Royal Commission report day 38 page 8

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The Royal Commission evidence for 21/7/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 38)

Det Ward giving evidence

13861 Just say what was done?— The three men were sent down, and, in a few days after, Mr. Hare came up, on the 4th or 5th, and, by appointment, met Aaron Sherritt at the powder magazine. The watch was kept on. Mr. Hare telegraphed to say to send another man: “Three men are not enough. I will send you more men as soon as I can arrange.” That was done. Constable Armstrong reported to us that Patsey Byrne was seen going away at night, riding the grey horse — I cannot remember the date — and I, on receipt of the report, immediately went down and saw Aaron, and told him to go to where they saw Patsey Byrne last, and to try and trace the tracks of that horse as far as he could, and also to watch the horse coming home. Aaron returned to me on the night of the day I saw him, and told me they could find no tracks of the horse, and that there were two trackers sent up to Beechworth from Benalla; but on the arrival of the trackers I received a report to say the grey horse was home, and then I knew it was no use to send the trackers down; consequently, there was nothing done, and the trackers returned to Benalla. On the 19th Mr. Hare came to Beechworth, and about seven o'clock (I saw him about four) we started to visit the men at Aaron Sherritt's hut. We arrived about eight, and Mr. Hare said, “Go in and see the men — tell them I am here.” I rode my horse up to the house, hung the horse on the fence, and went to the door, and was met Duross. I said, “Duross, Mr. Hare is here; where are the other men?” he said “They are out.” “Where?” I said. “ Watching.” “What are they watching for?” I said. “Who is in?” He said, “Alexander; he is in the room. What will we do?” he said, “What will we do?” I said, “Why do you separate; what is the reason for that?” Mr. Hare came up; he said “Ward, what is this; what is wrong?” and he spoke to Duross. He said, “Duross, where are the other men?” “They are watching.” “Where?” “Mrs. Byrne's.” “Why do they go down by themselves?” Duross said, “I do not know.” Mr. Hare said, “Can you take me down?” “Yes,” Duross said. Alexander walked out side. Mr. Hare said, “Ward, you remain here, and I will go down.” “All right, sir,” I said. They immediately started, and I said to Mrs. Sherritt, “What time did the men go down?” She says, “They are not down at all; they are cutting wood in the bush.” “Go and tell them to come in to me at once,” I said. “Tell them that Mr. Hare and I are here.” Armstrong and Dowling came down, and I said to Armstrong, “How is it that you men separate?” he said, “We had to get some firewood.” I said, “Duross told Mr. Hare that you were gone down to watch, you know.” I said, “The instructions that I gave you — eight o'clock on a week night, and nine o'clock on a Saturday night — as you said that the children coming up to the township might see you.” “Yes,” He said, “and it is eight at night we went every night, but the Chinaman saw us going across the creek last night, and that is the reason we are going to be later to-night”; and I said, “Go down at once, and be careful, as the other two men are there, that they do not take you for the outlaws.” Mr. Hare, after about a couple of hours, returned and said, “They were there before me.” I said, “I sent them down — they were out cutting wood.” He said, “Those two men that took me down lost their way, and I have been for hours trying to find the place — how is it they did not know the way?” “I do not know,” I said. He said, “Why did Duross tell me a lie?” I said. “I do not know why — their instructions are eight o'clock or nine at night, as Armstrong complained of the Byrne family coming up to the township at night.” “Well,” he said, “I will give a blowing up to Duross.” I said, “Do not do anything of the kind at present, for it is very difficult to find men that will work together on this duty.” Nothing else occurred until Sunday the 27th of June when Armstrong came into Beechworth at about 1.30 p.m. I was at dinner, and I was sent for and informed that Aaron Sherritt was shot. The postmaster here tried to telegraph the Benalla telegraph station, but he could not do so. I then requested him to get Melbourne , and report the matter to Captain Standish. He did so, and he told me that at about three or four o'clock Melbourne was able to get Benalla. I remained telegraphing and answering queries from Mr. Hare and all the other officers until about two o'clock in the morning. I despatched a party of police, Senior-Constable Mullane and party immediately proceeded to the scene of the murder. Mr. Sadleir, at about two o'clock in the morning, I think, directed me to remain in Beechworth, in the office, to send Mullane home, to have the rest in order' to be able to go out with a party in the morning, and I returned. That is the whole.

13862 You were not at Glenrowan?— I was not. Then, when Mr. Sadleir gave me that order that Mullane was to go out at about four in the morning, of course I was the whole night in the office and until one the next day, and Mr. Hare sent a telegram; he said, “Ward, all is right — we have them safe; muster all hands and take them to Glenrowan.” I then despatched a messenger to Aaron Sherritt's hut — John Sherritt sent down — and he recalled the men, and we arranged for a special train. The men I sent down from here arrived in Glenrowan about nine, Senior-Constable Mullane in charge.

13863 When Mr. Hare came back from Byrne's house, was he under the impression that the other two constables had been there all the time?— No, I told him not.

Mr. Hare — I stated, in my evidence, that Armstrong stated about it to me.

13864 By the Commission (to the witness)— Do you positively swear that you did not suggest to them, in any shape or form, to say that they were down watching?— I do; I never did to my knowledge, because I had no reason to do so — I had nothing to gain in any way; my instructions to them were eight at night; and Armstrong, some time previous to this, said, when he came in to tell me about the grey mare, that nine o'clock would be early enough on the Saturday night, as Denny Byrne and others were passing up and down the road.

13865 When Duross swears that you told him to say that they were watching he swears a false-hood?— He must, because I could not tell him that; I had no motive in telling him that.

13866 Duross swears, at question No. 3772, “Detective Ward, as soon as he burst in the door, said, ‘Where are the men?’ I said, ‘Chopping wood at the back’; and he said, ‘Say they are watching Byrne’s house—here is Mr. Hare. He put the words into our mouths, and we went and told it.” You swear that those were not the very words?— I have given the words I said; I did not enter the house. I am only speaking from memory of all those things. On the 20th—that was Sunday — after having a consultation with Mr. Hare, Senior-Constable Mullane and I spent the whole Sunday in the ranges, trying to get a secure place where we could take the men away from there.

13867 You swear that you did not suggest to Duross to say the men were away?— No, I did not.

13868 That is a point-blank denial of what Duross has sworn. What message did you send to them by Mrs. Sherritt?— Told them to come down to me at once — that Mr. Hare and I were there; that was as soon as I found out where they were.

13869 Had you any conversation with Dowling when he came down?— No, I did not speak to Dowling at all; I spoke to Armstrong, and told him that Duross told Mr. Hare that they were down watching, and I told them to go down at once and be careful, as Mr. Hare was gone down, and see that they would not be taken for outlaws...

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