Was Constable Arthur a Kelly Sympathiser? That would explain a lot!

On PROV the other day I came across the Report made by Constable Arthur about what he did during the Siege at Glenrowan.  Its dated July 2nd 1880.  I have copied it out in its entirety:


North Eastern District

Benalla Police Station

2nd July 1880


Report of Constable Arthur 2971 relative to the capture of Ned Kelly the outlaw.


I have to report at the request of Snr Superintendent Sadleir that when we arrived at Glenrowan and in the act of taking the horses out of the train Constable Bracken rushed up to Snr Superintendent Hare and informed him that the Outlaws were at Jones Hotel. We rushed towards the Hotel and when in the front of it there was a volley fired at us and when about 10 yards though the white gate Mr Hare exclaimed ‘good gracious I am shot in the wrist’. I was then about 5 yards behind Mr Hare.


I then fired at the outlaws and then knelt down and continued firing into them. Mr Hare then gave orders to cease firing. I then moved to a tree closer to the Hotel. Mr Hare  at this time ordered Sub Insp O’Connor to surround the hotel  as he was wounded. Mr OConnor did not do so.


I remained in this position for about 20 minutes when SC Kelly came up to me and asked me where the remainder of the men were. I told him as near as I could the position they had taken up He then said come with me and place them around the Hotel and I did so. SC Kelly and I then crawled on our hands and knees to a tree within about 100 yards to the east of the hotel. We then stopped there a few minutes. SC Kelly then said we will have to get closer to the Hotel. I was in the act of kneeling down when I put my hand on something wet. I looked down and saw a rifle and skull cap. I was that much astonished I could not speak. I touched SC Kelly on the arm and pointed to them. He then picked up the rifle which was covered with blood, I picked up the cap, SC Kelly then said ‘My god there is one of them gone’. Just then we heard a peculiar noise. SC Kelly said ‘Hush” we looked about and listened but we could not see anyone. We then came to the conclusion that one of the gang was severely wounded  and had made their escape. 


There was then shots fired from the hotel; and our attention was drawn to that. We then crept to within about 50 yards of the Hotel. We remained there some time firing and while there we heard the Train coming. SC Kelly then said I will go down and meet Mr Sadleir and the men telling me to remain where I was until he came back. I did so and when he returned he told me that Constable Phillips had bailed up a man who came out of the Hotel carrying a child on his back and that this man had told Constable Phillips that three of the Gang were in the hotel and that Ned Kelly had made his escape being severely wounded by the first volley we fired at them about three o’clock in the morning. SC Kelly and I remained there some time. We then heard someone coming – we challenged them they answered Wangaratta police. Sergeant Steele then came up to us with his men. SC Kelly told him the outlaws were in the Hotel the Snr constable then left me to put the Wangaratta police round the hotel. After doing so he took up another position himself about twenty yards to the left of me.


I remained as I was for some time when a bullet from the Hotel cut up the ground under my stomach where I was lying. I moved back to another place about 10 or 12 yards distance. I then lay down and hearing a noise behind me I was in the act of getting up to look and I saw what I thought to be a madman with a nail can on his head going down to rush the Hotel. he had a revolver in his right hand (this man afterwards turned out be Ned Kelly) I called out to him ‘stand back or you’ll be shot’ he then replied ‘fire away sonny you cant hurt me’. I then took a steady aim at his head thinking I would knock the can off. I hit him but he only staggered. He then fired at me but his shot fell short I then fired again at what I took to be his mouth it afterwards proved to be a piece cut out of his helmet to enable him to see. It was just then daybreak. He was still coming towards me. I knelt down and fired at his breast I heard the bullet hit him but he still advanced towards me. He was then about 15 yards from me I then called out ‘Phillips look out behind you Phillips’ and fired at him. We then fired again. He exclaimed ‘good shot boys fire away you bastards you cannot hurt me’. He fired two shots at me, four shots at us altogether. I then turned around to the other men and said ‘look up here what’s this’ Just then Constable Montford and Healy ran up and fired their shotguns at him with the same effect. Sgt Steel was then about 20 yards from us to our rear (he having taken up that that position near the hotel when he first came) He then called out ‘steady what are you firing at – it must be a blackfella’. SC Kelly and several others were at this time between the Railway fence and us. Ned Kelly about 15yards in front of me making for the trees where I found the rifle and cap. Const Philips then called out to retreat we did so to avoid being shot by our comrades and with the intention of getting at Ned Kellys back and when we were doing so he seemed to understand our manoeuvres. He then knelt down with his back against the trees where had found the rifle and cap. Constables Bracken Montford and myself made up our mind to rush him when just in the act of doing so Ned Kelly got up and walked a few yards. I then knelt down and aimed at his legs. He walked a little and seemed to be falling – we then rushed towards him.  When I got there SC Kelly Sgt Steel and Const Bracken and several others where all on him. I then left him and went to a tree to watch the Hotel thinking the other three of the gang would come out as I was aware previous to this of their intention to come out at day break and make their escape. I was then relieved for the purpose of going to have some refreshments.”


This report was written within a few days of the Siege, so events would have been very fresh in his memory.  Arthur seems to have carefully recorded events as they happened in quite a bit of detail, noting for example the precise distances between people and when he knelt down and stood up, moved from one place to another and who he interacted with along the way. However, the glaring absence in this report is any mention of the claim he later made that Steele fired at Mrs Reardon, and  that he, Arthur had threatened to shoot Steele if he didn’t stop. If such a thing had happened, it would have been an unforgettable sensation and a huge scandal on two accounts – innocent people being shot at by police, and one policeman threatening to shoot another. The only mention he makes of Steele is the warning Steele issued when he believed the man emerging out of the mist was a ‘blackfella’ and not to shoot at him. His failure to mention them even in passing is a massive hit to the credibility of his later claims.


At the much later Enquiry into the allegations eventually made by Arthur that Steele had been firing recklessly at innocent people, the fact that Arthur hadn’t mentioned these scandalous acts when they were supposed to have happened was noted by the Commissioners:  


“It is further remarkable that the alleged firing on Mrs Reardon by Sergeant Steele was not reported or spoken of by Constables Arthur and Phillips until the Police Commission sat, a period of nearly one year after the date of the Glenrowan affair. Nor was the conversation ever alluded to in any conversation or in any way whatever in the police barracks or amongst the constables generally.”


I suspect the Commission never saw Arthurs original report for some reason, because if they had seen it they would have wanted to ask him  some very serious questions about this conspicuous omission.


Another record in that same collection at PROV (VPRS 4965 Unit 5) reprinted in The Definitive Record Vol 2 is a memo from Constable Graves, which includes his recollection of a conversation he had with Arthur that reveals him to have had marked sympathies for the Kellys. This revelation further damages Arthurs credibility:


“I was present in the Barrack room at Benalla when Const Arthur expressed himself as follows;  “it was the fault of the police treatment to the Kellys that made them what they were as to whether they were guilty or not. (the police) were continually lagging them and accusing them of offences.” He also asserted that members of the police force had treated female members of the Kelly family badly and that he did not blame the Kellys for what they had done. In fact from Const Arthurs point of view he seemed to think they had done quite right and he did not believe a word Const. McIntyre had sworn, and jeered at him running away from his mates. ….I distinctly recollect threatening to kick him out of the room which trouble he prevented by clearing out himself”




What this all boils down to is this : if the Kelly sympathiser policeman Arthurs allegations about Steele were true then everyone else was involved in a massive cover-up: Ann Jones lied about the hole in the babies shawl, the people like Constables Moore and Healey and local farmer Rawlings who would have heard Steeles shouting at Mrs Reardon pretended they didn’t hear it and made up other completely different words, Cawsey lied when he said Mrs Reardon was not in the line of Steeles shots but was to his rear, Constables Graham and Graves lied about conversations at the Benalla Barracks, people like SC Kelly and Jesse Dowsett the railway employee, and the Age reporter McWhirter  lied when they said it was Steeles shots that brought Kelly down.  And Mrs Reardon herself ? – never mind that she was screaming and terrified, that it was dark and she admitted she didn’t see who actually fired at her – there’s no chance she could have been mistaken in all that confusion, that Steele fired twice at someone else after warning them – no, he was definitely shooting at her. Arthur told her.

But, quite apart from his incriminating expressions of support for the criminal Kelly gang, Arthur still has to explain why he didn’t mention this incident at all in his first report, why in his second he said Steele fired twice at Mrs Reardon but at the enquiry said it was probably only once.


Actually, Steele fired two shots at someone who was near Mrs Reardon but who didn’t obey orders, and later two more shots at Ned Kelly who was advancing on police lines and shooting at everyone. Mrs Reardon thought he was shooting at her but she was wrong. Its that simple – but it seems Arthur decided to take her understandable error and use it to advance his own personal  agenda, an agenda that included Kelly sympathy and disrespect for at least some of the police. His view of McIntyre, if correctly reported by Graves, was an absolutely abhorrent and contemptible stance.


What I am waiting for now is for the Kelly apologist Jack Peterson to explain why he calls this incident  a ‘murderous rampage’ – a murderous rampage in which nobody was murdered and only four shots were fired! What he and his mates will do is dream up yet another Conspiracy!

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2 Replies to “Was Constable Arthur a Kelly Sympathiser? That would explain a lot!”

  1. Peter Newman says: Reply

    That’s a very interesting find David, and interesting observations. So you think Constable Arthur may have been a “rat” in police ranks who colluded with witnesses to bear false testimony. For what purpose though?

    1. Thanks Peter – I dont want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but we have facts before us which are hard to make sense of, and Ive spent all weekend thinking about it!

      This is what I think at the moment : clearly, at the time of the siege Arthur wasn’t a sympathiser, because unless he was deliberately firing into the ground or aiming to miss, he was genuinely shooting at Ned Kelly and trying to kill him, or at least bring him down. His first Report written within a week of the siege is entirely consistent with this.

      However, after Ned Kelly was captured and hanged he seems to have had a change of heart about the Kellys, and also in regard to at least some of the police – such as McIntyre and of course Steele who accused him of cowardice. Earlier I wrote about what I think his reaction would be to being accused of cowardice, and I still think this was part of his motivation, which was revenge against Steele, but perhaps it was combined with some sort of sympathy for the Kellys.

      In that VPRS file I also came across a fragment of a letter from Standish that says this :

      “…consideration and in my opinion there is no reasonable doubt that Constable Arthur has committed perjury. I would therefore suggest he desirability of referring the matter ro the crown solicitor for the purpose of considering if a prosecution fro perjury would lie against Arthur. In any case he is a man in whom I could not have the least confidence and I therefore request your authority for his immediate discharge from the police force.”

      Clearly Arthur was in a lot of trouble. The conspiracy theorists on Facebook believe he was the victim of a massive cover-up involving literally hundreds of people, to protect Steele. The problem for them is that Steele had a long and an excellent record as the Wangaratta cop, nobody backed Arthurs version of events and Arthur himself ruined his credibility by issuing conflicting reports and by making offensive statements about other police.


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