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The Gatton Tragedy Exposed At Last. An Examination Of The Secrets And Lies.
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Police Hatred And Distrust
Mr. Dickson: Did you find out that Mr. Urquhart had gone to Mr. M'Dermott, the chemist, and asked him to sign a letter concerning the conversation that took place before between you in reference to the Seymour case? -Yes.
Do you mind telling us what took place? Witness said he went into M'Dermott's shop as he was passing and had a yarn with the man. Who was known to him for some time, M'Dermott mentioned the Seymour case; but he (Galbraith) said he could not go very much into it, because it was subjudice, or something to that effect.
They yarned for about a quarter of an hour.
Subsequently he learned that a detective had been there immediately he left, and had spoken to M'Dermott; and he subsequently learned from the chemist that he was taken to Mr. Urquhart's office and asked to sign a certain document, which charged him (Galbraith) with certain offences. He refused to sign it, saying not a word of it was true, and
it was torn up.
The Chairman: You are perfectly convinced about that letter you received, as far as you could see concerning it? -Yes.
Was it a draft of a report? -Yes.
Mr. Dickson: I understood you to say that that report was in Shanahan's handwriting? -Yes.
He has seen what you said, and he denies it.
Are you sure it was his handwriting? -Yes; I may be able to produce it when I go home.
Mr. Sadlier: There was another trouble that arose between you and Urquhart once when you met in the street? -Yes.
He was looking for you, and when you met you had some slight misunderstanding? -I am not seeking to say anything about this.
You wish to know, do you? Yes? -Well, yes, it is so. I have not seen the papers in that matter.
The papers went back to Urquhart? -I never saw the papers.
Inspector Urquhart (who was present): They did not go back to me.
Mr. Sadlier: There is a minute here signed "Urquhart."
Inspector Urquhart: I don't remember that. I may, possibly, if I saw the papers. (After looking at papers:) Oh, yes.
Mr. Sadlier (to Inspector Urquhart): Did you read that to Mr. Galbraith? Inspector Urquhart: No.
Mr. Sadlier: Is not that a breach of the rules? Inspector Urquhart: No, not in the face of the instructions of the Chief Inspector.
Mr. Sadlier (to witness): I am not going into the merits of the case. You did not know anything about the paper? -I don't know anything about it. I did not know I was reported.
Mr. Unmack: Is not it a rule of the service that men should be informed of reports? -I was not informed of that. It allows a want of discipline.
Mr. Garvin: Is not it a rule that reports should be handed to the men? -Yes.
In this case it was not done? -No.
Mr. Sadlier: I should like a portion of that read.
Mr. Unmack: I should like to read it myself.
I am perfectly astounded.
The Commission decided that the reports should be read.
The Chairman read, first, a report by Inspector Urquhart, dated July, 1898, stating that while at the court the C.I. Branch men were asked by Sub-inspector Galbraith if there was to be any objection to bail in a certain case. They said yes. He said, "By whom." They said, "By Sergeant Shanahan." Galbraith refused to take
instructions from Shanahan, saying he wanted them from the officer of the branch. Urquhart’s report went on to say, "I did not see him in the office; but he caught me up in the street, and asked me if I wished to see him. I mentioned the matter of bail, and asked him if he had spoken to the men as above, adding, if he had done so it was not the proper thing to do.”
He said he was not in the habit of doing improper things. I said I did not know about that, but that the C.I. Branch men had their instructions about cases, and he should be guided by them. He said they had no instructions, and flatly contradicted every statement I made, accused me of bringing false charges against him in reference to a man
named M'Dermott, and wound up by saying he was an older man than I, and had far more experience. I said I knew he was against me, and would make things as difficult for me as he could; but that I would insist upon my orders being carried out, and the work done in my way. He said, “My work is properly done.” I said, “I don't think it is; but it is no use wrangling here in the street."
The sub-inspector's tone, words and manner were most offensive and defiant throughout, and the spirit of ill-will and opposition towards me animating him was so plain that I feel it is impossible that I can ever treat him with cordiality or confidence, and I urgently press for his removal from this sub-district, so that I may no longer be
embarrassed by an inimical and subordinate officer working immediately under me, whose vanity will not allow him to serve quietly and properly under a man whom he openly regards as his junior in years and inferior in experience. "
On this report there was the following minute, addressed to the Chief Inspector by the Commissioner:- It appears to me that the sub-inspector has a right in any matter affecting his duty to expect that instructions should, reach him as from his inspector. If in any such cases as the one under notice general instructions were issued to the
sub-inspectors by the inspector that his wishes (in cases where questions of bail from time to time arise) would be made known through Sergeant Shanahan, I feel sure trouble would be avoided."
I cannot believe that Sub-inspector Galbraith was objecting because of any personal ill-feeling against Sergeant Shanahan, for he has previously spoken in the highest terms of him, but rather because he felt it was due to him to be instructed by his superior officer. I consider he was entitled to expect it. It is not right to say he should be
guided by the C.I. Branch unless he was generally instructed as to particular action when occasion arose for him to act. As to the unfortunate feeling that exists between these two officers, I deplore it: Men are likely under the circumstances to quarrel. I cannot help it. I have told them they owe to the service and to me forbearance.
I do not think there is any justification for pressing, as the inspector does, his strong views of the case in the manner he has done. I have not spoken to Sub-inspector Galbraith. I have judged entirely by this report. I must have more proof that Sub-inspector Galbraith is what the
inspector says he is before I can believe it. I do hope this bitter personal feeling will be buried."
Mr. Garvin: Would it not be a wrong thing for a superior officer to take instructions from a subordinate? -Certainly. I had and have very strong view on the subject.
Mr. Sadlier: To return to the Seymour case.
There was an inquiry held. I think the Commission found against you? -Yes.
He found you guilty of intentional suppression of evidence? -That is hardly the fact. The Commissioner did not adjudicate on the case. He sent it on to the Minister, and his minute is anything but that. And when the Commissioner stated that I made wilful misrepresentations I sent a letter in which I denied it.
The documents connected with the matter were read. These showed that the Commissioner had considered Galbraith guilty of the intentional suppression of evidence; that he thought his memory had been defective; and that he should have admitted his fault instead of trying to justify it.
The Minister's minute read:-"I concur with the Commissioner's finding, except that I think Galbraith wrote his letter without weighing the construction that might be put upon it. I don't regard his letter as an intentional suppression of fact; but I regard him distinctly in the wrong in making any recommendation without consulting his
This concluded his examination.
Mr. A. S. Smith, a storekeeper, of Gatton, said that on the morning of the discovery of the murder Day came into his shop and bought a razor. A few hours afterwards he returned clean shaved, and paid three months' subscription to the Gatton School of Arts.
A few days after the murder witness was speaking to John Carroll, and the latter said that he took the man at the slip rails to be Day, Clarke's butcher. The witness gave this information to Detectives Toomey and Head and Sergeant Arrell, and he supposed that they took action upon it.
Mr. Dickson: Yes; Rody Byrne's case was a glaring one. Witness: What Mr. Stuart says is not correct; there was no such regulation as that he mentioned. Continuing, he said he thought Sub-inspector Galbraith should have wired him earlier of what action he took first in connection with the Gatton tragedy, because he had to wire all round next morning to find what his officers had done.
Still, he knew Galbraith had done well, and so had Sergeant Johnson, then at Ipswich.
He also commented on the explanation given by Inspector Urquhart as to the rumours of the murder he had heard, and the rules of the service he referred to as a reason why he did not take action. He thought that when the confirmation of Murphy's telegram came it could not be considered a hoax.
The proceedings of the Royal Police Commission were continued yesterday.
Acting Sergeant C. E. Crawford, lockup keeper at Brisbane, said: I wish to state in reference to my remarks on the last occasion about having no confidence in my officers that I also explained that had I made a report it would have gone through the sub inspector at Roma-street and then to the C.I. Branch. I had no confidence in the ability of my sub-inspeetor
and inspector to protect me in the matter. As far as confidence in the integrity of my officers in Brisbane goes, I have great confidence, especially in Inspector Urquhart. I considered, however, that Shanahan and Gunn and their comrades would have injured me in my official capacity.
The Chairman: By making false reports by trumping up charges against you? -Yes.
These charges would have been investigated in the ordinary course? -They would have been; but I know I would have suffered through it.
Mr. Sadleir: May they not do the same things still? -I don't think so.
Mr. Dickson: You said you can prove that Jones was in the pay of the detective branch. What proof have you? -I know he has done work for them. In other matters he has often been there, and done work for them.
Can you prove he got pay? -It is not likely he would do work without getting pay.
Mr. Garvin: It is more a matter of suspicion? -Yes.
The Chairman said a statement had been sent in by Jones denying that he had ever been in the pay of the C.I. Branch. (To witness): Are you in a position to controvert that on any evidence? -No.
Have you still suspicion? -Yes. Witness also said he communicated his suspicions to Wilson's solicitor.
Mr. Garvin: It is only a matter of suspicion after all? -I have no proof that the statement made by Jones in the gaol was a fact. Of course that may have been a confession by Wilson.
But you have no proof. You only think there is something crooked? -Yes. I would not believe it was a confession made by Wilson.
The statement of denial by Jones, which had been forwarded, was produced, and Mr. Unmack remarked: The only mistake the writer has made is that it is on Government paper.
The Chairman: Do you still adhere to your belief in the connivance between Constable Gunn and Sergeant Shanahan and the man Jones? -Certainly I do.
In order to procure a conviction against Wilson? -In order to procure evidence against Wilson.
Mr. Sadleir: You mean wrongfully to procure? -Wrongfully to procure.
Sergeant Shanahan: Do you know that the statement from Jones was taken by me to the Chief Inspector and the Commissioner, and that I said I did not believe it? -I do not.
If the Commissioner and the Chief Inspector say that the statement was placed before them and that I said I did not believe it, do you think it would be true? Yes.
If they say this, do you still think I am in connivance with Jones? -Of course, if you expressed your disbelief in the man's evidence it would certainly tend to make me think you were not concerned in it.
Don't you think you acted as a madman in making that statement? -I think I was justified on the facts as they appeared to me.
The only way in which you were brought in was that Gunn said be was told to allow the man anything he wanted. He didn't mention you.
Clark and Hobday are in the branch. Do you think they would have done it? -I don't think so.
Do you know Mr. Blair complimented me on the case, and said I treated him very fairly? -I don't know.
Do you know this evidence of Jones was never used ? -I know it was not used.
If Mr. Blair said I gave evidence that told against the police theory about Wilson, would you believe it? -It would be in his (Wilson's) favour.
Shanahan asked that the Commissioner and the Chief Inspector should be called. The Chairman said the Commissioner would be asked when he came before them. Shanahan made a statement to the effect borne out by his question that he informed his officers when he got the statement that he did not believe it.
Constable John Gunn, of the C.I. Branch, denied the statements made by Crawford. He said a communication was received from the goal that a prisoner wished to make an important statement, and he was sent by Shanahan, with Constable Auld, to take it.
When he saw the statement Shanahan expressed his disbelief in it. Jones asked him to go to the watch house and ask for his meals to be supplied to him, as he was prepared to pay for them. Jones had at times given him valuable information in cases, and he thought he was a reliable man. Witness also said he had known Crawford for fifteen or sixteen years, and
had heard people say he was wrong in his head.
Sergeant Shanahan made an explanation in connection with a statement made by the prisoner Wakefield, which had been referred to. He said he came to the conclusion that Wakefield was mad, and that when he was asked by Mr. Blair for the statement in court he produced it.
Mr. Blair confirmed various parts of the explanation, and said he had nothing to complain of as regards the conduct of the case by Sergeant Shanahan.
First-class Constable James Murphy, who was a co-delegate with Crawford, said a number of the men had expressed sorrow that Crawford had brought up matters in connection with the Wilson case, and that if they had known he would have done so they would not have selected him as delegate. He, however, had never heard that Crawford was wrong in his
head. He was looked upon as a sensible man, otherwise he would not have been appointed delegate.
Mr. Unmack pointed out that Crawford had distinctly said he spoke on his own account.
By Crawford: No meeting had been held to express disapproval of his (Crawford's) action.
Matthew Macdermott, registrar of births, deaths, and marriages, at Ipswich, gave evidence to the effect that on the 28th December Dr. Von Lossberg wrote out a certificate of the cause of death of Michael Murphy, a victim in the Gatton tragedy. This certificate did not contain the word "bullet." He also said the butt of a second certificate of the
death of Michael Murphy appeared in the book; but he could not say by whom it was taken out or when. The witness was questioned closely as to whether he considered Dr. Von Lossberg had been guilty of altering the certificate; but he would not say be thought so.
Inspector Urquhart, of the C.I. Branch, called at his own request, dealt first with the transfers in the branch, and pointed out that the proportion of transfers in the three years before he took charge was eleven older officers, and during the nearly two and a-half years in which he had been in charge there had been four transfers. He had not included the
transfer of Sub-inspector Nethercote, because he did not think that could be called a transfer; but it might be included. Henders was transferred as the result of a report that a convicted thief was employed at Government House. The Commissioner personally inquired, and found the man was not so employed. Henders should have made further inquiries before he made such a report. This matter confirmed the belief he (Urquhart) had formed from minutes on papers
in connection with important cases previously.
Whether he was a good detective did not operate with him. King was transferred because he and Shanahan could not get on well together; the latter was longer in the branch.
By the Chairman: Shanahan was impetuous, and talked fast, and was apt to be misjudged. That officer recognised this trait, and was improving himself in that respect. He, however, transferred King on the merits of the dispute as it came before him.
Inspector Urquhart said Stringer was six months in the branch, and applied for a transfer.
He did not know why. Speaking collectively of the men mentioned (in answer to questions, he excluded Sub-inspector Nethercote, and said he had never had any ill-feeling with that officer), witness said as soon as he arrived at the branch he was made to feel he was in a hostile camp, and there was a state of insubordination. The Chief Inspector had advised
him to have the, men transferred; but he held his hand as long as he could. When the Seymour case came on it became unbearable, and necessary for him to assert his authority. Of his action in that case he preferred to allow others to judge; but that he had done anything dishonourable or malicious he denied. He was satisfied he did what he ought, to have done under the circumstance's. The Commissioner, the Home Secretary, and all the officers up to the
Premier, before whom the case came, bore him out. He never recommended Seymour to plead guilty. He was sent to the branch to place it on a proper footing; and he was working hard to do so when the troubles cropped up. Since the transfers the staff had worked well, and he took this as a justification for his action.
Ex-Detective Barry sought to ask some questions of the inspector with reference to a statement about the former being so well known that he could not do any effective work. It was explained, however, that no reflection upon Mr. Barry was intended; the statement was simply given in a discussion as to whether it was better that detectives should be well
Inspector Urquhart expressed himself strongly in favour of the franchise being granted to the police. He also said some misapprehension had arisen as to his wish for power in going into another inspector's district; he simply wished to arrange so that there should be no friction.
Asked if he wished to say more in connection with the Seymour case, he said no, unless the whole question was to be raised again. He did not interfere so as to have Seymour dismissed; he simply explained what the company could have read in the newspapers, and corrected an impression that Seymour was recommended by the C.I. Branch.
Ex-Detective Barry represented that, after twenty-eight years' service in the Detective Branch, he was getting not sufficient pension to keep his wife and children on. He was receiving £310 before he left, and his pension was £157 10s. He was under the impression he would get thirty years' service when he left through being in the North. He was induced by
the Commissioner to resign because he had suffered from rheumatism.
The Chairman pointed out that the case was one for Parliament.
The commission then adjourned till next morning.
The Royal Police Commission took further evidence yesterday.
Crawford said he desired also to make a statement in connection with the arrest of Wilson, and the charge against him of murdering the boy Hill at Oxley. He (witness) believed an attempt was made to secure evidence against Wilson that should not have been secured.
In April a man named John Jones, alias Lamb, was arrested by a constable in uniform on a charge of using obscene language, and for having property in his possession for which he could not properly account. He was accompanied to the watch house by Constable Gunn, of the C.I. Branch, and on the following day was remanded to the Brisbane Gaol for seven days.
Gunn, when he heard of the remand, said he wanted the man sent over to the gaol. He also gave instructions that Jones was to be given anything he required. When he heard that Wilson had made a statement to Jones witness came to the conclusion that it must be false.
The Chairman: Why? -From his action.
What I understand is that you accuse Gunn of attempting to induce Jones to make a false statement against Wilson? -Yes.
If Jones made the statement that Wilson had told him he murdered the boy at Oxley it was a false statement. I thought if it was false it would not go before the court without I interfered.
Why did you come to that conclusion? The constable accompanied Jones to the watch house, and afterwards Gunn asked what had happened to Jones. When told he had been remanded to the gaol, he said, "That is what we require." He told me to let him have everything he wanted. Wilson was about a month in the watch house, and I thought him a very
unlikely person to make a confession. There was another prisoner named Wakefield who made a statement that Wilson confessed to him, but it was not shown to be true. There were these facts, and the evidence given at the South Brisbane Police Court by the boy and Sergeant Dwyer. This was in reference to the boy being told he could have a pony and cart to ride about with. At that time if Inspector Urquhart had been in Brisbane I believe I would have informed
Mr. Sadlier: Were there not other officers to tell? - I know the officers. I know what Shanahan is capable of. I knew if I was to make a report what would be the result.
Mr. Sadlier: I am going to put the matter very strongly to you. I don't think you are protected by the promise of the commission in coming here to volunteer a statement like this.
The Chairman: I don't see any difference between this case and any other.
Mr. Unmack: I must object to the statement made by Mr. Sadlier. This is practically an intimidation.
Mr. Sadlier: Wait a moment.
Mr. Unmack: I will not. We have informed the police and the public.
Mr. Sadlier: I speak on a point of order, and ask that I be allowed to make a statement. I will not be directed by Mr. Unmack.
Mr. Unmack: There is a direct attempt to intimidate a witness.
Mr. Sadlier: I simply wish to show he is not protected by the promise made by the commission. Witness: I do not want the protection.
Mr. Unmack: Just keep quiet till we have finished. A promise has been made to the force and the public that they will be protected, that in any evidence they give they should suffer no consequences, and I don't see how one man should be protected any more than another.
Mr. Sadlier: Remember I only speak for myself.
Mr. Unmack: You expressed the opinion of the commission. I appeal to the chairman.
The Chairman-: I agree with Mr. Unmack. Any witness is protected in the matter of evidence.
Mr. Garvin: I understand a notice to that effect was published in the "Gazette."
The Chairman: He takes the responsibility, of course. Witness: I thought that man Wilson might be hanged, and I volunteered to give evidence.
The Chairman: You came to this conclusion you did from the facts you knew? I did.
Mr. Dickson: You said you knew what Shanahan was capable of? -I knew this man for years. I did not think my position was safe if I made a report. I knew if they were capable of doing that they were capable of doing anything else.
Mr. Garvín: Why did you not report it to the Commissioner; it was a serious matter? -I knew as a fact that they would procure other evidence to counteract it. I know I would go to the Supreme Court if the case came on there.
Mr. Garvín: I do not understand how you came to your conclusion.
The Chairman: You are vague. All you convey to my mind is that because Gunn expressed satisfaction that there had been a remand, and asked you to give the prisoner food, and because two other persons gave false testimony, therefore you came to the conclusion that any statement Jones made was falsely procured.
Witness: Because Jones was employed and paid by the detectives for giving information, and when a man of that kind went over and got a confession I thought that evidence should not be allowed to affect a man on a charge of murder.
Mr. Unmack: Have you proof that Jones was in the pay of the Detective Department? -I thought so at the time. I can prove it. You say that the information that I have is a serious matter. I often reflect upon it. I knew that if I happened to die and the evidence had been given against him (Wilson) it would have been a serious matter. I think any evidence
given by prisoners at the gaol, where they might be told they would be liberated before their time, ought not to be held as reliable.
Mr. Sadlier: Who makes you the judge of the value of evidence? -I am supposed as a constable to carry out my duty to the best of my skill and knowledge, if it is true this attempt was made, it is a guilty action.
Mr. Sadlier: What reasons have you? Witness again recited his reasons.
You say that in reference to Gunn and Shanahan? -I have no direct information against Shanahan. Gunn told me Wilson made a statement to Jones.
You took that statement down? -Yes.
Mr. Garvín: Why did you not report this statement to your officer? -I knew if I made the report what the result would be. I knew if they were capable of getting that evidence they were capable of getting other.
Had you no confidence in any of the officers? It shows I had not confidence enough. Had I had confidence enough I would have done so.
It is a very serious matter. Do you not consider you have neglected your duty in withholding that particular report? The thing in my mind was that I would not see a man convicted on false evidence.
Witness, in answer to further questions, said Jones was discharged on the charge of drunkenness; he was fined £2 for obscene language; and the third charge, in connection with property for which he could not account, was not preferred against him.
Mr. Garvín: Don't you think you were doing an injustice to the force in not coming to the Commissioner? -I knew what would be the result.
What would be the result? -There would be a charge against me, and I would soon be out of that.
Who would make it? -Some one would soon make it.
Do you insinuate that the Commissioner and all his officers are corrupt? -No; but some of his men are.
If you had the same experience again what would you do? -I would do just as I have done, unless what has now been said to me by the commissioners altered my action.
The commission adjourned till Monday.