THE KELLY GANG
(FROM THE NORTH-EASTERN ENSIGN, MAY 21)
The second step in connection with the abandonment of the Kelly pursuit is the withdrawal from Benalla and their restoration to Queensland of the detachment of Queensland native police, who, under the leadership of Lieutenant O’Connor, have so long remained here pending an outbreak of the bushrangers. We learn that Captain Standish has given the necessary orders for the withdrawal of the blacks, and that they will be sent home under the charge of Mr. O’Connor at an early date, although it is not known whether Mr. O’Connor will prefer to remain in Victoria to proceeding to his former home and probable promotion. The reward offered by the two governments being withdrawn, and the blacks removed, we think there is an early probability of the gang again breaking cover; but the lastnamed step will then in all likelihood lead to some adverse criticisms of the police management. It is generally recognised that the fear of the tracking power of the Queensland “boys” has been a strong deterrent of further crimes by the gang―indeed the officers of police know as much. Once they are removed and on the sea journeying homeward, there is little doubt the gang of outlaws will consider the coast clear and commit a fresh outrage, possibly with loss of life. Information to hand points to the necessity for a replenishment of funds, and as there are many banks unprotected, a fresh crime is easy of committal, and it is felt certain will be committed if once the gang feel sure they have only to deal with the ordinary trackers the Victorian Government can command. Most people resident in the bush are aware of the fact that every bushman is more or less possessed of the peculiar instinct which enables him to follow a trail. Horses and cattle are lost, and it is often by means of tracking the bush youth is able to recover them. The Kelly gang have not underrated the skill of the blackfellows and the superior cunning which enables them to follow a trail with unerring certainty; nor have the many stories―some of which are marvellous―of the feats performed by the trackers in many minor matters of crime escaped their knowledge. They have known that should they once break their cover, their haunts could not fail of being discovered, and hence their long silence. We are justified, therefore, in believing that when the danger is removed a fresh crime is not only possible, but probable. Whether it is wise to encourage a fresh outbreak by first the withdrawal of the extra garrison of police, and secondly the removal of the trackers, whilst in a short time the reward will be a thing of the past, is a matter of policy open to serious question.