Royal Commission report day 5 page 6

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The Royal Commission evidence for 30/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 5 )

Stanhope O'Connor giving evidence.

1146 Was there any firing on the part of the police from the time that you were made acquainted with the fact that there were others in the hotel besides the Kellys, until after the prisoners were liberated?- I should say most decidedly, yes; but mind the prisoners were in the kitchen-there were shots exchanged, I believe, after we knew the prisoners were there.

1147 Fired indiscriminately through the house?- No. We knew the prisoners were in the rear in this kitchen, a totally distinct building, separated by several feet from the building where the outlaws weary.

1148 How did you know that?- From information before, wherever Senior Constable Kelly got the information. They were in the rear of the building, and it was from out of there they came.

1149 Then on one man's statement, which was not corroborated, you caused firing, of that sort?- We replied to shots that were fired at us.

1150 Was the door open at this time?- No; all barricaded. I took it for granted that the prisoners were in the building behind, I took that as gospel truth.

1151 But with the knowledge of that large number of people there?- I did not believe all about the people there. I heard there were 40 men there.

1152 How many actually came out?- I think it was stated 20; they all threw themselves down in a heap, so that it was not easy to tell the number.

1153 From the time you got the information till eleven o'clock, when the prisoners were released, was there firing at the house by the police?- Certainly there was, but it must not go out as if we were firing into the 40 or 20 prisoners.

1154 It was only a small place?- There is a great deal of difference in the matter of where we pointed the gun. I admit that every bullet had its billet, and was meant for the outlaws; but I never fired into that kitchen.

1155 You received information from Senior Constable Kelly that there were some 40 prisoners in the kitchen?- That he heard so.

1156 He informed you of that?- Yes.

1157 Firing took place after that, before the prisoners were released?- Yes, certainly.

1158 Did you tell every member of your force that there were prisoners in the kitchen, and to direct their firing to any special part of the building?- I did not, but Senior Constable Kelly, I imagine, did.

1159 Of your own knowledge, did he-did you tell him to?- No.

1160 Would it not have been your duty, as commanding officer at that time, to avoid unnecessarily risking the life of innocent persons, to have at once sent round to the members of the force?- In a time of excitement like that you cannot always do the most advisable thing and reckon what is best. I did what I thought best, and that was on no account to let the Kellys escape. I knew this, if there were any people in that house they would, in all probability, be friends of the Kellys, their relations and sympathizers, and men that helped them.

1161 You are giving us this impression, that you did not unnecessarily risk the lives of those people, because you were concentrating your firing on that portion of the building occupied by the outlaws?- Yes.

1162 At the same time, you say the remainder of the force were ignorant of that fact, as far as you knew?- I did not say that, but I believe Senior Constable Kelly went round and informed all the men.

1163 How many were in your force at that time?- I believe about 14 of us.

1164 Armed men outside?- Yes.

1165 I mean from the time you were relieved?- No, I cannot say that, because fresh men kept coming in.

1166 Up to the time Mr. Sadleir came?- No, I cannot say, because men came in from different parts, when I left my position, which I thought a most dangerous one.

1167 Mr. Sadleir hand arrived before the prisoners were released?- Yes, a long time.

1168 Did you inform Mr. Sadleir of the fact that there were 40 prisoners in the kitchen?- Yes, he knew of it.

1169 Was there firing from then till the release of the prisoners?- Yes.

1170 At that time you did not know the number of men engaged on police duty?- I do not know up till this moment. I believe there were about 60 eventually; they kept coming in in fives and tens. What I wish to state is that there was no indiscriminate firing after I knew, on my part, and the men who were with me, into the house where the prisoners were. Our fire was concentrated on the place where the outlaws were, and where the firing came from. ...

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