Royal Commission report day 5 page 5

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The Royal Commission evidence for 30/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 5 )

Stanhope O'Connor giving evidence.

1130 Previous to this point of your evidence, about the 40 persons inside, you have stated that Mr. Sadleir had arrived, and superseded you in the command?- I did mean it in that way.

1131 You got that information before you were superseded?- Yes; that was the first intimation when I saw him that he had arrived.

1132 Was that subsequent to everything I have stated?- I believe so; he made his way to my position.

1133 He was with the party before that so far as you know?- No, certainly not; he spoke to me about the Kellys, I cannot remember what it was, and left me there.

1134 Did you confer as to the best course to take then?- Well, we had plenty of men then, we were conferring about the number of men. There were plenty of men then, and Mr. Sadleir considered it best to keep them secure if they had not got out.

1135 Did you confer as to the positions of the men?- Not at that time. I told him I would remain there and let my men command the front of the house, and I cannot remember what he said to me; but he left, and subsequently sent for me, which was at half past ten a.m.

1136 That was hours after?- An hour perhaps.

1137 You remained where you were; he left you, and you saw no more of him until he sent for you at half past ten?- Yes; I made my way at once to where he was at the railway station.

1138 He had arrived by train with a lot of men?- Yes. There we had a long conversation. Ned Kelly had been taken prisoner.

1139 Was this the first time you were aware of that?- No; I knew about it from Constable Dwyer, who was bringing ammunition round.

1140 Did you take part in the capture of Kelly?- No, that was right away to my right.

1141 About what time was this?- Half past ten when we had this conversation, Kelly having been captured. Kelly was wounded in the station house at that time. Mr. Sadleir and I then walked round the line of men, getting what information we could, and suggesting any improvement in the way of watching the house. In Mr. Sadleir's statement, he mentions the time, which I do not dispute, that the outlaws let the prisoners out. When the prisoners came out, they then told us immediately they came out, which I most decidedly considered the best time to get true information, that Joe Byrne (that was in the morning, I think it was eleven o'clock) had been shot at daylight in the morning, by a shot that entered at the front door, cutting the femoral artery, and that Joe Byrne was in the act of drinking some grog at the time.

1142 Would not their armour cover that femoral artery?- No, there were cracks in it. One of them stated that Joe Byrne's toast was "Many more years in the bush for the Kelly gang." Eventually, Mr. Sadleir and I conferred as to the advisability of endeavoring to break into the house, but when we considered there were two determined ruffians, in nearly invulnerable armour, encased, as the prisoners had told us, in the brick fireplaces of the house, and the doors barricaded with the furniture of the house, we thought that we should not risk a single life if we saw the slightest chance of getting the remaining outlaws without that risk, even if we had to wait the whole day. While talking together, Senior Constable Johnson came up and proposed a plan to drive the outlaws from the cover of the house. He proposed to set fire to the building, and when the smoke got thick he had no doubt the outlaws would run out. Mr. Sadleir acquiesced in this, but did not allow him to carry it into execution at once. We still had a hope that they would surrender. We were calling out to them to surrender, but getting no reply, we allowed this constable to carry into execution his plan.

1143 Before doing this, were there many volleys fired into the house?- A great many before we called out. A great many.

1144 Not exactly volley?- Indiscriminate firing. But under cover of heavy fire the man approached the house to set fire to it.

1145 Previous to that, have you any recollection when you noticed the last shot coming from the house?. -I can only give that from hearsay. I cannot tell when I saw the last, but one of the constables reported to Mr. Sadleir that a shot was fired, I think, about a couple of hours before the house was burnt- two hours before the house was set fire to. But one of the men stated he saw one of the outlaws pass the window about twenty minutes before the house was burnt. Mr. Sadleir will be probably able to remember the man. One of the men came up and said he saw, I think, Dan Kelly pass the window about twenty minutes before the house was burnt. We collected the men, and put them upon two sides of the house, and called out to the two outlaws that we would give them so many minutes, and if they did not surrender, we would fire, and I think we stated that we would burn them, but there was no reply, and after giving two or three heavy volleys, under which Constable Johnson approached the end of the building, and set fire to the house. I think we gave them ten minutes or a quarter of an hour after we warned them. ...

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