THE PURSUIT OF THE KELLYS
(FROM OUR SPECIAL REPORTER)
Wangaratta, Tuesday, 4.30 P.M.
The telegram of last night had to be prepared somewhat hurriedly, but very little remains to be added to the details it contained. The place where Margery saw the supposed Kellys was, as far as can be ascertained, from eight to ten miles from Barnawartha township. The country is flat, and at the present time a large portion of the surface is covered with water, so that persons desirous of concealing their movements cannot be very easily followed. The Ovens River is very high at Wangaratta, and the flood here may be taken as an indication of the state of affairs further down. The police had very satisfactory traces of the Kellys up to dark on Saturday, when they had to give up tracking. They learned as they went along that there, as in other places wherever the party had spoken to anybody, nearly all the talking was done by Edward Kelly. It was in the vicinity of Barnawartha that the search had to be suspended on account of darkness, and in the township the police heard of the party of four, whom they subsequently overtook. The appearance of the men and the brands on their horses were close enough to reality to justify people predisposed to see Kelly to report that the wanted men had actually passed through. All the police horses show a crown on the off shoulder, and underneath the crown a single letter and one or two figures, such as S52. There was an arrangement of W’s on the horses of the party of shearers, which a careless observer might take for the crown. The men offered no resistance when called upon to surrender, and carried no arms. It was not believed that the right persons had been found, but prudence suggested that they should be detained until Margery had seen them. Some troopers were therefore sent to fetch him. As soon as the police were satisfied that the shearers were not the persons who had been seen on the Murray, they brought them before a magistrate in Chiltern on Sunday, and had them released from custody. There can be no doubt now that the Kellys made a bold effort to cross the Murray between Barnawartha and Yarrawonga last week, and found it impracticable. The Rats’ Castle lies between Barnawartha and Indigo Creek, about five miles from the former place. About five years ago it afforded temporary concealment to two Germans who murdered a publican at Warrigee near Beechworth, but they were run down in three days by Sub-inspector Beaver. The Rats’ Castle is scrubby, and caves are abundant, but the range is not lofty or of great extent, and would afford indifferent hiding for men on horseback.
It is not worth while, in the absence of details, speculating upon the probable whereabouts of the Kellys. The police are wisely reticent on some matters, and no complaint can be made against them for withholding information. If the Kellys get back to Greta they will be very difficult to find, unless the act under which they are outlawed should have a restrictive effect upon the operations of their friends. Numerous suggestions are made as to how the ranges should be thoroughly and permanently cleared. One is that the police should open tracks in all directions at the head of the King, so that the locality may no longer remain a secret hold; that a well-manned station should be established in the heart of the suspected district, and that the men should explore every gully and ravine until they know the country as well as the Kellys themselves. Each of the parties sent out from Mansfield and Benalla has contained one or more men acquainted generally with the features of the country, but their knowledge does not descend to minuteness, and from what one hears of their movements their line of march must, as a rule, be confined to the tops of spurs.
Two bodies of troopers went out from Wangaratta to-day, well armed, and in fine condition. Their destination it is not advisable to mention, because every scrap of news reaches the outlaws sooner or later after publication, and their friends are daily visitors to the principal townships. The man Johnson, whom Steele’s party of police met the other day in company with Quinn, on the King, is now in Wangaratta.
The police came upon fresh indications upon Monday, but the day they lost over the shearers threw them vexatiously into arrear. That, at any rate, is what some of the police think, for they believe they were on warm scent on Saturday. For the future it will be necessary to withhold the names of parties who give information, for when people see men like Margery made very conspicuous in print, they are afraid to say a word themselves lest they should bring down vengeance on their heads.