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Queen v. Edward Kelly murder file

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 1 Document: Queen v. Edward Kelly murder file

circa. 1880


The capture of Ned Kelly created a flurry of activity in the north-eastern districts of Victoria, as the prosecution case for his trial was prepared. Inspector W.B. Montfort of Benalla, seems to have been in charge of collecting statements from those involved in the various Kelly Gang related incidents of the previous two years. In this he was himself directed by the prosecuting attorneys of the Chief Justice in Melbourne. The result of Montfort’s queries is a large file of reports and statements that was later boiled down to the summonsing of witnesses for depositions – sworn statements before a magistrate admissible as evidence. It is in this pile of queries that we begin to see the official Kelly story taking shape. This story is the counterpoint to Kelly’s own, that he told as a defense and challenge to the official version of events used against him all his life. Montfort’s enquiries ranged beyond the Stringy Bark Creek murders, although most often the point of the questions he forwarded was the same: Did Kelly talk about Stringy Bark Creek in your presence? Did he admit to anything?

The prosecution brief was assembled from the statements collected. These three documents have been selected, demonstrating why some were able to be used and others were not, in the construction of the prosecution’s case.

1. Snr. Constable Johnston’s statement re: Edward Kelly

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 14 Document: Snr. Constable Johnston’s statement re Edward Kelly



This document is found in a larger file of reports and statements from witnesses to the Kelly Gang’s various crimes, that was put together to prepare for Kelly’s trial. Inspector W.B. Montfort of Benalla seems to have been responsible for collecting evidence from local witnesses that might have a bearing on the case. Some of the respondents to Montfort’s questions later gave formal evidence before the local magistrate that were included in the prosecution brief.

In this two page statement, dated 7 July 1880, Snr. Constable Johnston responds to Montfort’s earlier request for a summary of his dealings with Kelly. Montfort was particularly interested to know whether Kelly admitted to the murder of Sergeant Kennedy at Stringy Bark Creek. As can be seen, Johnston cannot confirm this admission, which may be the reason that the pencilled instruction in the margin “to be put into the brief” was not carried out. Neither copy of the prosecution brief PROV holds contains Johnston’s evidence.

On the second page, Johnston has included a clipping of Ned Kelly’s interview by Mr. Gale, a reporter from the Daily Telegraph. Alongside the clipping is a note dated 9 July 1880 from Inspector Montfort, requesting that the reporter’s identity be concealed. The rationale behind this request is so that Mr Gale may continue to supply the police with information about the “criminal class”.

Transcribed text Image



Con. Johnstons Statement

to be put into brief

North Eastern District
Violet-Town, Station
7th July 1880Queen. V. Edward Kelly.
MurderCharles Johnston states. I am a Snr. Constable of police stationed at Violet Town I know the prisoner, “Edward Kelly.” I saw him at the Railway station, Glenrowan on the 28th June. I also saw him in the lock-up. Benalla. I was in charge of the guard and prisoner, from 8 PM on the 28th to 2 AM on the 29th June. When I was relieved by Snr Const-Kelly. I visited the prisoner about seven times during the time I was in charge of the guard. I had a conversation with the prisoner.
I said Ned is McIntyre’s statement of the murder of the Police at the Wombat correct? Kelly replied it was except – one thing. viz Scanlan being shot when on his knees.
I said Ned why did you shoot my old mate. Kelly asked, Who is that? I said Scanlan. Kelly replied. If I did not shoot him he would have shot me
I said Ned could you not have got away from the police? why did you come out in open order from the “Sword grass.” Into the Police Camp? Kelly replied you are

[End of page 1]

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 14 Document: Snr. Constable Johnston's statement re Edward Kelly

are asking me questions. Which I do not like to answer. A few minutes before 12 o’clock midnight – Mr Gale, reporter for the “Telegraph,” came to the Lock up I was going to visit the prisoner Gale asked me if I could let-him see Ned Kelly. I said yes. I was just going to see him, myself. I attach a paragraph cut-out-of the “Daily Telegraph,” which is the substance of the conversation with Ned Kelly and the reporter, but not all correct: as far as I know

Snr. Constable 764

As Mr Gale is continually travelling amongst the criminal classes and is in a position to give us information not procurable elsewhere I promised him he would not be spoken about. It was he told me Snr Constable Johnston could give us good evidence as he could. I therefore suggest that no mention be made about Gale

W B Montford

Reporter: When you bailed up the police at Stringybark Creek, and shot Sergeant Kennedy, did the sergeant give you a message, letter, or note-book, to give to his wife; and if so, what have you done with it?
Kelly: Well, if he did, it would have been sent to her. I would have taken good care of that.
Reporter: That is no answer to any question. Will you tell me Ned, straightforwardly and candidly, as you are now on your dying bed, whether poor Kennedy gave you anything or not?
Kelly: I tell you if he did, Mrs. Kennedy would have got it, I could tell you the whole circumstances, but if I do, neither you nor the public will believe me, so what’s the use of talking?
Reporter: But is the account of the affair at Stringybark, and about Kennedy’s death, correct?
Kelly: It’s right enough in most particulars – the shooting and the sticking-up, but it’s all false about my cutting the ear off Sergeant Kennedy. I can never forget that report. It was spread about to do me harm. I did not know Kennedy; never saw him till we stuck up the police, and I have no down at all on him. If he had told me to deliver anything to his wife, it would have been done; but he only sent his love to her.
Reporter: When you were in the Warby Ranges, and Senior-constable Johnstone’s party pressing you, could you have shot them then, or did you say you would have the life of Johnstone?
Kelly: They were so close to us that I could have easily shot them if I had thought of doing so.]

[end of page 2]

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 14 Document: Snr. Constable Johnston's statement re Edward Kelly

2. Sergeant Steele’s Statement re Glenrowan outrage

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 15 Document: Sergeant Steele re: Glenrowan Outrage



Dated a month after the Glenrowan siege, this four-page statement written by Sergeant Arthur Steele of the Wangaratta Police Station, delivers his account of what transpired at Kelly’s last stand. While recognised and credited as the officer who caused Kelly to fall and be captured, Steele was also criticised for firing at bystanders. This document contains Steele’s version of the events that led to the dispute with Constable James Arthur.


Transcribed text Image
Wangaratta Police Station
20th July 1880 (?)L. M. Steele
Can prove
I am Sergt. Of Police in Charge of Wangaratta Police Station. About 3 am on Monday 28th June last, I was at the Wangaratta Railway Station Expecting to meet Supt. Hare and party of Police by special train, finding the train late I went down the line in Company with (?) Lacy (?) (?) we heard firing down the line in the direction of Glenrowan. I telegraphed at once to Benalla, then started for Glenrowan with 5 min on horseback where we arrived at 5am. Took up my position about 25 yards from the back door of Mrs James Hotel, between day break and sun rise, I traced some of the Police Call to some person to go back or he would get shot.-

[End of page 1]

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 15 Document: Sergeant Steele re: Glenrowan Outrage

I saw a figure about 200 yard to my rear coming towards the hotel he commenced firing at the Police and calling out I am bullet Proof You Cant hurt me. After firing 5 or 6 shots he sat and crouched down between some trees and commenced re loading his revolver
I ran down towards him When he stood up and fired at me he then walked out on the open ground & Commenced beating his breast with the revolver
Calling loudly come out boys and we will whip the lot of them, I called to the men, that there was no use in firing and to rush him, I ran towards him to within 15 yards when he ? me with his revolver I immediately fired at him on the outside of his right leg, he staggered and his hand dropped, he again tried to raise the revolver Where I again fired at him about 10 yards distant, on the hand and thigh which were in a line, he immediately

[End of page 2]

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 15 Document: Sergeant Steele re: Glenrowan Outrage

fell, his helmet rolled off and as I approached him he again tried to firing his revolver (?) on me but I seized hold of it and turned it away, he discharging it in my hand I then knocked it from him, and seized him by the right wrist and throat and held him down, until assistance came up.-
Myself S. C. Kelly & Const. Bracken with others divested him of his armour Bracken & myself carried him to the Railway Station where he was attended by Dr Nicholson.-
When the accused was removed from Prison I noticed a watch in his waistcoat pocket which I pulled out and looked at but finding it was not Sergt Kennedy’s I returned it, I asked him where Kennedy’s watch was, and he replied, I could not tell you It would not do for me to tell, ? asked him why he shot Scanlan and Sergt Kennedy he said he had to shoot them or they would have shot

[End of page 3]

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 15 Document: Sergeant Steel re Glenrowan Outrage

shot him, he also stated in reply to the question, that he intended shooting all the survivors from The wreck of the train at Glenrowan. –
He also stated that he kept two Chambers of revolvers loaded the time of his Capture one to shoot the first man that came to him and the other to shoot himself
I gave the ? revolver which I took because ?(C.P ) to hold but some person took it out of his hand to look at and did not return it. I cannot therefore produce it. It is supposed to have been taken by Dr. Nicholson of Benalla

G.M Steele
Sgt 1179

[End of page 4]

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2 Record 15 Document: Sergeant Steel re Glenrowan Outrage

3. Memo re: Warrant for the arrest of Edward Kelly

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2, Document: Memo re: Warrant for the arrest of Edward Kelly (horse stealing)



This memo states that it includes a copy of the warrant issued by the Chiltern Bench for the arrest of Edward Kelly on charges of horse stealing, although the warrant itself is not present. A similar warrant was also issued for Ned’s brother Dan, a copy of which is included in the evidence file for the case against Ellen Kelly for aiding and abetting in the attempted murder of Constable Arthur Fitzpatrick on the 15th of April: Fitzpatrick visited the Kelly home to serve these warrants. As a result of the subsequent brawl, Ned and Dan fled to the bush, emerging as outlaws six months later.

Transcribed text Image
F128/78Ovens District
Chiltern Police Station
9th April 1878Re Warrant for arrest of Edward KellyI. James Lynch S. C. 708 Respectfully forward the enclosed warrant issued by the Chiltern Bench for the arrest of Edward Kelly charged with Horse Stealing to the Superintendents office for filing see Police Gazette 20th March 1878
Page 78 –
James Lynch
S. C. 708The Superintendent Of Police Beechworth

[end of page 1]

VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 2, Document: Memo re: Warrant for the arrest of Edward Kelly (horse stealing)

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