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To the Inspector General of the Penal Establishment from William Williamson re: remission of sentence

VPRS 4969 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 52 Document: Williamson remission of six year sentence assaulting Fitzpatrick.



William Williamson was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment with hard labour for his role in the shooting of Constable Fitzpatrick at the Kelly homestead, in 1878. This letter written on the 6 August 1881, is an application seeking remission on his six-year sentence. Addressed to the Inspector General of the Penal Establishment, Williamson gives his account of the events which transpired that afternoon, which may be deemed questionable, given his motive was to secure a reduction of his sentence. The Governor of the Gaol underlined portions of Williamson’s letter and requested that Mr. Chomley read these portions and assess the validity of Williamson’s claims, in order for a reduction of his sentence to be justified.


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V7491Penal Establishment Pentridge
6th August 1881The Inspector General
of Penal EstablishmentsSir,
I was tried at Beechworth on the 9th October 1878 on a charge of aiding and abetting the Kellys and with an Attempt to Murder, and sentenced to six years hard labor. The day on which the offence was alleged to have been committed I was splitting wood on the Range about a quarter of a mile from Kelly’s house when Constable Fitzpatrick rode up and asked if I had a Splitters licence. I told him that I was not aware one was required. He replied that he did not care but I had better not let the Greta fellows know, meaning the Greta police. He talked with me for about ten minutes and then started in the direction of Greta. I started for home shortly afterwards. It was now about sundown. When I got near Mrs Kelly’s house I saw Skillion coming across the paddock and I spoke to him and while thus engaged Fitzpatrick rode up to the fence and asked if Skillion had seen any strange horses and he replied “No.” Fitzpatrick then asked where Dan Kelly was. I saw Mrs Kelly at the door and asked her if Dan was in. She did not answer, but Dan came out and Fitzpatrick called him over to him. Skillion started away at this time towards home. I heard Fitzpatrick say something about a Warrant and Dan said he would have something to eat before he went.
Fitzpatrick said he would give him a good supper in Greta. Dan said it was cooked and he might as well have it. They were then both going towards the house. When they reached there Mrs Kelly tried to keep Fitzpatrick out when he drew his revolver and threatened to shoot her. She then took a spade and was going to hit him with it when I stepped in between them and took it from her and threw it behind the fire. Two of Mrs Kelly’s children, two and four years of age were screaming. I took them in my arms and went out of the house to quiet them. Soon after this Ned Kelly rushed round the corner of the house to the door and fired two shots at Fitzpatrick. I left the children and was going towards the house when a man named King passed me with a revolver in his hand. I caught him by the shoulder and held him back. He said he thought they were scuffling. At this time Ned Kelly had hold

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VPRS 4969 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 52 Document: Williamson remission of six year sentence assaulting Fitzpatrick.

of Fitzpatricks revolver. Dan had hold of his right arm and Mrs Kelly was holding a spade against Fitzpatrick’s chest. Ned took the revolver from his hand and then they let go of him. Ned came out and told me to run into the yard some horses which were on the flat and to tell Skillion to go to Harty’s – a farm about four miles away – and bring two more horses. I told Skillion and then brought the horses as desired. I was then told to get their saddles and rations which they had packed and hid in a hollow log – and put them on the horses. When I had done this Skillion came with two more horses. Dan Kelly and his sister Kate and King came to the yard and I asked them how Fitzpatrick was. Kate Kelly said that he was in great pain, that Ned had cut the bullet out and Mrs Kelly had dressed the wound. Dan and King had some talk about what they would do with him (Fitzpatrick). King was for taking him with them and Dan for letting him go, Fitzpatrick promising to say nothing about being shot. Skillion and I were then told to take the horses up on the range and wait there till they came. We waited there about an hour when Dan and King came up and took the horses and started. Skillion and I then started for home, near which place we met Ned Kelly who said that he had been seeing Fitzpatrick on the road and he (Ned) had made it all right with him. Fitzpatrick had promised to say nothing about having been shot, if he could help it, but if there was any noise about it I was to say that Fitzpatrick was standing talking to me when he saw two men on the next range and started away to try to arrest one of them when the other man fired from behind a tree at him, that there were two or three shots fired and one man fell and the other closed on Fitzpatrick and took his revolver and ammunition from him and then let him go. Fitzpatrick was to be said to have then gone in the direction of the Kellys, one of the men to be described as being like the herdsman and the other like Witlow the poundkeeper, and Kelly’s mother would state how she had dressed the wound in his wrist. I told Kelly I should never be able to think of that story and had better say that I knew nothing about it.
Ned Kelly said “very well, mind you stick to that.” He

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VPRS 4969 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 52 Document: Williamson remission of six year sentence assaulting Fitzpatrick.


then left and went in the direction of the other two namely – King and Dan Kelly. I never say any of them after. On the next evening I was arrested by Sergeant Steele and Constable Brown. When I was taken to the lock-up they read the charge and I said that I knew nothing about it. Constable Fitzpatrick swore in Court that he saw me splitting wood and after leaving me he came down to the Kelly’s place. He described how he had been shot by Ned Kelly and said after the second shot had been fired he saw me coming out of the bedroom of Kelly’s hut. Such However was not a fact and he had his back to that part of the hut where was the bedroom and was excited in struggling with Kelly at the door of the hut. If anyone came out of the bedroom it was not I as when I did come to the hut I remained outside. On the trial Fitzpatrick was not asked about my taking the spade from Mrs. Kelly. The reason I said that I knew nothing about the matter was the fear I had of Ned Kelly after I had promised him to say what he instructed me to relate, and though I might have interfered when Ned Kelly was taking the revolver from Fitzpatrick yet I thought it better not to do so as I might have made matters worse. I understand that recently the police have discovered that Byrne was at Kellys hut at the time Fitzpatrick was shot in the wrist. About December last I wrote a statement of the affair to Captain Standish who shortly afterwards answered that he considered I had received a very heavy sentence considering the circumstances and that he would try to get the Government to grant me a mitigation. Since then I have heard nothing further about it. I was six months awaiting trial, making the time still longer for me in prison. I therefore respectfully apply to you, Sir, to forward this statement to the Government as I am convinced that if enquiries be made into the truth and exact particulars of the matter they will be induced

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VPRS 4969 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 52 Document: Williamson remission of six year sentence assaulting Fitzpatrick.

to grant me a mitigation of sentence.

I am your humble servant,
William Williamson

Will Mr Chomley be kind enough to read the portion of the letter I have underlined & let me know whether the prisoner’s statement is correct.

J B Castieau



The Acting C Commissioner of Police

Peter McDonald
The Inspr Genl

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VPRS 4969 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 52 Document: Williamson remission of six year sentence assaulting Fitzpatrick.

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