Ovens and Murray Advertiser (5)

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Aaron Sherritt's inquest continued

To the jury: I had no chance of sending information to the police. Byrne asked me if my horse was at home, and I said, “No; I have turned him out.” He then said, “Give no information to the police.”

An adjournment for an hour here took place.

On resuming, the foreman of the jury said they were quite satisfied as to the cause of death.

The coroner said there were certain enquiries that were necessary to be made, and they must do so.

Ellen Sherritt deposed: I am the wife of the late Aaron Sherritt. I remember Saturday, the 26th inst I was with my husband at our residence, also four constables and my mother. A knock came to the back door of my house. Mr Weekes called out “Aaron;” and Aaron went out laughing, saying “Do you see that tree outside.” My husband asked him what he wanted. Weekes said he was lost, and asked him to show him the road. My husband opened the door and saw a man standing besides Weekes, and asked who he was. Joe Byrne then replied, but I could not tell what it was. At the same moment a shot was fired. Aaron then backed in the room and Byrne fired a second shot. He staggered a little and then fell down. He never spoke or moaned at all. I rushed into the room when the second shot was fired. I remained in the room about two minutes.

When I returned I asked Byrne what made him shoot Aaron. He said if he did not shoot Aaron, then he would shoot him when he got the chance. Byrne asked who was the man going into the room. I replied it was a man looking for work. He asked me to go in and bring him out. Before that he told my mother to open the front door; and when she did, Dan Kelly made his appearance there. He had a revolver pointed at me when he came to the door. Byrne then called my mother outside. He was standing behind Weekes at the front of the back door. He asked me why I did not bring that man out of the room. Byrne then told Kelly there were windows at the back, and Dan said “All right.” After that Joe Byrne put me before him, and fired two shots at the house where the men were. He sent me in twice or thrice for the men inside, and all the while he had Weekes shading him from the ?? ? door. He then whistled to someone at the back and told them there was men in the room. The ?? ? as no one came. He heard the sounds of the firearms, and said there was more than one in the place. My mother went outside, and Byrne told her he would burn the place down. He did not set fire to the place, and my mother returned to the house. I remained in the room the rest of the night. After my husband was shot two hours elapsed before one of the constables shut the door. Heard someone talking outside two or three hours after the door was shut. I only saw Byrne and Kelly.

I was in the house next morning when Mr O’Donoghue was sent a letter, asking him to go to Beechworth. O’Donoghue said he would go away without it. He turned back and then said he would not go. They would have gone earlier in the morning; but they said, being so few, they were afraid the house might again be attacked. Constable Armstrong left the hut about ten o’clock . The body of my husband was removed to the Vine Hotel on Monday. There were no shots fired by the police. I was in the bedroom afterwards, when my mother was outside. The police in the bedroom could not have fired at Byrne. If any of them had rushed outside to shoot the outlaws, they would have shot either my mother or Weekes. It was about half an hour or three-quarters from the time my husband was shot, before my mother returned to the hut. Five or six shots were fired, in addition to those that killed my husband. The shots were almost simultaneous. I only saw one man outside. I have no reason to believe that any other persons were round the house besides Kelly and Byrne.

To the jury: When it was coming daylight the police went outside to see if they could see anything. I know it was Dan by his portrait; and Byrne kept calling him “Dan.” There were no shots fired at the front of the house before my husband’s death.

Henry Armstrong deposed: Am a police constable, and was in charge of the watch party at Sebastopol . I had three constables and myself engaged in that duty. During the day we stopped in the hut occupied by the late Aaron Sherritt, and during the night watched Mrs Byrne’s. We left generally at 8 in the evening, and returned at 3 or 5 in the morning. I remember Saturday the 26th inst, and was in the bedroom of the late Aaron Sherritt’s house with two other constables, the other was at his tea. Heard a knock about half-past six o’clock, and Duross walked into where they were. Our orders were to keep as quiet as possible, and not to go out during daylight. I heard a voice saying, “Sherritt; I’ve lost my way.” Mrs Sherritt said, “Go out and show him.” I then heard a shot; and immediately after another about three seconds intervening. I then said “Take your arms, my boys, the Kellys are here.” Each of us had a double barrelled shot gun, and revolvers. I then heard Mrs Barry say “Aaron is shot.” I went to the front windows of the bedroom to fire out, but could see nothing but darkness.

A bullet then passed along by my head. I found the bullet afterwards. The outer walls were of thick wood. Shots were then fired both in front and rear, altogether about five. Then heard a voice say, “Come outside, or I’ll roast you.” We all replied, “We will die first.” Then went to the room door to fire in the direction I heard some voices, but could not do so, as Mrs Barry and Mrs Sherritt were in the way. Then said “Boys, can we make port-holes.” We tried, but could not succeed. I then said, “Men have you any suggestion to make. Our conduct will be severely commented upon if we don’t make a bold fight. I say we’ll rush them; are you game to follow.” I asked each man separately, and he replied “Yes.” We then said, “We’ll wait for a better chance,” thinking they would rush us, as they were the attacking party, or run out when the fire was extinguished. We remained quiet for a while with that expectation, till the candle went out. Previous to this Mrs Barry and Mrs Sherritt returned to the hut. I then closed both doors. We looked out then to fire. Heard voices, but could see no one. We heard talking at intervals up to about daylight.

When it got light another constable and I went out, but could see nothing. There was a Chinaman passing, and I wrote a note for him to give to the Beechworth police. I proposed going myself; but it was decided, as the party was small, not to separate. The Chinaman afterwards came back, saying he would not go. When he returned, I sent for Mr O’Donoghue, the school-teacher. Mr O’Donoghue soon came, and said he would deliver the message but was afraid of being shot. We sent two other messengers, but not hearing anything, I determined on going myself. I started and met a man with a horse. I took it from him by force, and rode into Beechworth, arriving after one o’clock . At the time the firing was going on I heard whistling at the rear of the house. Have reason to suspect that Dan Kelly and Byrne knew we were there. A brother of Byrne named Patsey, met me on Sunday, on a grey horse, when I was coming to Beechworth, but when he saw me he stopped.

To the jury: It was about nine o’clock when I heard O’Donoghue return. I did not start sooner, as we had previously despatched five messengers. The reason we did not leave at daylight was because we thought it better to remain, in case of reinforcements coming up. We had no horses at Sebastopol .

Robert Alexander deposed: Have heard the last witness give his evidence, and corroborate what he has said. Remember Saturday, the 26th inst. I was in Aaron Sherritt’s house on that day with three other constables, Mrs Sherritt, Mrs Barry, and deceased. I heard a knock come at the back door. I was in the bedroom. I heard a voice say “I have lost my way, Mr Sherritt.” Mr Sherritt asked who was there. The person outside said “Weekes.” Aaron then went to the door. He partly opened the door. I then heard two shots. Did not see the body fall. There was a shot fired immediately after the body fell. Three shots were then fired in the bedroom from the back, and one from the front. I heard the voice at the back tell the one at the front to look out for the window. We were called upon to go outside by someone, who said, “Come outside, and I’ll shoot you like b—— dogs.” At this time Mrs Barry and Mrs Sherritt were in the bedroom. Two or three hours after this Constable Armstrong shut the doors. I heard voices outside all the night. Armstrong and I went outside about daylight the next morning. Five messengers were sent to Beechworth on Sunday morning.


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