THE POLICE MURDERS
The latest intelligence respecting the bushrangers does not agree very well with previous reports. According to a telegram from our special reporter, despatched from Wangaratta at a quarter past 11 o’clock last night, the police believe that the gang are still in the neighbourhood of the Murray. Fresh traces of them were found on Monday, showing that they had endeavoured to cross the river, but had been baffled. The information previously given by the man Margery led to the arrest by Superintendent Nicolson and his force of a party of four horsemen, one of them possessing a singular resemblance to Kelly, but they were found to be shearers, and were set at liberty.
(BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH)
(FROM OUR SPECIAL REPORTER)
A special party of men who have been in reserve for several days have just been ordered up the line. It is the impression of the police that the Kellys are still in the ranges north-east of this place. It has been ascertained that they have endeavoured to pass themselves off as police, with the assistance of the handcuffs and revolvers they got at the Wombat, but their youth and looks ought to be against them.
One of Strahan’s party arrived from Mansfield to-day. They worked the ranges from the Wombat to the head of the west branch of the King, going along the top of the range. They were out for four days, and had a good deal of wet weather, but Saturday was fine, and they got an extensive view of the valley of the King from the high ground. The tracks seen were not recent, and doubtless were left by horsemen connected with stations beyond Mansfield. On one night they stopped at an old hut on the Wombat range. They crossed the blazed track from Mansfield to Glenmore, but did not descend to Quinn’s old haunts. News was circulated in Benalla yesterday to the affect that the Kellys had stuck up a store on the King River, between Glenmore and Whitfield. The statement was found to be correct, but the occurrence took place three weeks ago. The owner of the store tried to shut Kelly out, but at night the marauder forced a road in, and told him that if he ever barricaded his doors in that way again he would be shot. The man was so frightened at the threats he heard that he made no complaint to the police, and his relatives only mentioned the matter privately in the course of a visit to Benalla yesterday, so for his sake the name of the locality must be withheld. This will show how effectively the scattered settlements have been held in terror. To show how extensive the Kelly connexion is, it may be mentioned that scarcely a day passes that we do not hear that some relative has been in Benalla.
Isaiah Wright was brought up at Mansfield to-day and discharged, the police not pressing their complaint against him.
Wangaratta, Tuesday, 11.15 P.M.
The account which has been obtained from Mr. Nicholson shows that none of the supposed Kelly party are wounded, and that satisfactory item in past reports must be given up. Margery is a selector near the Murray. On his way backwards and forwards to the river last Tuesday he saw four men near a lagoon. He had some talk with them. They said at first they were police, and afterwards one of them stated that he was Kelly. They showed handcuffs, and he saw that they carried firearms in their swags as many shearers do. He had a long talk with them, and they got some loaves of bread and a bottle of wine from him, but made no demand for provisions, and did not stick him up. He told them that if they were the Kellys they had better clear out, as that was no place for them. They stayed some time at the lagoon, and kept him there also. Before he went up to them he had seen them on his way to the river, where he had set some fishing lines, and he passed once or twice before he had the curiosity to see who they were. The police ascertained that Margery had been drinking, but in their inquiries in the neighbourhood they found that other persons had seen the same party. This occurred on the Tuesday, and it was not until Friday night that Mr. Nicolson arrived from Benalla. On Saturday the police got on the tracks of four or five horseman. Margery had told them that they were mounted on remarkably good horses. The tracks were well defined for some distance, and at sundown they reached the place where the party had camped the previous day. The footprints were those of shod horses. Rain came on, and not only obliterated the tracks, but flooded the surface of the ground. They still kept on, but finally lost the track entirely at a reserve near Barnawartha. On entering the township they learned that a party exactly like the men they were in search of had passed through a little in advance on them. They followed on, and made up to four men. One of them was remarkably like Kelly, and the other three young men. They took them into Chiltern on Sunday at 7.00 a.m., and Margery was confronted with them, but he was sure they were not the men he had seen. Mr. Nicolson, though struck with the likeness, did not for a moment suppose he had got Kelly. It was satisfactorily shown that the men were shearers, so they were at once brought before a magistrate and discharged from custody. This pursuit of a false scent lost the police a day. The search was resumed on Monday, and soon fresh evidence of the presence of the Kelly party was met with in the neighbourhood of the Murray. It was pretty evident that attempts had been made to cross and that the party had been baffled. Some information which the police don’t care to disclose at present was obtained. It was not from Margery that they heard about the brands on the horses, but from a more trustworthy source. Up to yesterday the police felt that they were still upon strong indications. Some fresh parties of troopers will be sent out from here to-morrow.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT)
Constable Strahan and Shewbridge’s party have just returned from Wombat for provisions and further orders. They report finding no trace of Kelly’s gang. They feel perfectly confident that they are hiding in the Upper King ranges, and they are anxious to return. The weather being very stormy is much against their search. The latest report is that one mate is Kelly’s sister. The two Lloyds are in Mansfield, no doubt with the intention of showing that they are not the two unknown ones of the gang. Sub-inspector Pewtress still complains, and with just cause, of the scarcity of rifles. The party that has just returned have only four, two borrowed one and two belonging to the force.
A well-informed correspondent writes:―
“There is every reason to believe that the surmise of the officials of the penal department that Strickland, who was a prisoner at Pentridge, is one of the Kelly gang, is correct. A short time before his discharge he, with two others, made a savage attack on the well-known Von Sanden in the messroom, and the assault might have terminated seriously had not some of the warders been present. For some time Strickland was employed as a wardsman, and subsequently in the stonecutters’ yard, where his associates were the worst class of prisoners. So well aware were some of the warders of this man’s proclivities that as soon as the report of the Mansfield affair was known, suspicion at once turned to Strickland, especially as it was known that he was from that part of the country. During the time Kelly was at Pentridge there was nothing remarkable in his conduct beyond his desire to let the people know that he was Power’s mate in bushranging. The latter has always said that he had no confidence in Kellys courage. On one occasion, says Power, when he was nearly surrounded by police at Mount Battery station, and there seemed but little hope of escape, Kelly said that he would surrender, when Power said, “If you attempt to do so I will shoot you on the spot.” Power said he would have stuck up the Seymour Bank if Kelly would have agreed to hold his horse close to the bank, which he refused to do. Power appears to have been informed about the recent tragedy, but he makes no comments. He has been in the prison hospital for the last two years, and is not likely to recover from a disease contracted during his bushranging career.”