This is the part of Fitzpatricks death certificate that shows what he died from :
“Sarcoma of Liver invading stomach, disseminated. Ascites. Constriction and adherence of appendix (appendicectomy) Cardiac exhaustion. ” Note : nothing about cirrhosis!
Last week I showed that the Kelly legend claim that Constable Fitzpatrick was a drunk is wrong; its not true. The claim that he was a drunk is entirely based on the word of the Kelly family, people who told many lies about what happened when Fitzpatrick visited the Kelly house in April 1878 and there is no reason to believe their claim that he was drunk when he got there wasn’t just another one. That’s because there is simply no other evidence anywhere, including his police record up to that day, and right through to the end of his time in the police that he had a problem with drink. On Facebook all week the Kelly sympathisers have been showing they are in deep denial about this fact, repeating that lie to themselves over and over and over again – they just want to carry on villifying Fitzpatrick with the false label of drunk, but not one of them has fronted up with a single scrap of proof to back it up – thats because there isn’t any! However in desperation they foolishly posted Fitzpatrick’s death certificate, thinking, in their understandable but unacknowledged ignorance of medicine and human pathology that it proved he had cirrhosis of the liver, the disease that alcoholics often die from. However, the certificate, as seen above, actually proved conclusively that what he died from was something entirely different. Sarcoma of the liver is a nasty malignancy, a kind of cancer that in Fitzpatrick’s case was invading the stomach, and as is common with invasive malignancies in the abdomen, there was also ascites. None of this has anything to do with alcoholism or cirrhosis of the liver – he didn’t have it. This led to the realisation that a lot of them believe he died from cirrhosis of the liver because that’s what Justin Corfield’s Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia says he died from – but Corfield got it wrong too, as the death certificate shows.
An important point that they all seemed to have missed is this : even if the death certificate had said he died of cirrhosis and was an alcoholic in 1924, this was some 46 years after his fateful visit to the Kelly home and it couldn’t possibly be counted in any serious way as evidence that he was drunk on April 15th1878. But it didn’t, and he wasn’t.
This week’s post is going to concentrate on another aspect of Fitzpatrick’s life and career that Kelly followers have got completely wrong, as a direct result of another of Corfield’s mistakes about Fitzpatrick. This time it relates to Fitzpatrick’s dismissal from the police. This is what the entry for Fitzpatrick in Corfield’s Ned Kelly encyclopaedia says about it :
“He was discharged from the police force on 27thAugust 1880, as a perjurer and a drunkard”
Corfield’s dates are wrong for a starter: Fitzpatrick was discharged from the force in late April 1880, but the more important error is Corfield’s claim that the dismissal was for perjury and for being a drunkard. As shown here last week there is not one shred of evidence anywhere that Fitzpatrick was a drunkard, and he was never convicted of perjury during his time in the force, so one has to wonder where exactly Corfield got his information from. In fact, the precise terminology given by Chief Police Commissioner Standish as his reason for dismissing Fitzpatrick from the police force, was because of ‘inefficiency and insubordination’ – words which indicate very different kinds of misdemeanour from lying and drunkenness. But what exactly were the details of Fitzpatrick’s acts of ‘inefficiency and insubordination’?
Fitzpatrick told the Royal Commission in two separate responses that when informed he was to be dismissed he asked Standish to explain what exactly he had done that justified dismissal.
“…..I asked the Chief Commissioner if he would kindly inform me why I was discharged from the police force, and he told me. He said, on the recommendation of and communication from Senior-Constable Mayes, of Lancefield, stating that I was not fit to be in the police force, as I had associated with the lowest persons in Lancefield, and could not be trusted out of sight, and never did my duty.” (Q12892)
“I asked Captain Standish to tell me the reason why, and he just explained that he had received this communication from Mayes ; and I understood from Captain Standish that was the sole reason I was discharged from the police force” (Q12924)
In dismissing Fitzpatrick, Standish appears to have simply accepted Mayes word that Fitzpatrick wasn’t fit to be a policeman. Those are very serious allegations – particularly to claim he couldn’t be trusted out of sight, and never did his duty – but it seems Standish wasn’t all that interested in finding out the details of exactly why Mayes believed these things about Fitzpatrick or in giving the accused an opportunity to put his side of the story, and he went ahead immediately and sacked him. Read what Fitzpatrick told the RC :
12893. Had you any opportunity of reply ?
ANSWER: I never had the slightest opportunity at all. I applied for a board of enquiry, and the Chief Secretary (Mr. Ramsay) declined, as he had left all power with Captain Standish. Notwithstanding that, there were two petitions got up on my behalf by the residents of Lancefield and Romsey, asking that I might be reinstated.
12894. You think you were harshly treated?
ANSWER : I did, indeed.
The problem for Fitzpatrick was that his reputation preceeded him to Lancefield. Mayes seemed to have taken a dislike to him from the start, having heard about various charges and misdemeanours that had been laid against Fitzpatrick while working with NSW police in Sydney in 1879. While there he pled guilty to a charge of misconduct and to another of ‘neglect of duty’. But what exactly were the crimes that led to those charges? The former related to an incident that occurred while he was in hospital for several weeks with a severe leg injury – he was caught laughing after “lights out”! Oh my God! What a shocking thing to do! And as for the ‘neglect of duty’ charge – this was because he missed the train! His explanation – that his watch was at the watchmakers for repairs and the replacement one kept poor time – was not accepted. But whichever way you want to look at it these were minor offences
However, Fitzpatrick was also charged with some slightly more serious offences : ‘being in a house at unlawful hours when you had no business being there’ and ‘being at night in the premises of Morris Casey and causing trouble and annoyance to the family’. He was also accused by a Sydney jeweller of engaging him in conversation to facilitate the shoplifting of jewellery and money by a maid, Edith Jones. However, none of these three charges was proved, there is no record of him ever being charged with perjury and police declined to prosecute Edith Jones.
However, rather than giving Fitzpatrick the benefit of the doubt and accepting that he was innocent until proven guilty, Standish wrote to Sydney requesting he be sent back to Victoria because “..he has evidently mixed himself up in a matter calculated to raise grave suspicions of his honesty. He is I fear a useless and worthless young man”. No proof just suspicions.
He also wrote “I have also to direct that Mr Nicolson will be good enough to find some station for him where he will be under the supervision of an Officer or strict sub-Officer who should be much acquainted with the necessity of keeping a tight hand on Fitzpatrick”
So, back in Victoria under the watchful gaze of SC Mayes at Lancefield, Fitzpatrick’s every action was going to be closely scrutinised. Mayes later admitted that one way or another he was determined to get rid of Fitzpatrick, saying to the Royal Commission “I had a great deal to do to get rid of him and at last had him dismissed”. Fitzpatrick never had a chance!
But what exactly were Mayes actual complaints? They are never mentioned in the Kelly literature for some reason, but Fitzpatrick was interrogated at length about them at the Commission, and what they reveal is astonishing.
12904. “What was Senior-Constable Mayes’s charge against you ?”
Answer : “For neglect of duty.”
12905. “And what else ?”
Answer: “I am speaking of this one charge at present.”
12906. “What was the nature of the neglect?”
Answer: “There was an assault, one swagman struck another, and the swagman came and asked me to arrest this other man. I was in uniform at the time, and I declined to arrest him as I did not see the assault committed; and I said, ” If you swear an information and get a warrant I will arrest him, or if you give him in charge and sign the sheet I will arrest him.” He would not do either, and came and told Senior-Constable Mayes I would not arrest him. Mayes sent a foot man to arrest him, and he was brought up and fined by a justice of the peace; and Mayes reported me to Superintendent Hare, and he referred it to Sub-Inspector Baber, of Kilmore, and he came over and heard the case; and as far as I remember the minute on the charge exonerated me from all blame. That is one of the charges that has been brought against me.”
From this account it appears Fitzpatrick attempted to follow due process and to uphold the rule of law, in refusing to accede to the demands of a ‘swagman’ that he arrest someone and charge him with an assault that Fitzpatrick had no knowledge of. Instead Fitzpatrick advised the complainant to follow due process, but the man complained to Mayes. Mayes ignored due process, arrested the man being complained of and then, no doubt believing he had at last found the reason he needed to set in motion his plan to get rid of Fitzpatrick, reported him to Hare. Babers investigation exonerated Fitzpatrick, no doubt to Mayes disappointment, and resentment was now added to the suspicions he had about Fitzpatrick from the moment of his arrival. Eventually, Standish reported that it was “a piece of gross impertinence to his superior officer” that was the last straw. What exactly the gross impertinence consisted of is not mentioned, but the Superior Officer who reported it was of course Senior Constable Mayes. He finally brought Fitzpatrick down.
Its hard not to agree with Fitzpatrick that he was harshly treated. Laughing after lights out, and missing the train were the only two things they could convict him of. But mud sticks!
If readers have knowledge of other charges or complaints about Fitzpatrick while he was in the force I would like to hear about them. Next week I will write about the Petition from the citizens of Lancefield who completely contradicted the vilification of Fitzpatrick by police hierarchy, saying of him “He made several clever captures and appeared to us as one of the most efficient and obliging men in the force”. Remarkably, the Kelly myths about Fitzpatrick persist only because Kelly followers would rather believe the word of the Kelly liars and criminals, and of the police they otherwise distrust entirely, than accept the opinion of more than 100 upright citizens of Lancefield.
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