Royal Commission report day 26 page 21
The Royal Commission evidence for 7/6/1881
(see also introduction to day 26)
Mr John McWhirter giving evidence
10440 Have you formed an idea of the time Kelly did escape?— Only from the prisoners in the hotel. Some of them said he never came inside the hotel again; that directly the police fired he walked off, calling on Byrne to come with him. Others say he walked straight through the building, and spoke to Byrne, and asked him to come with him to the back. They all agree that he did not remain in the house.
10441 The building was not surrounded at that time?— No; I am certain he made off directly the first volley was fired, and before the police had time to surround the house, otherwise I feel certain he would have been seen by the police who were posted there.
10442 Is there anything else of importance?— I noticed, in hearing the evidence give, there was some doubt in the minds of the Commission as to the character of Aaron Sherritt's hut. I may say I visited the hut after the murder, and Constable McColl, who had been at one time stationed in the hut, described to me the position of the police. I saw some bullet holes through the wall. The house was constructed of colonial hardwood sawn timber, not weather boards exactly, like slabs together, one on top of the other, like that—[illustrating his meaning]. Run down between two uprights inside of this bed room there was a lining of mud; and it was apparent that the balls of the outlaws had penetrated the outer wall, and carried away a large portion of the mud inside. It would be impossible for men armed with shot guns to fire through that wall, for I tested it with a revolver to see if a revolver would pierce the walls from the outside, and found that in no instance did the revolver ball go through the hardwood. It was only a rifle ball that would go through.
10443 The slabs would be an inch to an inch and a quarter thick?— Yes.
10444 It would have been possible to have shut the doors?— Well, in the first instance, they were in a very awkward position, they were surprised; but, according to the evidence of the men in the place, when they heard one of the outlaws at the rear of the house or the end of the house striking matches to set fire to the hut, there would have been no difficulty not only in closing the doors but in getting outside.
10445 Is that the case that there was a partition between the front door and the back, a beam running from one wall plate to another?— There was a plate laid from one side to the other from the front to the back of the house, and between that and the roof was an aperture.
10446 There was nothing above the square?— No.
10447 The front door opened back to that partition?— Yes.
10448 Would there have been any difficulty in any one on the bed reaching over from the bedroom and closing both the doors?— It would have exposed them to the outlaws who were supposed to be at the door, but they were great clumsy doors that required some trouble to close them.
10449 Could you give any idea of the height of the top wall plate from the door?— I had to stand on something to look over.
10450 How high?— Standing on something—a stool about two feet high.
10451 The height of a bag of flour?— Yes, the walls were about 7 feet 6 inches.
10452 Was the bedstead in the room when you saw it?— No.
10453 You can imagine the height of a bedstead; could a man have stood on a bedstead and seen over that plate?— Yes.
10454 Do you think the police acted cowardly in remaining?— I think they acted with a considerable amount of wisdom in the first part, and I do not believe, in the first instance, they could have been expected to have gone out. Had they done so, it is my impression they would have been shot; it would have been a useless show of courage. I do not think there was any want of courage displayed.
10455 They only knew that two outlaws were there?— Yes, but they heard voices. You must remember they would look at it this way, that the gang kept pretty much together, and if two were there you might expect that the remainder of the gang were not very far off.
10456 By Mr. O'Connor— When Bracken gave the information that the Kellys were at Jones's, you stated that Mr. Hare and a mob of men rushed up towards the hotel?— No; I say that when Mr. Hare was proceeding in the direction of Jones's, he just got round the side of the station when I heard a man say, “They are there, surround them.”....
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