The Argus at KellyGang 8/7/1880 (3)
The Argus continued with its report of the KellyGang at Glenrowan
At about 6 o’clock in the evening the gang reached the spot. The hut was found to be occupied, as the Kellys had anticipated, by a small body of police, besides the object of their search. Keeping in the background, and at a safe distance from the hut themselves, the Kellys sent a man whom they had forced to accompany them and to assist in the execution of their designs, to the door of the hut. He knocked at the door. Sherritt opened it, and said, “Who is here?” The man replied, “I have lost my way. Can you put me on the right track for Sebastopol?” Mrs Aaron Sherritt told her husband to go out and direct the man. He accordingly went out, and found that the man was Antonio Wicks, a digger, and that he was handcuffed. Joe Byrne stood behind Wicks, and the moment Sherritt stepped forward Byrne shot him through the eye. Sherritt staggered backwards, and then received another bullet in the chest. The murderer, prior to firing, exclaimed, “You’ll not blow what you will do to us any more.” Sherritt died instantly. The gang promptly retired behind trees at a little distance from the hut, and called out to the police, “Come out of that, you —— dogs, and surrender.”
The police declared that they would die before they would surrender, and the gang, threatening to burn the house and roast them inside, fired a volley at the hut, and subsequently endeavoured to set fire to it. The shots fired had no effect, and the police escaped injury. The outlaws remained in the immediate vicinity for some hours, and the police meanwhile acted entirely on the defensive, and made no attempt to fire at or rush out upon the gang. The reason given for their inactivity was that the night was dark, while there was a bright fire burning within the hut, so that while the bushrangers were out of sight the constables could not appear at the door or window without being seen and shot. The victim of this cold-blooded murder was a young man of somewhat shady antecedents. His father, John Sherritt, an ex-policeman, is a selector, and resides at Sebastopol. The deceased man had a selection of 107 acres about a mile from his fathers place, and it is noteworthy that he was assisted in fencing it in by Joe Byrne and Ned Kelly. He was about 24 years of age, of robust health, and was noted as a runner and jumper.
His holding was on the Woolshed Creek, in the county of Burgoyne, and about two months ago he sold it. After selling the land he built a hut at Sebastopol, about two miles away, and it is there that he was shot. The constables in the hut were four in number, namely, Constables Armstrong, Alexander, Duross, and Dowling, and there were also in the house with them Mrs Sherritt, widow of the deceased, and Mrs Barry, her mother.
Constable Armstrong gives the following account of the action of the police:―”Our instructions were to remain in the room in Sherritt’s house during the day. At about 6 o’clock I heard a knock at the door, and a voice saying, “Come out, Sherritt; I have lost my way.” I then heard a shot, and immediately after another, and I said, “Take your arms, boys; the Kellys are here.’ Our arms consisted of double-barrelled guns and revolvers. The guns were loaded with swan-shot wire cartridges. I then heard Mrs Barry say, “Aaron is shot.” I went to the front window and knelt on the bed to fire out, but I could see nothing but darkness. A bullet then passed from the front quite close to my head. Several shots were then fired. I then heard a voice outside say, “Come out and surrender, or we’ll roast you.’ We all replied ‘We’ll die first.’ I then went to the front door, and went to fire in the direction I heard some voices, but Mrs Barry and Mrs Sherritt were in the way, and I could not fire. I then said, ‘Boys, come and let us break portholes.’ We tried but could not succeed. I then said, ‘Men, have you got any suggestions to make; our conduct will be severely commented upon in this matter if we don’t make a bold fight.’ I said, ‘We’ll rush them, are you game to follow?’ I asked each man separately, and he replied, ‘Yes.’ We then decided to wait for a better chance, thinking they might try to rush us, being the attacking party, and thinking also that we might get a shot at them when the light was extinguished. We remained quiet for some time, and the candle went out. I then closed both doors. We looked out then to fire.
We heard voices, but could see no one. There was talking at intervals up to about daylight. When it got light, another constable and I went round the house, and found they had left.” At the inquest held on the body of Sherritt at Beechworth on the 31st ult., the above facts were elicited, and the jury returned a verdict to the effect that Aaron Sherritt died from wounds received by him at the hands of Joseph Byrne, that the wounds were inflicted by Byrne with intent to wilfully and maliciously murder Aaron Sherritt, and that Daniel Kelly aided and abetted Byrne in the murder. While 11 of the 12 jurymen were in favour of adding a rider expressing the opinion that the police had done everything in their power under the circumstances.
Intelligence of the cold-blooded murder of Sherritt at Sebastopol was at once communicated to the police authorities at Beechworth and at Melbourne. In Melbourne, the news created the greatest excitement, and fired the authorities with a determination to leave no stone unturned to prevent the outlaws from again escaping.
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