately no one was injured. Constable McIntyre, who is in a very weak state of health, has been sent to the police hospital at the Richmond Depot. He gives us some explanatory particulars, which appear with the telegrams in another column.
Constable McIntyre is now in the police hospital at the Richmond depot, having been sent there on Saturday in consequence of the impaired state of his health. The terrible scene which he witnessed, his own jeopardy and narrow escape, occasioned a great shock to his nervous system, the effects of which he is now realising; and when in his race for life he fell from horseback he sustained such injuries and bruises to his back as would be alone sufficient to throw him off duty for a time. He was and still is most anxious to be after the murderers of his comrades, but it is doubtful if he will be allowed to return to the bush until all danger of his being assassinated is over. Being the only eye-witness of the slaughter, it is thought that the bushrangers or their friends might attempt to destroy him, and it is stated that his life has actually been threatened. He says, however, that he has no fear on that account, and that the only threat he knows of was made when he was arresting “Wild” Wright, who muttered to him, “You have escaped once, but you won’t next time.” A contemporary on Saturday represented McIntyre as saying that on the Friday evening before the murders he fired several shots at kangaroos, and it was this foolish conduct which had probably attracted Kelly and his mates. McIntyre desires us to contradict this, and to say that he never made any statement to that effect. The facts were that on Friday evening Sergeant Kennedy said he had seen several kangaroos in the bush, and asked McIntyre to shoot them. McIntyre found that the game had disappeared, and returned to the camp without firing a shot. The firing at the parrots on the following morning took place under these circumstances:— During the absence of Sergeant Kennedy and Constable Scanlan Constable Lonigan said he had heard a strange noise in the direction of the creek. McIntyre determined to ascertain the cause of the noise, and taking a fowling piece and some cartridges with him he proceeded to examine the locality. He reconnoitered the creek for some distance, but could find no trace of any one, and concluding that the noise had been occasioned by a wombat, he returned. On his way back some parrots attracted his attention, and he fired at them twice. McIntyre also gives us the following particulars, which will further explain some points in the tragedy. When Kennedy and Scanlan left the camp it was with the view of reconnoitring and determining their exact position. There had been a difference of opinion as to what creek it was they had encamped at, some of them thinking that it was Holland’s Creek, and others that it was one of the sources of the King River. It was their intention, having ascertained their position, to strike eastward, and form their next camp on the King River. They believed that they were fully 20 miles from the Kellys, as they had information that they were to be found in the ranges near Greta. Between their tent and the creek and a little to the left were two fallen trees, one lying over the other at right angles. In the angle facing the tent McIntyre, on Saturday afternoon, kindled a large fire to make the night cheerful. After he had prepared tea at a small fire at a stump of a tree nearer the tent, he was standing in front of the large fire whilst Lonigan stood in the opposite angle of the fallen trees. The four miscreants suddenly emerged from tall grass on the right of the camp, and advanced in skirmishing order. Edward Kelly was the man on the extreme right of the line, and consequently nearest to the policeman. The events which followed and the shooting of Lonigan need not be again described, but as some persons ask why McIntyre, on seeing Lonigan fall, did not spring forward to seize his revolver, and make a fight, it may be well to point out that the fire and fallen trees intervened between him and Lonigan, and that in addition to this the desperadoes advanced upon him immediately with levelled guns, and would have shot him on the spot if he had stirred. Ned Kelly appropriated all the firearms about the camp before he would allow McIntyre to lower his hands. He inquired particularly as to how the fowling-piece was loaded, and on finding that it only contained round shot he picked them out, and replaced them with bullets. This weapon he then exchanged with one of his accomplices for a single-barrelled rifle. Kelly had thus two rifles, one of his mates a double-barrelled fowling-piece, loaded with bullets, and the other two one gun each, besides revolvers. When they appropriated the tea which had been prepared, they asked McIntyre if it was poisoned, and it was probably for the purpose of satisfying their minds on that point that they required McIntyre to drink the beverage with them. When Kennedy and Scanlan were approaching, the leader of the gang, Edward Kelly, placed one of his men in the tent, stationed his brother Daniel and the other ruffian in the tall grass already referred to, and concealed himself within the angle of the fallen trees where Lonigan was shot. He ordered McIntyre to sit upon the cross-tree, and told him that one of his rifles was for him, and that if he did not act as directed he “would make a hole in him.” These arrangements were so made that when Kennedy entered the camping ground he was covered by the rifles of Daniel Kelly and the other two unknown offenders. Scanlan was only a yard or two behind. Both men dismounted together. Kennedy walked a few paces from his horse, was challenged by the bushrangers, and fired at. McIntyre had, in accordance with Kelly’s orders, walked up to the sergeant and advised him to surrender. Although Kennedy called out “Stop it, boys,” the villains continued shooting, and Scanlan was killed. McIntyre, seeing then that the miscreants intended to slaughter them all, looked about for a way of escape. Kennedy’s horse, frightened at the firing, and was rearing about beside him. With a spring he was soon seated in the saddle, and his feet slipped easily into the stirrups. The horse shied, and in urging it forward with his heels he lost a stirrup. Seizing the horse’s mane he leaned to one side to catch the stirrup with his hand. The assasins had evidently just fired at him, and concluding from this movement that he had been wounded, they set up a fiendish yell of delight. With the aid of a twig, which he snatched from a tree as he was passing, he was able to gallop out of their sight. He could not look back to see what had become of Kennedy, for if he had done so, he would have been sure to dash his head against some tree. After a perilous ride, he fell from the horse—how, he cannot tell, but supposes he was caught by a branch. The photograph of Kelly which has been circulated amongst the police is, he says, a good likeness, but the outlaw presents a rather altered appearance, as he now wears a square-cut moustache and a short beard—at least he did so when he stuck up the camp.
There can be no doubt that this deplorable affair has found the police in the districts contiguous to the outrage very inadequately equipped. In addition to what has already stated on this subject, it appears that the fowlingpiece possessed by Kennedy’s party was borrowed from the Rev. Mr. Sandiford, of Mansfield. The mounted troopers are well trained in sword exercise, which is very well in its way, but it seems to be considered unnecessary to train them to the use of rifles or carbines. For 12 or 18 months before the butts were removed from Sandridge the men of the Richmond depot were regularly exercised at them in revolver practice, and in commending this practice in September last year we suggested that the troopers should also be furnished by carbines, and taught the use of them, a suggestion which has not yet been adopted. The revolver now used by the police is called Webley, and notwithstanding reports to the contrary, is a most effective and reliable weapon. Adams’ and Colt’s revolvers were both discarded for it. When the men where practising at the butts, Sergeant Fegan, their drill instructor, tested its throwing power, and found that at a distance of 200 yards the bullet struck the target with as much force as if it were fired from a carbine. The thirty fowlingpieces purchased the other day by the government have cartridges containing 18 or 20 round shot, and are said to be deadly at a long distance.
A fear has been expressed that the parties out hunting for the bushrangers might mistake each other in their disguise, and shoot each other down. That this fear was not without grounds will be seen from the following telegram from our Corowa correspondent:—
“Police patrolling both banks of Murray. The Wahgunyah party were fired on last night by another party of police, fortunately without injury. Impression prevails that the Kellys have crossed the Murray. If Christian’s report be true there can be no doubt. The difficulty of crossing the river is imaginary. Scores of boats on its banks.”
Some understanding should be come to so that the various police and volunteers parties might recognise each other, and so prevent such a dangerous mistake being repeated. The weight of evidence is still in favour of the report that the gang were seen in the Chiltern district, and that one of their number was wounded. Our Chiltern correspondent telegraphs:—
“Information reached us last evening, and again this morning, that the party of ruffians causing so much excitement are lurking in the ranges known as Rats’ Castle, near the Mares’ Flats, Indigo Creek. Volunteers can be obtained from the township and about if arms were to be had. The police are very active, and have received fresh news, I hear, this afternoon. It is also said that one of the party must be wounded, as when sticking up Christian’s house he could not sit upright. Rats’ Castle is well-known to have been the haunt of Sullivan, Power, and Morgan, but the Victorian police also know the place well.”
From our Mansfield correspondent we have the following:—
“Mansfield, Sunday, 5 p.m.
“Nothing new has transpired here since I last sent about the bushrangers, but there are all sorts of rumours of their having been met with in various parts of the border, which are not believed here. It was an old trick of Power’s to elude the police by appearing to cross into New South Wales, and Kelly is quite capable of the same ruse. Eleven Troopers disguised left here in haste about 11 o’clock this morning for Benalla..”
At a later hour our special reporter telegraphs the following intelligence from Benalla:—
“Sunday, 10 p.m.
“A telegram was received from Superintendent Nicolson at 6 o’clock, stating that the men seen at Barnawartha answered the description of Kelly’s party, and two of the horses the description of those taken from the murdered troopers. The police are following up the tracks. The troopers who reached Mansfield from the ranges on Friday came on to Benalla to-night for fresh orders. It came on to rain heavily at sundown.”
(FROM THE ALBURY BANNER, NOV. 2.)
In consequence of information received on Thursday last, a number of constables were despatched down the river on the afternoon of that day to the neighbourhood of Bungowannah, where it was anticipated that the murderers might attempt to cross. Large reinforcements of police have already been received on the border, and specially selected men from other districts are expected to arrive to-day (Saturday). There is now a strong cordon of police right along the border, and parties stationed back from the border, so that they can be met if they break through the first line. Every possible crossing is being closely watched by strong parties of police. Warrants for the murder of the police against all four offenders have been received from Victoria, and have been duly backed for this colony.
THE MANSFIELD MURDERS
To The Editor Of The Argus
Sir, —Might one venture to make a suggestion to the chief of the department under which is the police force of this colony?
The constables are not allowed any ammunition for rifle or revolver practice, and if a shot is fired by them they have to make a return of the fact, with details of the circumstances under which that one round of ammunition was expended.
I have been told by a mounted constable that there are men in the force who have never fired a shot at a mark, and whose only experience of revolver practice, is how to keep the pistol clean.
For men so unskilled in the use of firearms to be sent in pursuit of armed and expert ruffians, such as the kellys, is sheer cruelty; and I would suggest that every man in the force should be supplied with at least 300 rounds of ball cartridge per annum, which he should be obliged to use in fair target practice; and that annual prizes should be given for the best shot in each constabulary division, and a very substantial prize for the best shot in the force.
These men would then have some chance of knocking over a bushranger. As it is, they are sent out on very unequal terms.
Nov. 1. SNAP-CAP.