Royal Commission report day 8 page 5

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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

1495 Do you know whether the police fired at all?— I am not aware that they did; I do not think that they did.

1496 Is your own opinion from what you have read, or your memory, that Byrne did know the police were there or not?— I believe they did not know the police were there from the questions they put to Mrs. Sherritt; when they heard the noise of the guns or rattle inside they said, “Is that Jack or Willie?” If it had been them, I suppose they would have shot them also.

1497 They would not approach the hut if they knew the police were there?— No, I am sure they would not. And those four outlaws would no more have thought of approaching the hut than flying. On the 24th June I received a communication from Captain Standish that Mr. O’Connor and the black trackers were to be sent back to Queensland .

1498 Before you go from that, in your previous paragraph where you say they were particularly active, and you were “privately informed that the outlaws were about to commence some outrages which would not only astonish Australia, but the whole world” —you have not given any information as to what the nature of that information was?— The very words I have said, “The outlaws are going, to do something that will not only astonish Australia, but the whole world.” The information came from Mrs. Byrne.

1499 You had no particulars of the nature of their intended outrage?— Nothing whatever, not the smallest conception of what it was to be. The next morning Mr. O'Connor started away from Benalla with his “boys.” I had but one Queensland black of our own at Benalla, that is Moses. Mr. O'Connor had sworn him into his detachment when he was here, and on leaving he gave him back to the Victorian Government, and there was another at Mansfield of the name of Spider. I telegraphed for the one at Mansfield to be sent down to Benalla at once, so that I might have two trackers in case anything happened before Mr. Chomley, who had gone to Queensland for a fresh supply of trackers for our force, returned, as I did not expect him back for eight or ten days.

1500 You telegraphed, so that you might have the two trackers at Benalla?— Yes, at my headquarters, in case anything occurred between the departure of Mr. O'Connor and the arrival of Mr. Chomley. Sunday the 27th of June I was at the telegraph office at Benalla. At ten o'clock a.m. I received telegrams from all the stations in the district that everything was quiet. I made an appointment with the telegraph master to be at the office again at nine o'clock that night. About half-past two that day I received a memo. from the railway telegraph office to go to the general telegraph office, as there was important information for me there, and a memo. had been sent to the same effect to the telegraph master. I lost no time in going there, and received a message from Beechworth, that Aaron Sherritt, in whose house I had the watch party, had been shot the previous evening at six o'clock . I immediately sent for Mr. Sadleir, and we consulted together as to the best course to adopt. First of all we decided to give Captain Standish all the information in our possession, and ask him to request Mr. O'Connor to return without loss of time to Benalla with his “boys,” as we considered they might have a good chance of tracking the outlaws from Sherritt's house.

1501 What time was that?— That was about half-past two o'clock on Sunday that was the first notice I got, and we decided at once that was the first thing we would do. Mr. Sadleir suggested that Mr. O'Connor should be sent for, and I agreed to it at once; he made the suggestion. About six or eight o'clock that evening I received a telegram from Captain Standish, informing me that he had written out to Mr. O'Connor asking him if he would return to the district with his men, and saying that if he agreed to it he would send him up by the first train on Monday morning. I replied— “If Mr. O'Connor does not come up to-night, it is no use his coming at all; and I will take my two blacks with my party, and start off to-night.” In answer to that I got a telegram from Captain Standish saying that Mr. O'Connor had agreed to return, and that he would leave town about ten o'clock. I then telegraphed back that I had made arrangemeets for an engine to be got ready for me at Benalla, and asking whether I might take that as a pilot engine. This Mr. Sadleir also says he suggested to me, but I do not recollect whether he did or not. If he says he has a recollection of it—he claims to have recommended that I should send for the black trackers, get the pilot, and that he also offered to go with the party to Beechworth—it he did, I do not contradict it. Captain Standish's reply was— “A good idea, there's no knowing what desperate deed the outlaws may now be guilty of—have a pilot.” Those were his words. The whole afternoon, Mr. Sadleir and I were engaged in the telegraph office warning all the stations to be on the alert.

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