The Age (26)

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see previous Inspector O’Connor, whilst this was done resided in the trench in front of the house. A short interval of silence ensued during which Mr Stainstreet, the station master, left the hotel. He walked boldly from the building and declared who he was, not a shot was fired. When he got amongst the police he described the position in which the prisoners were. The most of them were in the parlour, he said whilst a few were in the end of the kitchen. They were nearly all lying on their faces on the floor in the centre of the house several shots in rapid succession from the centre of the house again attracted the fire of the police, and the women and children came out with the wounded boy. They were permitted to escape, but when Reardon senior, and Reardon junior appeared that were fired at and retreated. It was then that young Reardon was shot; but prior to that the police had called upon innocent people to remain inside until daylight. They also advised them to lie down. After that it was only the fire of the gang which provoked a reply from the police. A couple of shots from inside about five o’clock in the morning caused the police to fire a volley into the hotel in the direction of the flashes, and it was just about that time, according to Mr Mortimer’s statement, that Byrne was shot. One thing is certain, that from about half past five o’clock the firing from the hotel was less frequent, with the exception of the time when Ned Kelly made his appearance and fought the police. The shooting from the hut then became pretty sharp, but when the leader of the gang was subdued the firing from the hotel again died away. Kelly, as has been already explained, was wounded at the outset of the fight; and if the statements made by the three persons whose names are withheld by the police be true, he entered the hotel after the first volley, and having shot old Martin Cherry, he walked out of the back door and left before the police had time to surround the house.

At intervals during the night a ringing noise was heard inside the hotel, and this it is believed was a signal for Ned Kelly, as when fighting in the morning Kelly made a similar noise with the handle of a revolver upon his armour, and at the same time called upon his mates to come out. During the encounter Kelly was very deliberate in his movements, and on all occasions before shooting he took steady aim. It was his left arm which was injured, and with the other he was evidently able to load the revolver. He was engaged loading when he was shot in the right hand by Senior constable Kelly, and disabled, as after that it was plain he could not raise the revolver to take proper aim.

Frequently after Ned Kelly’s downfall the police called out, ‘All innocent people in the hotel come out by one and you will not be injured.’ But it was not until ten o’clock that the prisoners came out. When they did they rushed out in a body, and no shots were fired until they had given their names and had passed on to the station. They were questioned as to the position of Dan Kelly and Hart, and all stories given were to the effect that the outlaws were in a room about the centre of the house. They said that Martin Cherry was lying in the back portion of the kitchen badly wounded, some of them expressed the opinion that he was dying. A very brisk fire was then directed by the police into the front part of the building, and occasionally shots were fired from the hotel. These were single shots generally, and frequently there was an interval of ten minutes between them. The last shots from the hotel were fired about one o’clock . At that time the side of the house opposite to where the bodies were subsequently found, was riddled with holes. The firing from the hotel having ceased, the police also stopped firing.

On several occasions many of the men volunteered their services to rush the house, but Superintendent Sadleir stating that it was his desire to capture the outlaws, without further loss of life. To do that seemed to be a difficult matter. It was still believed that Hart and Byrne were alive and waiting for evening when they said …….. their escape. It was then that Mr Sadleir determine to set fire to the house to drive the bushranger from cover. Before doing so a heavy valley was poured into the hotel, and Senior constable Johnson set fire to the building by means of a bundle of straw, well oiled. The set was, ‘very! Plucky, but the prospect of Cherry, an innocent man, perishing in the flames, seemed horrible to contemplate. Father Gibney bravely entered the building to rescue him; and Constable Armstrong, with others who had taken up a position near the hotel, rushed up to his assistance, and Cherry was brought out, but he only lived a few minutes. Byrne’s body was rescued, but the remains of Hart and Daniel Kelly were left in the burning house. Father Gibney states that when he passed through the hotel they were dead, but whether they committed suicide or were killed by the police will never be known. They were certainly alive for several hours after the prisoners escaped. Reardon is the prisoner who expressed the opinion that they committed, suicide, but his only reason for making the statement is that after Byrne was killed the other two appeared dejected and went into the inner room. Hart then said to Dan Kelly, ‘What will we do?’ and met with the reply, ‘I will tell you directly.’ The fact that they had cast some of their armour aside before death may be accounted for by the fact that its great weight must have rendered them tired.

The following are the names of the police who took part in the action. First batch, from Benalla: Superintendent Hare, Senior constable Kelly and Constables Barry, Canny, Arthur, Phillips, Gascoigne and Kirkham, Inspector O’Connor and the trackers Hero, Jimmy, Jack, Johnny and Barney. Second party from Benalla: Superintendent Sadleir, Sergeant Whelan, Senior constable Smyth and Constables Milne, Wilson, Wallace, Graham, Kelly, Strelord, Ryan, Riley, Hewitt; and the two trackers Moses and Spider. Party from Wangaratta: Sergeant Steele and Constables Monteford, Moore , Dixon , Dwyer, Walsh, Cawsey and Healy. Party from Violet Town : Senior constable Johnson and Constable Meehan, Slow and M’Donald. Beechworth party: Senior constable Mullane, and Constable Mullane, and Constables Alexander (2), M’Coll, Duross, Dowling, Armstrong, Glenny, Wickham, M’Hugh and Major. Constable Falkiner, who was not present at the fight, is spoken of by his comrades as having done useful work for the police in the ranges, where he has for the past few weeks been exposed to considerable danger.


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