Royal Commission report day 8 page 3

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The Royal Commission evidence for 5/4/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 8)

Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence

1480 Do I understand you to say, when you say they ought to die, that, in your opinion, as police officers when they came in the face of, or near approach to, the outlaws, they should have made them amenable to justice, or failed in the attempt by death or otherwise?— May I withdraw this part of my evidence, so as to bring it out fully in another place, as I intended. This is the reason that I think made the Kellys break out on that occasion; it was the cause I had always thought in my own mind, my stopping, their supplies by having the parties at Skillion's, Hart's, and Byrne’s; and Aaron used to say, and it was a well-known fact by everybody at Glenrowan that the Sunday the Kellys were there, that Ned Kelly mentioned my name in particular over and over again. Why he should have had a down on me I do not know; he spoke of it when he first arrived. He said, “Inspector Hare,” and sometimes, “That —Hare.” He spoke the whole day about it; he spoke to Bracken about it; and when Mr. Curnow stopped the engine-driver, and he said only a few words, he said Kelly was going “to get the inspector.” In many instances he mentioned Mr. O'Connor with his black trackers; but in particular —those were his words —he would “get that inspector.” From the date of my arrival at Benalla up to Sunday the 27th June, I heard nothing positive concerning the movements of the outlaws, although their agents and sympathizers were particularly active. I was privately informed that the outlaws were about to commence some outrages that would not only astonish Australia , but the whole world. I may here state that I had interviews with Aaron Sherritt about, I think, four or five days after my arrival at Benalla. I met him near Beechworth with Detective Ward, about a mile or two out in the bush; we never met in the town. I said to him— “Aaron, I am sorry to hear”—(of course, I shook hands with him first)— “that you have not worked well since I left the district, you have given some dissatisfaction.” His reply was in the presence of Detective Ward— “I could not work for that crankie Scotchman,” alluding to Mr. Nicolson. I told him he had promised before I left that he would work for him, and do all he could for him. He said— “He used to lose his temper with me sometimes, and distrusted me in everything; and I told him I did not care about working for him.” I said— “Well, what about the outlaws, Where are they?” He said— “They are about still,” and he promised me that he would set to work with all his might, and endeavor to let me capture them. He said all along— “I wish you to capture them, Mr. Hare, and I am only sorry that you ever left the district.” Mind you, as to all this statement, the man is dead, but Detective Ward was present, and can corroborate every word I say or otherwise. He said— “Beyond doubt you shall have them before long, because they have been knocking about this part of the district for some time, and my mother and my sisters have seen them.” I asked him his advice about the four men watching in his place. I said— “Do you think it is known that they are there?” He said— “No, I do not. I do not know any better place where they could be, nobody comes to my house, except my wife's mother, and they are not likely to inform the outlaws of anything that I am doing.” I told him I was sorry that he had got married during my absence; that was because his relations, father and mother, were much opposed to his marrying a Roman Catholic, as they were Protestants. I had a long conversation with him, and that is the substance of what he said, and what I said to him. He left, and I returned to Beechworth. I was at Beechworth exactly a week before Aaron Sherritt was shot—the Saturday. I saw Detective Ward, and had reason to think that the four men in Sherritt's house were not performing their duty properly.

1481 Do you know the names of those four men?— No, I have not got them. I telegraphed for them—[looking at a telegram]. —No, I have not got them. The man in charge was Senior-Constable Armstrong, and one man was named Duross, and two others I do not remember the names. I said to Ward, “Well, there is something about that party,” and I fancied from his manner he thought the same although he did not say so. I said, “Well, I will stay from here to-night, and at eight o'clock this evening have a horse round here for me, and I will go down to the place myself just to see if they are doing their duty.” We rode down, and before I was starting Ward said to me, “You need not take your gun” (I never travelled without my double-barrelled gun and my revolver); I said, “You can take your revolver if you like.” It is about twelve miles from Beechworth. I got down there a little after nine o'clock . The house was weatherboard, shingle roof, that shape—[drawing the same]. —The house is about the size of this room we are in, about the same length, and perhaps not quite so wide, with a partition in the centre of weatherboard and canvas door which formed the bedroom.

1482 Thirty feet long?— About that, thirty feet by twelve, and with a fireplace at one end, and on the opposite end was the bedroom. The house is situated about fifteen or twenty yards from the Eldorado main road from Beechworth. I had never been there before, and Ward said, “That is Aaron's house.”

1483 Is it fenced in?— No, nothing; no fence whatever, just on a hillock of rocky ground, amongst some low timber, not very large trees. I said to Ward, “Go up and see if there is anybody in the hut,” I remaining in the road myself. Ward was away longer than I thought he ought to be, and I heard some whispering. I made my horse spring forward to see what it was, and said, “What are you whispering about? “ and one of the constables, one of the men whose name I do not recollect, came forward to speak to me. I heard Ward say, “There is Hare down there” in a peculiar voice, as much as to say something was wrong. As I said, I went up at once—I said, “Where is Armstrong?” He said, “He is away, sir.” I said, “Where?” He said, “With Aaron Sherritt.” I said, “Where are they?” He said, “They are watching down at Mrs. Byrne's;” and I said, “What are you two men doing here?” One of them answered me that Aaron thought it was too light to go when he went, but I said, “Why did Armstrong leave you behind, and go by himself?” I saw at once that there was something wrong by the man's manner, and I said to him (his name I do not recollect), “Can you take me down to where these men are?” “Oh, yes,” he said, “certainly.” I jumped off my horse, and told Ward to remain at the hut with the horses, and I would go down with these men to where Aaron was. I took two with me; I left the other two behind, Duross and the other. One of the men said to me, “You cannot go down there now I come to think of it;” and I said, “Why?” He said, “Because you will have to go up to your middle in sludge and water across the creek.” I said, “Lead the way; let me go the way you take up your positions every night.” I went through the creek, and got up to my waist. This man was a long time taking me to the spot; lost his way once or twice on the way. I do not know whether he did it for a purpose or not, I thought at the time he did; and at last we came to within fifty yards of Mrs. Byrne's house. I said, “There is the horse,” because I had watched there before. He said, “Yes;” and I said, “Now where shall we find Armstrong and Aaron Sherritt?” He said, “I do not know where Armstrong is, but Aaron Sherritt lies under that tree generally,” that was within thirty or forty yards of Byrne's door. I crept down towards Sherritt, and I found him lying motionless. I called out, “Tommy.” I might here explain that I never called him Aaron when I was out, and in sending all the telegrams we invariably used the name “Tommy.” We called him sometimes “Aaron,” and sometimes “Moses,” so that the telegraph people might not know whom we alluded to. I touched him on the foot, and beckoned him to come with me; and we went up in the bush away about 100 yards. Just at this time I saw Armstrong as I was walking up; he came towards me. I said to him, “Armstrong, what is the meaning of this?” He said, “The man that spoke to you at the hut told you a lie, sir. I was collecting some wood when you were at the hut, and directly I heard you kind gone down to the party I followed, and I reached the place before you did.” I called the man up, and I said, “What do you mean by telling me such a lie?” He had not a word to say for himself. I gave him a great rating at the time, and told him he ought to be ashamed of himself; and then I had a long talk with Aaron Sherritt. I said, “What sort of men have you got with you here?” He said, “ The man in charge is an excellent man, Armstrong; you could not get a better man in the world.” Armstrong was there, and I said, “Well, Armstrong, what about this duty; do you think it is any good remaining here?” He said, “Yes, I do. I think that we are sure to get them if they are in the mountains; they must come to their mother's place to get provisions.” I said, “Suppose you saw them come into the house, what would you do; what is your plan of operations?” He said, “I would shoot them dead if I was certain they were the outlaws, if Aaron told me they were the outlaws.” I said, “That will do.” I said, “You give that man a good blowing up.....

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