The robbery of the bank was not just an exercise to acquire much-needed funds. For Ned, it was an opportunity to express and explain his view of the events that had led him to his current situation. As the Cameron Letter was never fully published, the new manifesto, known as the Jerilderie Letter, gave Ned the opportunity to explain his side of the story in full. Unfortunately, Mr Gill, the town printer, had fled Jerilderie as soon as he heard the Kellys were present. Living, the bank teller, promised Ned he would pass the letter onto Mr Gill and ensure that it was printed.
With the bank emptied of its possessions, the town’s communication equipment destroyed and the Jerilderie letter in the hands of Mr. Living, the gang made its departure. Later that night, Captain Chief Commissioner Standish heard of the news, but by this stage, the gang had made their way back to Victoria and the police were unable to make any progress on the pursuit due to swollen rivers. Desperate to catch the outlaws, the government and the banks of New South Wales decided to add to the reward that was offered in Victoria. The reward for the capture of the outlaws was increased to £8000: £2000 per outlaw. Chief Commissioner Standish, after much deliberation, finally accepted Queensland’s offer to send down a party of native police trackers to help police hunt down the gang.
The police also realised that the detention of Kelly sympathisers under the Felons Apprehension Act had not stopped the flow of information reaching the outlaws. As a result, they were obliged to release their prisoners. The homes of the Kellys and Joe Byrne had been under surveillance by a party of police, who kept watch from a nearby cave. Hare increased the number of people to be watched and the hiring of spies also became a priority. Police informer Aaron Sherritt, along with Hare, slept in the caves as they watched over the Byrne and Kelly homesteads. Known as the ‘cave parties’, they were to take up a lot of time and money. As a result of the increasing expenditure, Hare was to relinquish his role as commander of the hunt.
By June 1879, the hunt for the outlaws was proving futile. Standish handed the reins of the hunt to Superintendent Nicolson a month later, in July. By June 1880, Nicolson would be handing the investigation back to Hare, forming a loop of responsibility diversion. Suspicious that there may be yet another Kelly attempt on a bank, Nicolson instructed bank managers to leave banks’ keys with police officers during non-banking hours and a circular was sent around to towns seeking assistance from the townspeople.
Nicolson’s plan to capture the outlaws did not rest solely on the search parties. He also concentrated on building a larger network of agents in the district. Those of most significance were the Sherritt brothers, Aaron and Jack. The former may also have acted as a double agent, as a letter asking him to join the gang was later found.
Through the Sherritt brothers, Nicolson was able to ascertain that the gang frequently paid visits to the Byrne and Sherritt homes. Whether Aaron was or was not a double agent, the gang’s faith in him was starting to dissolve. Nicolson had noticed the open hostility that prominent Kelly sympathisers were displaying towards Aaron and another spy informed him that death threats were being made against Aaron. Fearing for Aaron’s safety, Nicolson organised for four police officers to stay with Aaron in his hut to keep watch.
During their time in hiding, claims were made in regards to sightings of the gang as well as sympathisers supplying the outlaws. Members of the Chinese community had connections to Joe Byrne, and were suspected of aiding and abetting the outlaws. By now, Ned had decided that the gang should wear suits of armour. Over the next few months, four sets of armour were constructed out of ploughboards, either donated to them by Kelly sympathisers or stolen. Preparations for the gang’s next outrage were starting to take form.