Royal Commission report day 32 page 5

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The Royal Commission evidence for 21/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 32)

[[../../people/peA/armstrongHPC.html|Const Henry Armstrong]] 'giving evidence'

12142 Did you see what occurred to Sherritt then?— No, I had not seen that then. I remained for some time. and I heard a voice, just for a few seconds, say, “Open the door, send those men out.” I think two constables went hurriedly to the bedroom door; I cannot recollect which constables. I was watching myself through the window.

12143 It was the custom when a knock was heard for the constables to go into the bedroom?— Yes. I remained at the window for a few seconds, and a third shot was fired. It was on the front of the house, facing the El Dorado road.

12144 Parallel with the door?— Yes. When that shot was fired I thought I had been seen from the window. Then I went up to the bedroom door, and put my gun out through the calico screen Constable Alexander had his gun out through the screen also, pointing towards the front. I could not tell what position the other men were in. I believe one was trying to fire over the partition, and the other at the window. Byrne challenged us from the back, and said, “Come outside and surrender, or I will shoot you rotten dogs.”

12145 How did you know it was Byrne?— I did not know at that time, only Mrs. Barry called him Joe. From what I heard described afterwards I believe it was Byrne. I had never seen him in my life. I could have fired very close to Byrne that time, but I would have shot Mrs. Barry. I could hear her voice directly in the path. The two doors were open. Before this Byrne had said, “I have no down on the police,” while the women were all running in and out at this time, and an occasional shot was being fired.

12146 Whom from?— The people outside; I suppose the outlaws. –

12147 There was no shot fired from inside?— No, we were armed with shot-guns, and we could not fire out through the boards. They were used by watch parties, but they were totally useless in our case, a we could not fire through the boards. –

12148 Was there no rifle?— No, none. I do not blame Mullane for that. Duross blames him for our having shot-guns, but I do not. I carried my shot-gun all through, and they were used by watch parties

12149 Had you been informed that the Kellys would likely appear in armour?— No, never anything of the kind. To have closed one of the doors, to have prevented the fire from that side of the house, would have been useless. The boards were upwards of an inch short in places, and we could have been seen distinctly through the boards of the door. Every time the women came in they were in great danger of getting shot by us. We could hear their step in the dark, and they were in danger of getting shot by as. We could not see the outlaws without appearing outside the screen; then we could have been seen and shot down from either side of the house, exposed to two fires, two doors immediately opposite, and we would have been right in the centre.

12150 You have not mentioned about Sherritt being shot?— Mrs. Sherritt said, “Aaron is shot,” after the second shot was fired.

12151 The women were going back and forwards, in and out of the house, apparently not having any fear. Had the women any assurance from the outlaws at all that they would not be interfered with, or was it at the solicitation of the outlaws that they did go out?— I cannot say. I do not think there was any treachery on the part of the women.

12152 They fearlessly rushed out, regardless of the consequences?— Yes.

12153 Do you think their danger was any less than that of the police if they had followed suit?— Mrs. Barry told me, “We knew Joe Byrne when he was a boy.” He had slept between her and Mrs. Byrne when he was a boy, and she was confident he would not shoot the women

12154 Were they confident those were the outlaws?— I could not say—Mrs. Barry knew Joe Byrne, and she said Joe in the commencement, so I knew it was the outlaws by that.

12155 What I refer to is, that the women seemed heedless of the consequences, and you admit the danger was as great for them as for any other person to go outside the house. In that condition of things do you think if you and the other men with you had followed suit and suddenly rushed out that you might not have succeeded in capturing them or had a show for a fight?— It is my opinion, and the opinion of disinterested police at Beechworth, that had we been ready when the second shot was fired, ready under arms, we would have had a chance. I admit that, but after that I believe we would have been every one dropped.

12156 You see, as far as I understand it, I am under the impression that the women having come in at various times and gone out again, they were fearless of the consequences and they knew the desperate condition of things—could not you, under shelter of the women, have rushed out in order to have a chance?— That would have been a very cowardly thing, going under their protection. I would rather be shot myself.

12157 Could you be seen inside?— Yes.....

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