Royal Commission report day 15 page 13
The Royal Commission evidence for 4/5/1881
(see also introduction to day 15)
Constable Duross giving evidence
3771 How often was she in the bedroom?— Mrs. Barry was in once and Mrs. Sherritt. There are two things I omitted to tell: On the Saturday night previous to the murder Mr. Superintendent Hare and Detective Ward came out to Sebastopol , where we were. They arrived there between eight and nine at night. Detective Ward burst in the back-door—shoved it in. I may mention there was no lock on either of the doors, we had to fasten the door with a bit of a prop-stick to keep it fastened. On Saturday night it was our custom not to go out till late; as I stated before, there was a shanty a couple of miles down the road, and many people passing backwards and forwards, and Sherritt said it was not wise to go, and the wood we used we had to chop after dark for fear of being seen in day-time. At this time, when Mr. Hare came, Constables Dowling and Armstrong were out chopping wood at the back of the house. The reason I make this statement is because I see by Mr. Hare's evidence that he accused two of us of telling an untruth. When Ward shoved in the door he asked where were the other men; I said, “ Chopping wood at the back.” “No,” he said “they are away watching Byrne's house—say that,” he said on the moment. Mr. Hare stepped in and said, “Where are the two men P” and just to shield them, as Ward told us (Alexander and I had no reason to be frightened, because we should not have been out so early), we told Mr. Hare they were watching the house. He asked one of us to show him the house. Constable Alexander, who had been longer there than I had, said he would show the way. We went across to the house, and I see by Mr. Hare's evidence that Ward told him he could not trust us, and that we told an untruth. We had no reason whatever to be frightened of telling the truth, because we had no reason to be out so early on Saturday night, because our custom was not to go out till ten o'clock on that night. Mr. Hare also states that Sherritt said he had no faith in any of us, only Armstrong. I can contradict that by saying that I myself, along with Alexander and Dowling, can state that Sherritt said on different occasions he was well satisfied with the four men he had, and if we were changed he would do nothing more for the Government—he was getting sick of the way the men were galloping round the country and the outlaws laughing at him.
3772 Why did you feel it necessary at all not to tell the exact facts of the case when Superintendent Hare came?— 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 away watching Byrne's house, here is Mr. Hare.” He put the words in our mouths, and we went and told it.
3773 You were inspired to make this false statement by Detective Ward?— Detective Ward told us to state so—Alexander and I.
3774 You say there was only a calico screen between the room you were in and the room Kelly was in?— No, a wooden partition; but the door was calico, just hung down.
3775 Had you no means to have a peep through that door?— Yes; Constables Alexander and Armstrong were on either side of the door, and they could have seen the two doors, back and front, from the position they took up.
3776 Mrs. Sherritt states that Kelly came into the front room?— She has not given her evidence.
3777 I want to know whether you had an opportunity of seeing any of this—did you look through— move the curtain?— No. Those two constables were alongside of it, and could not have helped seeing the kitchen some part of the time, because the wind was blowing back the curtain. The Kellys could not have been in the room without their seeing it; the partition did not run up to the top.
3778 Could he see what took place in the kitchen?— Yes. Dowling stood on the top of a bag of flour, and could see. If he looked over the top of the partition, anyone could have shot him. They had the command of that from outside, if anybody got on top of the partition.
3779 You could have reached over and shut the doors?— Yes; but they could have easily been opened again.
3780 What light had you in your room at this time?— None.
3781 What light in the kitchen?— A bush fire, with big logs, as we were in the habit of putting a 1arge fire to warm us in the morning, and a candle. Byrne asked what sort of light we had, and Mrs. Barry had the candle. He asked was there no kerosene—he wanted to burn the house down, and she said there was none in the house. There was a constable (Jim Dixon) that Byrne had a “down” on, and he asked if that b Jim Dixon was in the hut.
3782 Was it suggested in your party the advisability of one being on the outside of Sherritt's hut on the watch?— No, that was a mistake. If there was one outside we could have had them; but we were supposed not to be seen in the day-time; and if we were there, we would have been seen by the people there; and at night we were supposed to be at Byrne's house.
3783 Not on the look-out at Sherritt's?— No.
3785 You were concealed during the day in Sherritt's house?— Yes.....
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