Royal Commission report day 8 page 9

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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

1512 Mr. O'Connor . —Who wrote that?

The Witness . —The reporter's name was McWhirter, a gentleman I had never seen before, and not till six months after the occurrence. I will read another paragraph:— “When about 60 shots had been sent into the walls of the building the clear voice of Hare was distinguished above the screams of the terrified women and children, who were in the hotel, giving the order to stop firing. This was now repeated by Senior-constable Kelly, to the men who under cover were surrounding the house at the back, but the Kellys fired three or four more shots, after which one of them gave went to coarse and brutal language, calling to the police,” so and so. There is another paragraph I wish to read:— “Seeing the wound, the ladies implored Mr. Hare not to return to the fight, but he did so; his re-appearance in the trenches was the signal for renewed firing, and the valley soon became filled with smoke. Mr. Hare then became faint from loss of blood, and was compelled to leave the field.” I say that these paragraphs, from a gentleman I had never seen in my life before, or not till six months after, when he stopped me in the street one day, and gave me a narrative of the proceedings, are significant. I said to him:— “I don't know whether I have done Mr. O'Connor an injustice by omitting his name; can you assist me in the matter; did you see him go up to the front with me?” His reply was, “I did not see him; I saw him lying in the drain, and I was near him at the time you were firing at the men.” I think I have stated most positively that I did not leave the ground till I saw the outlaws in the house, and Senior-constable Kelly setting to work to surround the house.

1513 Till you saw the outlaws retreat into the house?— Till I saw the outlaws retreat into the house; then I called out “Cease firing.” I have told you my intention was to have gone round the house to see the sentries after my arm was bandaged up. I remember going towards a tree on the left-hand side of the house, and seeing two men behind the tree, and that is as far as I went. I did not speak to anybody, for in my report- which was written whilst I was very ill—I see I stated here “I visited.” By that I mean I saw two or three of the men behind trees.

1514 Did you speak to them?— I did not. I do not think I spoke to anybody when I went back the second time, until I returned to the station, or on the way to the station. I heard it stated afterwards that some one on the platform saw me approaching, and said, “There comes Hare, as drunk as possible.” I was staggering up to the station. I heard that stated—I do not know who it was that said it—I was supposed to have been at the hotel drinking.

1515 Had you had nothing at this time?— I had not. I had not drunk a drop of liquor of any sort or kind that night. There is one remark I wish to make, with reference to an incident that I gave you this morning, about the man Aaron Sherritt. When the police were watching Mrs. Byrne's house, I received information that they had in training a grey mare, in Mrs. Byrne's stable, under lock and key. This is an unusual thing in a small place of that sort, to keep a horse fed on oats and hay, and every afternoon exercised by one of the Byrnes. I have stated that, because about three days after I had visited Aaron Sherritt, in the interview I mentioned when I went out to the house that Saturday, I heard tha t at two o’clock in the morning, the horse that had been kept in training, and was supposed to be kept for Joe Byrne, in case a raid was committed, had been removed, at two, o'clock one morning, out of the stable, whilst my men were watching.

1516 From whom?— I cannot tell you; it was officially reported to me. I got a copy of the letter yesterday, and I have it here, and my memo. goes thus. Before reading that, I will read the report to which mine was a reply, namely, the following:—

(Copy ) Report of Constable Armstrong re Paddy Byrne.

North-Eastern District,

Beechworth Police Station, June 23rd, 1880 .

I beg to report that at 11.15 p m., on the 21st inst:, Paddy Byrne left his house, riding his grey mere, and keeping off the road, high up the range, going in the direction of Madden's Gap, which is situated in the Beechworth side of Mrs. Byrne's house, The other constables and I, who were watching the house, did not consider it advisable to follow him, as he was riding at a half trotting pace, and the night was so light we could be seen for several hundred yards off; besides, being confident that it was Paddy, we thought it better to let him pass on than run the risk of being found out. We remained watching the house until 3.30 a.m. , at which time he had not returned home. I may further add that the dog kept barking for the greater part of the night, so we were obliged to take our position almost at the foot of the range, far away from the house.

On my return to camp, I came into Beechworth to report the matter, prior to which I requested Moses to keep a sharp look-out, and obtain all the information he could in the meantime.


F. Hare, Esq., Benalla. Const. 2476.

Beechworth, 23rd June 1880 .

I beg to report, for the information of the Superintendent, with reference to Constable Armstrong's report, according to instructions, I proceeded to the Woolshed on yesterday afternoon. Moses (that is, Aaron Sherritt) was absent on my arrival there. He returned at about 5.30 p.m. ; he said he was watching to see if Paddy Byrne returned, but he could not see either Paddy or the horse; he also said he could find no tracks where they saw him riding. In my opinion, Paddy must return between the hours of 4,30 a.m. and 12 o'clock noon , when Moses left to search for tracks. From the direction in which Paddy was seen riding, find from previous reports from Mrs. Sherritt, as to horsemen being heard passing by her place at night or early in the morning, Paddy must be spying about Sherritt's house, for what purpose I cannot say. I will go down to Mrs. Sherritt's to-day, and ascertain if they heard any noise during the night of Monday, or the morning of Tuesday.

(Sgd.) M.E. WARD,

F. Hare, Esq., Supt. of Police, Benalla Det. 2358

My memo. was as follows:—

Police Department, Benalla, Superintendent's Office, June 24th, 1880 .


Nothing is said in this report whether “Tommy” was on watch with the men. If he was l can't understand why he could not have followed Paddy to see the direction he had taken, or the gap in the mountain he had passed through. I am aware our men might have been seen if they had attempted to do this, but I am sure “Tommy” could have done so without the slightest fear of being detected. In future, should anything of this kind occur, I would suggest that the following plan be adopted. That when any one takes the horse out of the stable at an unusual hour, he should be followed a short distance to see the direction be is going, and, when he has turned up any of the gaps, that the spot be marked and the man return to the watch party. At daylight “Tommy” (that is, Aaron Sherritt) should be made follow the tracks for a certain distance, to see the direction the horse is heading for, and by that means he will be able to tell whether it would be advisable to get the trackers to follow them; the man in charge of the watch party should accompany “Tommy,” and not throw the whole responsibility on him, and whilst “Tommy” is tracking he could look out and see if any person was moving about. One of the watch party should be sent on the hill to keep a look-out to see if the horseman returns, so that the direction he came from would be known.

In a matter of this kind it would be impossible to give definite instructions, for circumstances alter cases, therefore I must leave a great deal to the discretion of the man in charge. What I wish him particularly to remember is not to leave the responsibility of the affair to “Tommy” he is an irresponsible man, and should be, in a matter of this kind, assisted by the senior man of the party. Shortly I hope to have two trackers stationed at Beechworth, so that there may be no delay in following the tracks.

What I particularly wish to impress on Detective Ward and Senior-constable Mullane is not to take a body of men near Mrs. B—'s should there be any tracking to be done; and that is my reason for wishing “Tommy” to run the tracks some distance, say a mile or so, and then, if nothing comes of it, the fact of the men watching would not be discovered.

On the 21st the whole responsibility was thrown upon “Tommy” He was left to do the whole thing, and Constable Armstrong goes to Beechworth, instead of sending any one of his men and he remain to take the management of affairs.

I trust that on the next occasion, when anything of the kind occurs, a little better management will be shown.



Those are the instructions I issued, and that may be taken as showing the tenor of the instructions I usually issued. In my evidence this morning I said, on my return to Benalla on the 2nd of June, I saw all the agents. I wrote to a man known as “Diseased Stock,” and requested him to come to Benalla to see me. He came in about four or five days after I wrote the letter, and I had an interview with him in the office, in the presence of Mr. Sadleir. I had known him previous to my removal from the district, and I said, “Well, so-and-so, how have you been getting on?” He said, “All right.” I said, “Have you got any news? “ He said, “Well, there is no doubt that they are going to make a raid very shortly some bank.” I said, “How do you know?” He said, “I know it from various reasons.” Mr. Sadleir said then, “But have you not been telling us this for the last six or seven months?” He said, “Yes, I have, I thought they would have stuck up a bank long ago.” I said, “I hear they are going to appear in armour? “ He said, “Yes, no doubt of it.” I said, “How is it to be used?” His reply was, “They will wear it when they are robbing the bank.” I said, “Is it bullet proof?” He said, “Yes, at ten yards.” I said, “I do not believe that any armour ever made that man could carry would stand a Martini-Henry bullet at ten yards;” and he said, “Well, this is proof.” I asked if he had any reason to believe the direction, or position, or what bank they intended sticking up. He said, “No, he could not say anything on the subject.” I had a lot of other conversation, which I do not remember.....

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