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The Argus (29)

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Const Armstrong continued

I then heard a voice outside say, 'Come out and surrender, or we'll roast you.' We all replied 'We'll die first.' I then went to the front door, and went to fire in the direction. I heard some voices but Mrs Barry and Mrs Sherritt in the way, and I could not fire. I then said. 'Boys, come and let us break portholes.' We tried but could not succeed. I then said, 'Men, have you got any suggestions to make; our conduct will be severely commented upon in this matter if we don't make a bold fight.' I said, 'We'll rush them, are you game to follow?' I asked each man separately, and he replied, 'Yes.' We then decided to wait for a better chance, thinking they might try to rush us, being the attacking party, and thinking also that we might get a shot at them when the light was extinguished. We remained quiet for some time and the candle went out. I then closed both doors. We looked out then to fire. We heard voices, but could see no one. There was talking at intervals up to about daylight.

When it got light, another constable and I went round the house, and found they had left. There was a Chinaman passing at about 7 o'clock, and I wrote a note and gave it to him to deliver to the police at Beechworth. I proposed going, but it was not considered advisable to separate, as another attack might be made. The Chinaman came back, and said he would not go. He intended to go at first. I gave him 5s., and promised him more when he returned. I sent him to Mr O'Donohoe, the school teacher, but soon came back. He said he would deliver the message, but soon returned, saying he was afraid he would be shot. We sent another Chinaman and a miner, but the police not coming I went myself. On the road I stuck a man up, and took his horse from him by force, and rode into Beechworth, arriving about 1 o'clock. At the time firing was going on I heard whistling in the distance, at the rear of the house.

To Mr Foster.- I believe the outlaws knew we were in the house. The two younger brothers of the Byrnes saw some of us in the house. The day before Sherritt told me they knew. I believe Joe Byrne intercepted our messengers. To the Jury.- I saw Joe Byrne riding along quickly when I escaped into Beechworth. He rode towards me, but I turned away. The four of us did not leave at once, because we wanted to be on the ground to assist the men from Beechworth. We had no horses there.

Constable Robert Alexander deposed,- I remember Saturday, the 26th inst. I was in Aaron Sherritt's house at Sebastopol. Constables Armstrong, Duross and Dowling, and Aaron Sherritt and Mrs Barry were there. Heard a knock at the back door. At that time I was in the bedroom of the hut. I heard a voice say, 'Aaron I have lost my way.' Mrs Sherritt said, 'Who is there?' A voice replied, 'Wicks.' Aaron opened the door. I heard Aaron say something about a sapling. He opened the door partly, but did not go outside. I heard two shots fired. I saw the body of Sherritt on the floor afterwards. There were shots fired after this from the front. There were three shots fired into the bedroom, and another from the back into the bedroom. I heard the person at the back call to the one in the front. 'Look out for the window in front.' Some one called on us to come out, and 'I'll shoot you down like -dogs.' Mrs Barry and Mrs Sherritt were in the bedroom at this time. About two hours after this Constable Armstrong shut the doors. I did not hear deceased speak after being shot. I heard voices outside till daylight. Towards daylight Armstrong and I went out and went round the hut. There were five messengers sent to Beechworth.

Constable Armstrong, recalled.- I produced a plan of the house. It is a correct one. The shot from the guns would not penetrate the boards of the room.

At this stage the coroner remarked that the only further evidence was that of other constables in the house, and was therefore, of a corroborative nature. They could be called however, if the jury wished.

The Foreman intimated that the jury were quite satisfied. Mr Foster remarked that it was usual for the coroner to sum up the evidence to the jury, but in this case the facts were so simple and so free from uncertainty that no comment on his part seemed to be necessary to arrive at a verdict. It only required the exercise of a little common sense. There could be no doubt but that Sherritt had met his death from gunshot wounds inflicted upon him by Joseph Byrne, and that the latter was aided and abetted by Dan Kelly. He therefore left the matter in the hands of the jury. One of the jurymen stated that he thought Ned Kelly ought to have been in attendance, as he was implicated in the matter to a certain extent. The Coroner declined to postpone the inquest for Kelly's attendance.

The Jury after consultation found that Aaron Sherritt died at Sebastopol, in colony of Victoria, on the 26th day of June, 1880, from gunshot wounds received by him, at the hands of Joseph Byrne, and that such wounds were inflicted by the said Joseph Byrne on the said Aaron Sherritt with intent him the said Aaron Sherritt thereby then to feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, kill and murder, and that Dan Kelly aided and abetted the said Joseph Byrne to murder the said Aaron Sherritt.' After the verdict had been returned, the foreman of the jury stated that 11 of the jury were in favour of adding a rider to the effect that the police had done everything in their power under the circumstances.

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