Spotlight: Committal of Power the Bushranger (18 June 1870)

Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918, 1935), Saturday 18 June 1870, page 19



Henry Power, alias Johnston, was brought up charged with highway robbery under arms, near Hooper’s Crossing on the Ovens, on the 7th May, 1869. Arthur Woodside, a squatter, detailed the occurrence. He deposed that he was on the road when the Bright coach was approaching the crossing. He saw the prisoner walk out of the bush with a double-barrelled gun in his hand and stop the coach. Witness rode up; but Power presented the gun at him and ordered him to dismount. Prisoner then told the driver to throw out the parcels, which was done. (Prisoner here told witness to speak up, and said he could speak loud enough when they had met on a previous occasion.) Prisoner, after making a Chinaman in the coach show his money, some few shillings, took witness’s horse, bridle, saddle, and spurs. Prisoner promised to return the horse, and did so about five weeks afterwards. The prisoner’s gun was cocked and capped. Witness offered no resistance. Edward Coady, coachdriver, stated that on 7th May he was returning from Bright to Beechworth. When about two miles on the Beechworth side of Hooper’s, the prisoner came across the bush, and, presenting a gun at witness, told him to ”pull up.” He then told witness to turn out the swag of gold he had on the coach. Told him there was no gold. Prisoner said. “Here’s another coming; don’t you stir.” When Woodside came, close, prisoner told him to pull up and dismount. Witness then pulled out some of the mail bags. Prisoner took one or two of them in his hand and threw them back, saying there was nothing he wanted in them. He did not open them. Witness then threw a paper parcel out. Prisoner broke the paper and threw it back, saying it was of no use to him. The Chinaman’s carpet bag was then thrown out by the owner. Prisoner opened the bag, looked at some of the things which were in it, but took nothing from it. Prisoner wanted to take the leading horse. He (witness) told the prisoner that the horse would be of no use to him, as it had not been broken in to saddle. Prisoner said that he wanted nothing from witness on that occasion, as whatever he (witness) had he worked hard for. Woodside got on the coach with witness, and prisoner told them that they could start. Prisoner rode off on Mr. Woodside’s horse towards the Ovens River.

The prisoner informed the magistrate that the gun was cocked, and entered into an explanation as to his having wished to purchase an oilskin coat and pair of leggings from the driver, which the latter refused to sell. He further stated that he told the driver that he would not take any money from him, as he (Power) knew that drivers earned their money hardly, as he did himself.

Power was next charged with highway robbery under arms from Thomas Thomas, at the Buckland road, on the 7th May, 1869. Thomas Oliver Thomas, storekeeper, residing at Wangaratta, stated that on 7th May, 1869 he was on the Buckland road travelling on horseback to Hooper’s Crossing. He was riding one horse and leading another, and when within about seven yards of him observed that the prisoner had him covered with a double-barrelled gun. Prisoner called out to witness to stop. Witness was on the point of going when prisoner called out “If you go, I’ll fire.” He (witness) then came towards prisoner, who told him not to come too near, and said that his gun could kill at 300 yards. Prisoner then asked witness what money he had. Told him first that he had none. Told him afterwards that he had a couple of notes. Prisoner said to hand them to him, which witness did. Prisoner then asked him what had become of the other fellow who was with him (witness). Told prisoner that he did not know. Witness then asked prisoner to give him one of the pounds back, as he had taken all his money. Prisoner said he would not, as he had just stuck up the coach and got nothing. He further told witness  to consider himself lucky that he did not take his hat and coat from him. In answer to the prisoner, witness said that he did not remember his asking whether he was a policeman or detective, or inquiring what he was doing off the road. Power then entered into an explanation of the circumstances that occurred, stating it was a matter of indifference to him what charges were brought, only he wanted to hear the truth spoken.

Henry Power was then charged with highway robbery under arms at the Buckland Gap, on 28th August, 1869. Edward Coady stated he was driving the Buckland coach from Beechworth to Bright on the 28th August, 1869. When going down the Gap, witness observed some logs on the road. Put his foot on the break to stop the coach, and pulled up, when he saw prisoner standing on the bank about five or six yards distant with a gun presented. Prisoner said that he thought he had seen witness before, and asked whether there were any constables on board, whether he had any firearms, and how many passengers there were. Told him that there were no constables or firearms, and that there were three passengers besides the boy. Mr. Hazleton, a passenger, turned out his pockets and produced some silver and a watch at prisoner’s direction. Prisoner told Mr. Hazleton to put his money and watch on the ground, and he did so. Prisoner told Hazleton to stand back, and came forward and took up the money and watch. Prisoner then told witness to turn out whatever money he had. Gave him a pocket-book and purse, in which were £2 13s. 6d. and a threepenny piece; the latter coin prisoner gave to the little boy in the coach. After emptying the purse, prisoner returned the pocket-book, containing some papers, to witness. Prisoner told the ladies to turn out. Both came out of the coach, and one of them, Mrs. Le Goo, handed her purse to prisoner. He opened it and took out the money, which amounted to 13s. She told prisoner that was all the money she had, and asked him for a shilling back to get a cup of coffee on the road. Prisoner returned her a shilling. Miss Hart told prisoner she had no money, and he took no further notice of her. At this time, another young, lady — Mrs. Boyd he believed was her name — came down the Gap on horseback. Prisoner also told her to bail up, and asked whether she had any money, and she replied that she had not. Prisoner said he did not know how it was that young ladies could ride round the country with horses and side-saddles and yet had no money in their pockets. Prisoner then said he would take the horse and saddle from her. Mrs. Boyd asked him if he would allow her to go back to her father’s on top of the Gap, and she would give him anything he wanted. Prisoner told her he would not, but that if she gave him £5 he would give her the horse. Mrs. Boyd replied she had no money. Prisoner said if she chose to borrow the money from the other ladies in the coach — he knew that the tall one had money — he would not ask where she got it, but would give her back the horse. Prisoner then said as it was a cold morning he had got a fire ready for them close by, at his camp. Prisoner then said he had a good mind to shoot him (witness). He inquired what for. Prisoner replied for speaking disrespectfully of him in Fisher’s bar. Witness replied that he had said nothing further than that if he met Power at a shanty or public house he would shout for him. The other persons then went to the fire, about a hundred yards distant, close to the road side, leaving witness on the coach. Prisoner stopped close to the coach and purchased a knife from a little boy, who also remained. He gave the boy a shilling for the knife, and the little boy offered him back the shilling if prisoner would give his sister (Mrs. Boyd) her horse. The prisoner smiled at this. The passengers then came back from the fire, and prisoner told him (witness) to turn out some of the mail bags, which was done. Mr. Hazleton told him that the bags would be of no use to him, as no money went that way, that all went by escort. Prisoner returned the bags. A man. on foot was at that time coming up the Gap, and on his approach prisoner told him to bail up and deliver up his money. The man put his hand into his coat pocket, when prisoner told, him to take it out, saying, “It was not there people were in the habit of carrying their money.” Prisoner then told the man to turn out his trousers’ pockets, which was done, but there was no money in them. Witness had his foot on the break all this time, and asked prisoner to allow him to take the coach further down the Gap. Prisoner gave him permission to do so. A Chinaman coming along was then stopped; then two drays were noticed proceeding towards where they were standing. Power told all who were standing round to keep still, or he would shoot them. When the drays, with which were two men, came near, prisoner ordered them to stop and deliver up their money. A man with a spring cart then came forward, and he was likewise stopped by prisoner, and told to give up his money. This man said, that he was a very poor man, and had not much money. Prisoner told him to get out of the cart, put his money on the ground, and then stand back. This was done. Prisoner then came forward and took up the money. Prisoner then said to witness that he must have one of his horses. He took a saddle and bridle from one of the drays that came down the Gap. Prisoner said that he must have the snip horse — the off-side wheeler from the coach — and told some of the men who were standing about to unharness the horse and saddle it for him. One of them led the horse to the prisoner after it was saddled. Prisoner led the horse about forty yards further off. He tried to get on the horse with the gun in his hand, but the horse would not allow him to get near it. Witness thought that prisoner then laid down the gun and tried to mount the horse but could not. Prisoner then said he would take the brown horse, one of the leaders. The horse was unharnessed and saddled and led away by prisoner. He got on this horse, and rode back to where the coach was, and told those assembled there they could start. Before starting prisoner gave Mrs. Boyd her horse, saddle, and bridle. Prisoner said that he would ride on ahead and stick up in front of the coach. He rode down as far as Rowe’s, and then turned back. When he met the coach on his return, he said to witness and the others that he had changed bis mind. That was the last witness saw of the prisoner. The coach was stopped about three hours.

Prisoner, on being asked whether he had any questions to ask witness, said no that all the driver had said was correct.

Wm. S. Hazleton, storekeeper, residing at Bright, and Ellen Hart, residing at, Wahgunyah, also gave corroborative testimony. Prisoner, to last witness : I never asked you for money. Witness : Yes; you asked me if I had any, money, and when I replied, “No,” you replied, “I don’t, suppose you have.” This closed the evidence in the third charge.

The prisoner was then charged with the highway robbery of John Hughes, on the 28th. August. John Hughes, dairyman, residing at Whorouley, deposed that on the 28th of last August he was traveling towards Beechworth. On coming near the Buckland Gap he saw the coach standing in the road and a number of persons crowding about. On driving up saw prisoner walking about with a gun in his hand. Prisoner ordered witness to drive on one side, and then told him (witness) that he was doing a little sticking-up business. He asked witness for money, and on being told that he had very little, prisoner cocked both barrels of the gun and ordered witness out of the cart, in order to see how much, he had. Witness got down and drew £1 18s. from his pocket, which he handed to prisoner. This witness corroborated the evidence of Hazleton and Coady. William B. Montford, sergeant of police stationed in Melbourne, deposed to the arrest of the prisoner in the Glenmore ranges as already reported in these columns.

In reply to the bench, prisoner said he had nothing to say to any of the charges. The prisoner was committed to take his trial on the first three charges at the General Sessions to be held in August, and on the fourth charge he was committed for trial at the Circuit Court in October.

The Ovens Spectator writes :— “It is not generally known, but it is nevertheless a fact, that about four years ago, when Power’s former companion, McKay, was arrested and placed in Beechworth gaol, he stated to one of the police officers that Power and another man were the murderes of Somes Davis, who disappeared so mysteriously about six or seven years ago, and that Power took the most prominent part in the foul deed. The information given was not sufficient for the police to act upon, and so the matter dropped. Among those, however, who made inquiry into the matter, suspicion was generally directed against Power and tho notorious Toke, of Mitta Mitta. It will be in the recollection of our readers that about six or seven years back, Somes Davis, a storekeeper and gold buyer, left Yackandandah in the direction of the Mitta Mitta, to buy gold, and he disappeared and was never seen again. From the marks of his spurs on the saddle, and from some other circumstances, it seemed as if he had been violently dragged from his horse, previously to his being killed. The rumor at first spread that Davis was still alive and was keeping out of the way of his creditors was soon disproved, as it turned out on his affairs being wound up, that he could pay a good deal more than 20s in the pound. His body never yet has been found, and the mystery has never been cleared up. If, however, McKay’s statement was true, Power has something more to answer for than all his known crimes.”

“It is alleged,” says the Kyneton Guardian, that the black tracker who led the police to Power’s retreat was no other than the man Kelly, who was so soon discharged after his arrest, in consequence of no one being able to identify him. If it had been reflected that Kelly was standing in the dock of the Kyneton Police Court between 10 and 11 o’clock on Friday morning, it would have been seen that it was a physical impossibility for him to have assisted in any way in the capture of Power, which took place, at half past 7 on Sunday morning, at a place over 200 miles distant from Kyneton. Kelly has never left Kyneton since his discharge. He has been seen about the streets every day, and he is waiting for his friends either to come for him — they, were expected last night — or to send him money with which to defray the expenses of his journey home.”

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