Importance of Aaron Sherritt
I was a friend of Joe Byrne and a police agent. I was murdered by Joe Byrne. ' Also known as Tommy Links to the KellyGang , Early Years , First run in with the law , Fitzpatrick Incident , Stringy Bark Creek Murders , Sebastopol Cavalcade , Euroa Robbery , Jerilderie Robbery , First Cave Party , Hare replaced by Nicolson , Second Cave Party , My Death , Inquest into my death , Royal Commission , Early service , Later service , Family , Aaron's family
Mother Anne Nesbitt, Father John, Brothers and sisters Elizabeth (Bessie) 1856, John James (Jack)1858, William George 1860, Anne Jane 1862, Julia Frances 1864, Esther 1867, Mary 1869, Maria 1872, Martha 1875, Wife Ellen (Belle)
Links to the KellyGang
Early Years I was born in August 1855. My godfather was Mr JH Gray (OMA29/6/80)
I followed the style of the Greta Mob with high larrikin heel boots, sash at the waist, chin strap worn under the nose. (FH)
I was described as "..a light-looking high-shouldered man ' (RC1798).
I was 5feet 11inches tall
First run in with the law SConst Mullane though my character was bad. In 1876 Mullane and Det Ward had Joe Byrne and I convicted and sentenced to 6 months in Beechworth Goal for illegal possession of meat for which we could not account for. We were caught near Joe Byrnes place by a chap called Doig. (OMA29/6/80)
The police accused me of cutting the brand from the hide of the beast. That prevented the police from bringing the more serious charge of cattle-stealing. (RC13530)
In early 1877 I started riding with Ned Kelly and his brother Dan and other members of the Greta Mob as they moved cattle and horses back and forth from Victoria to New South Wales. My mate Joe Byrne from the Woolshed was part of the group.
At about time Const Mullane arrested me for an assault on a Chinaman, Ah On after an incident with Joe Byrne at a water hole at the Woolshed. The evidence was considered insufficient and the charges were discharged by the Supreme Court. Joe got 6 months (RC13531) (Kilmore12/8/1880)
By late 1877 early 1878 the police got too close to Ned Kelly and the rest of us. I decided to work on my selection.
Fitzpatrick Incident 15/04/1878 After this event, when the KellyGang went bush I went off and joined them for a while. Joe Byrne and I had learnt gold mining as boys and we got the others to the point where they got payable gold.
"I have the honor to report, for the information of the officer in charge, I have received information that the above-named offender, Edward Kelly, was seen about three weeks ago between the Woolshed and Sebastopol, in the Ovens district, by a Mr.-, a blacksmith at the Woolshed; he was riding and carried a gun under his arm, and had a revolver strapped on his saddle. Kelly is well known to -. If Kelly was seen there, he would be most likely making for Joe Byrne's mother's place, as she lives at the Sebastopol. I would respectfully suggest this report be forwarded to Mr. Inspector Smith for careful enquiries. Mr. - is a very respectable man, and will give every information to the police, providing it is kept secret. The person who makes the enquiry would do well to call on of the Woolshed before calling on -, as he may be able to give some information on the subject, has a good many cattle running on the common, between the Woolshed and Sebastopol, and if it was known by Byrne or Sherritt that he would give any information relative to Kelly's whereabouts, his cattle would not be safe."(RC3109)
After the Murders at Stringy Bark Creek 26/10/1878 After the KellyGang had tried to cross the River Murray they came back down our way. Perhaps Joe Byrne just wanted to see my sister. They visited me briefly on 2/11/1878 then they then headed off down to Wangaratta and out to the west. Sebastopol Cavalcade 7/11/1878 On the morning of the 7th the police arrived in force. They smashed their way into my parents home. All the officers were there Com Standish, Nicolson and Sup Sadier. See also (Argus8/11/78) (RC7988) (CHC)
Earlier that morning I had been cutting wood a little way from Mrs. Byrne's house. I had an axe on my shoulder when I first saw the police. Sadleir, Standish and Nicolson finished up talking to me. They wanted me to help them. (see RC1784 RC8872)
Eventually I did a bargain with Com Standish, in return for information about the KellyGang they would save Joe Byrne and guarantee his life. Standish said, "No doubt the Government would act upon his recommendation in the matter." (RC1801) (Argus6/7/80)
See also (JJK)
Euroa Robbery 10/12/1878 Later
I did not like Det Ward and SConst Mullane on account of their arresting me for some cattle stealing, or skinning a bullock near Beechworth, and I would not give them information. (RC12928)
The [[../../things/K_kellys/K_KellyGang.html|KellyGang]]were special people. Sup Hare said to me on one occasion, "Can the outlaws endure as you are doing." I said, "Ned Kelly would beat me into fits." "I can beat all the others; I am a better man than Joe Byrne, and I am a better man than Dan Kelly, and I am a better man than Steve Hart. I can lick those two youngsters to fits; I have always beaten Joe, but I look upon Ned Kelly as an extraordinary man; there is no man in the world like him, he is superhuman." I frequently told Hare, "You will catch Joe, Steve, and the others"; "Ned Kelly is too smart.", "Ned sends the other three a hundred yards ahead.". Hare asked 'Why do they obey him'. I said "He carried out his orders at the point of his pistol. I look upon him as invulnerable, you can do nothing with him". When the police had a row with any of the sympathizers they would always finish off by saying "I will tell Ned about you; he will make it hot for you some day," They never spoke about the others at all.(RC1282)
My first meeting with Sup Hare (FH)
Jerilderie Robbery 10/2/1879 Early in the month Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly came to visit me at my selection. By this time I was living on my own selection; mid-way between my mother Mrs. Sherritt's and Mrs.Byrne's. Joe hopped off his horse but Dan was very careful and stayed on his horse. They told me they were going over the River Murray up to Goulburn and they wanted me to come with them as a scout. Joe Byrne was riding a magnificent grey horse and Dan was on a bay.
A few days before the Jerilderie robbery, about 4/2/1879, I came down to Benalla to see Mr Standish but saw Sup Hare. I said to Hare 'I have some important information to give him, and I wish to speak to him privately.' Hare told the Royal Commission that neither he or Mr Standish had seen me since the Sebastopol Cavalcade in November 1878. I told Hare about the recent visit by Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly. He gave me £2 for coming down to give this information.(RC1270)
A mob of stolen horses or cattle would be put on my selection by the KellyGang and left there until they could conveniently be sold. When they were sold I did not get any money. This led to bickering and gradually engendered the ill feeling. (Argus2/7/80)
The Royal Commission saw this period in a different light. They concluded:
"At this period Aaron Sherritt, no doubt in the hope of securing the reward offered for the capture of the outlaws, attached himself to Mr. Hare and his party, and great reliance appears to have been placed upon his fidelity. His acquaintance with the movements of the police in all parts of the district, communicated by bush telegraphs, demonstrated his knowledge of the operations of the sympathizers, and doubtless of the movements of the gang; but he did not enable the authorities to thwart the outlaws' raid upon Jerilderie on the 10th of February 1879" (RC2ndreportX)
After the Jerilderie robbery at about 7pm on Saturday 15/2/1879 Det Ward arranged for me to meet Sup Hare and tell him about the KellyGang 's return. I told them that Dan Kelly had been to Mrs Byrnes looking for the rest of the KellyGang after he had failed to meet them at an agreed place. Det Ward and Sup Hare met me the next night near El Dorado. The intention was that we would be joined by a party of police and go off to watch Mrs Byrne's home. The other police did not turn up. I saw a fire that had been lit by the KellyGang but on further investigation it was much further away than I had expected. I spent the night watching Mrs Byrne's with Sup Hare. (RC1276)
I then persuaded Sup Hare that he should set up a search party to watch Mrs Byrne's home for visits by the KellyGang. At this time I courting one of Joe Byrne's sisters and I used to spend my evenings at Mrs Byrne's and then I spent the rest of the night with the police party (Hare) Const Arthur was with this party and he thought I was Ned Kelly's agent rather than a friend to the police (RC11104)
First Cave Party
At about this time I told Sup Hare more about the movements of his men than he knew. But I would not tell him everything. I said to him, 'No; there are certain things I will not tell; I will tell nothing against myself to convict me, although I have been in all the crimes with the Kellys for years past.' Sup Hare said it would take him a week to tell the half of what I said to him. All this time this I was faithful and true to him. He said that I was a man of most wonderful endurance. I would go night after night without sleep in the coldest nights in winter. I would be under a tree without a particle of blanket of any sort in my shirt sleeves whilst Hare's men were all lying wrapt up in furs in the middle of winter. This is an instance that occurred actually: Hare saw me one night when the water was frozen on the creeks and he was frozen to death nearly. He came down and said to me, "Where is Aaron Sherritt?" and he saw a white thing lying under a tree, and there I was without his coat. The police men were covered up with all kinds of coats and furs, and waterproof coatings, and everything else, and I was lying on the ground uncovered. Hare said, " You are mad, Aaron, lying there". I said, "I do not care about coats."(RC1281)
On an occasion through the night we heard some crackers being let off, at first they seemed like a stock-whip, and we heard some voices. The police wanted me to listen for the voices to see if I knew them. Const Barry said that as soon as I heard them I cleared away in the bush. After some search the police found me asleep in the bush (RC7774.7312).
Mrs Byrne tells the story of finding me and discovering the police party. While I went to visit her to try and patch things up I am sure she knew that I had been working for the police (RC1284) (RC7773.7306)
I used to speak so against Mrs. Byrne, and used never to visit her. If we were not friends we must have been enemies. (RC5680)
Whorouly Race meeting 3/1879
This is what Const Faulkiner told the Royal Commission about this matter, "a letter that was received by Aaron Sherritt from Joe Byrne-that he was to meet him at Whorouly races. I will tell the Commission the exact facts of the case. The letter was written in peculiar phraseology that none of us here could understand, and it had to be interpreted by Aaron Sherritt himself before we knew what it meant; but the purport of it was asking Aaron Sherritt to go over to Whorouly races-this is a small country racecourse on the Ovens-and to meet him, the writer-Joe Byrne-at a certain place, as he wanted him to ride his black mare in some hurdle race. I saw the letter, and beyond doubt it was in Byrne's handwriting, because we have seen a great many of his documents 'The reason of your doubt was that he stated that he was going to ride Byrne's racehorse, and that it was not likely they would put a thirteen-stone man on that racehorse at Whorouly?- Yes.' (RC5674) " See also (RC5312) (RC5673)
This is what Insp O'Connor told the Royal Commission about this incident
'The man, Aaron Sherritt, was employed by Mr Hare, and Mr Hare firmly believed in him. On one occasion a letter was written and sent to Aaron Sherritt from Joe Byrne, asking him to, meet the writer at Whorouly races to ride his (Joe Byrne's) horse. It told Aaron where to meet the writer. Mr Hare and several men went to the races, but Captain Standish would not allow myself and party to go. Mr Hare returned, stating that Aaron Sherritt said he could not meet the outlaws.' (RC1096)
See also (FH)
I got a house and a bit of land at the Woolshed, about six miles from Beechworth, on the El Dorado road, and is in an isolated position. It was previously occupied by Henry Grose, a selector, at present residing on the Little River: and in his absence I took possession of the premises, which were erected some ten or twelve years ago by Allan De Lacy. (OMA29/6/80)
I had been seeing a lot of Joe Byrne's sister Catherine and I gave her a horse called Charlie a few years before. Mrs Byrne went and saw my parents and accused me of spying for the police and everything. She then accused me of keeping police horses and charged me with stealing Charlie. She also stopped me from talking to Catherine. I got off the charge and many people thought that the police rigged the court in my favour. (See also RC14528) (RC12184) Mrs Ellen Byron gave evidence for me.
Letter from Joe Byrne
They wanted to arrest me. They came to my parents home. (Argus1/7/79)
Hare replaced by Nicolson 6/7/1879 Ass Com Nicolson kept me on as an agent (JJK)
Read the evidence against me. I had a few meetings with Mrs Byrne and she knew there were opolice horses in my paddock. (OMA29/7/79)
James Wallace sought to get me to get Joe Byrne to betray the other three members of the KellyGang. We had gone to school together and Joe was different from Ned and Dan Kelly. The problem was that the police could not promise that they would save Joe's life. (RC14723)
I spent most of the next day with James Wallace. (RC14773)
4/9/1879 Det Ward was at it again. This is what he reported about me on that occassion. - 'I have seen Tommy (me) this morning, and he has very little news. He gives his reasons for stopping so long at Wallace's is to try if Joe would call there, as he was expected; but he did not call; but he states that he is certain Wallace knows their whereabouts, and can find them when he likes, but he will not sell Joe Byrne. Wallace and Tommy have made an appointment to go to Chiltern on Friday evening to try to meet a person who knows where Joe can be seen.' I asked him if he would have any objection for me to be in Chiltern to see if Wallace would be there. He said, 'No; you can come, and you might then get the gold when we are in the act of selling it.' Tommy states that the gang told Wallace they would not try the Oxley bank now, as there is too many police there- two troopers every morning when the bank opens; and another drawback, the ground is too soft. They are not going to do anything until the ground gets harder; they are frightened of the black boys.
Tommy says by the description of the person who gave him the threatening letter it must be a man named Jack Fox, a particular friend of the Byrnes. He received a sentence of nine months, some six years ago, for stealing a horse from Mr. Kennedy, of the Woolshed. I am not at all satisfied with Tommy's tale. I am of opinion that he has seen Joe Byrne himself, and most likely he is the identical person who gave the letter to Jack to post, and kept out of the way until yesterday himself. However, he assures me that we will get them, and that before long. I am giving him money to go to Chiltern to keep the appointment with Wallace.
I agree with Wallace, the report is totally untrue so far as I am connected with it. (RC14791)
Late 1879 Matthew Dodd, of Beechworth was a tanner and currier. He told the Royal Commission that there were petitions in favor and against me being circulated in September 1879 (RC17590)
In November I arranged to meet Joe Byrne as I was returning back to Wangaratta. I saw him next morning and he wanted to know about the banks and which ones were being protected. I reported this to Det Ward and he told AssCom Nicolson. (RC13854)
I had a big row with my brother Jack. Once there was trouble over a saddle, and I rode to my father-in-law's place, four miles away, to see Jack about it. Jack, it appears, saw me coming, and left. There was a long chase. We were both fine horsemen, but I caught him, got a heavy heavy sapling, and laid Jack out, leaving him for dead in the road. Then I then galloped into Beechworth and rushed into Pat Allen's store. (BWC)
I had to sell my selection just before I was married. (to Mr Crawford of the Eastern Arcade who is also a large coach proprietor in Beechworth). Belle thought that I had money and I had to keep things going. We were married at St Joseph's Catholic Church Beechworth on Boxing Day 26/12/1879. Perhaps I should let my Belle tell you more about that day. (RC15365) (RC13456)
I met Pat Allen soon before I got married and he gave me the money to pay the priest. I was broke but I told people I would get a lot of money soon (BWC)
My mother in law thought that I also had problems with other members of my family. There was a side-saddle that I bought for my wife, and a gold watch. They were taken from my mother in laws place one night, when I was on duty with the police; taken from outside at the back. When I came home in the morning I blamed my brother.(RC13440) see also (RC15654)
I went to the Hurdy Gurdy at the Woolshed in January 1880 [day saddle stolen]
I lived with my mother in law for a few months after we were married before we went to live in my house.(RC13430)
Second Cave Party 12/1879-4/1880 Police were in and around my home for most of 1880. In December 1879 Ass Com Nicolson up a cave party to watch Mrs Byrne's home. The instructions the police received included if possible, we were to try to Byrne alive, to stick a handkerchief in his mouth and bring him in to Beechworth. The police were to try to capture the others if they came to the place. I was there to help the police. Const Faulkiner was introduced to people by my wife as a friend from New South Wales.(RC5251) see also(RC13855)
I mainly carried the water to the police in the cave party. (RC5569)
I had a play fight with Aaron Sherritt. My mates then held a mock court and found me guilty (BWC)
My selection and home at Sebastopol
My selection, the one I had sold to Mr Crawford, was about 107 acres and about a mile from his father's place. In the past I had been assisted in fencing it in by Joe Byrne and Ned Kelly. My holding was on the Woolshed Creek, in the county of Burgoyne. (Argus 28/6/80)
Location of my home (Argus2/8/80)
My new house was surrounded by scrub, very close to it. There is the main road running in front, perhaps ten or twelve yards in front, and between the main road and the front door stands a big tree. (RC7774.7336)
There is a thick scrub at the foot of the range, what they call the Sugarloaf. (RC3794)
The house was built out of weatherboards with slabs at each end and shingles with plaster inside. The plaster was held in place with sticks nailed on to the uprights. A bullet fired at a weatherboard would go through both sides of the house.(RC13397) (See (RC12128) (RC3645)
The chimney was made of slab, about twelve or fourteen feet to the top of it. The windows were glass. The roof was shingles. (RC3697)
I think there was a sort of clay between the uprights. The floor was covered with boards (RC12129)
There was only a stick, no locks on the door (RC4700)
The police slept the bedroom, it would be eight feet and a half or nine feet wide, by about seven and a half feet long. There was just room for two to sleep on the floor with the exception of about two feet at the foot of the bed where the provisions were stored.(RC12133)
Det Ward bought three or four yards of calico, and nailed it up to make a screen, so that if any person came they would not be seen, and gave strict instructions for them to remain in the room. (RC13882)
By the front there was a drain, two or three feet deep, about four yards from the front, and going on from the yard, about five yards from the hut, there was an embankment of about three feet, so any man going out by the front would have very likely fallen down had he escaped. (RC12192)
There were two sheds at the back and also a tree with two forks immediately at the door-in the front there were three trees quite close to it.(RC12196)
On the left of the house were diggers' holes, at the back it was scrubby, and at the right it was scrubby and diggers' holes; and there is a water-channel right before the door, perhaps two to three feet deep.(RC13028)
After selling the land I then built the hut at Sebastopol for my wife and I , about two miles away.
I had borrowed money and William Willis got a court order against me which he attempted to serve on me.(RC14044)
Det Ward immediately went to Sebastopol, saw me and told me to go at once to my mother's home?, try and pick up the tracks, and see what direction they were going, and to report that night to him. He told me that he would meet me below the Lazzarino. I did so, and I reported to Ward that I traced the footmarks of the horse in the direction of Mrs. Byrne's. (RC13858)
Nicolson then came up on the train and got off at Everton on about 30 May 1880. We started out at once by horseback to a certain paddock, about two miles from the spot where the outlaw had been seen; thence by foot to the exact place. We got the man's track, and, after following it for some distance, found it was only a man collecting cows. We then followed on to near Mrs Byrnes but it was Patsey and not Joe Byrne. (RC1110) (RC13860)
Nicolson replaced by Hare 2/6/1880 When Ass Com Nicolson left Benalla he sacked me but I knew that the police could not do without me. Nicolson paid me from his own pocket (RC1623) At Sup Hare's request Det Ward invited me back. I thought that Hare had a better chance of success. (RC13768)
9 June 1880
I agreed for the police to stay in my house. My job was to take the police over to watch Mrs Byrne's place each night. (RC4688)
Det Ward's instructions to Const Armstrong were to go to this hut, to secrete themselves there in the room during the day, and between eight and nine o'clock at night to go down to Mrs. Byrne's house, and there watch till a little before daylight in the morning; to be back in the hut before daylight, and to keep themselves quiet during the day. He bought calico for the door and blinds for the window, in order to have them not seen. (RC14160)
See also (JJK)
The owner of my hut came about 11 o'clock one morning. He was a foreigner, and he ordered me to clear out. I would not give up possession; then the man said he would go and get the police. He was the original owner of the hut. I took forcible possession of it. While he was there I had a run in with the police officers in the place who did not want any trouble. Const Armstrong even said, "For God's sake bring the man back here; he will turn us out and we shall be discovered." In the end Const Alexander lent me the money to pay for the house.
About this time I got some threatening letters and I thought that they might come for me in the bush some where but I never thought that they would come for me at home. (RC13226)
I believed that the police watch party was kept up at my home to show the police were doing something. (RC12113)
One of my brothers used to stay with us. (RC13381)
About 2am on the morning of 21 June Paddy Byrne came for a ride very close to where the police were watching his mother's home. Two or three days afterwards he came round to the back of my place, and took stock of the place. (RC4721)
On about 24/6/1880 I went into Beechworth and had a few drinks. Ian Jones in his book 'The Friendship that destroyed Ned Kelly' tells a story about a hotel called The Vine and a lady called Maggie who was Joe Byrne's girl. Perhaps he's right. I don't know.
I told Const Armstrong that the KellyGang were in the ranges between the Rose River and Gippsland, and that there was a fifth man, unknown to the police, supplying them with provisions. They may come round here once in three months, or they may not come. I have seen or known nothing of them since they passed on the way to Jerilderie. I was talking to Joe Byrne and Steve Hart then;" and it is also Armstrong's opinion that they never trusted me after I refused to go to Jerilderie.
At about this time Armstrong asked me why I lied to Ass Com Hare and the senior police officers? I said, "Well, I must use a little policy. I am as true as you are; I am just working for the pay I am getting for my wife; I am as true as you are. I would take some other calling if I were dismissed from the service of the police. I am getting 7s. a day."(RC12200)
The Royal Commission reviewed the conduct of the police search party and in part concluded 'Whatever suspicions there may have been engendered in the minds of the outlaws as regards Aaron Sherritt's treachery towards them previously, the fact of his harboring the police in his hut was sufficient to seal his doom' (RC2nd reportXIV)
On the afternoon after I was shot my home filled with over 100 people who were interested to see what happened. (RC13368)
Inquest into my death Mr Foster came out and saw the scene the day after I died.
While Mr Foster was there, one of the constables stooped down and pointed to the left eye of my corpse and said, "That is where he got his death wound." Mr Foster learned at the inquest that I received two shots; one entered just above the collar bone and passed backwards through my body, the other went in just above the navel and broke two ribs and went through my kidney. Mr Foster took that to be the second shot, and I fell back then. I had no wound in the head at all, but it looked just as if that was where I had been shot, as my head was covered with blood. (RC13363) See also (MDTel29/6/80) (Argus29/6/80) (OMA29/6/80)(MDTel1/7/80) (OMA1/7/80) (Argus2/7/80)
The magisterial inquiry was held into my death was held on 28 and 30 June 1880 at Beechworth police court before Mr Foster , PM, and a jury consisting of George Dennett, Groom of Ford Street, William Newson, Patrick Allen (foremen), Michael Dodd, Saddler of Food Street, Joseph Wertheim Publican, Ralph Hall, [[../peH_J/IngramJ.html|James Ingram]] Booksellers & Stationers of Camp Street John Nerastis, Samuel Broadfoot, Tailor of Holmes Creek, Louis L Sanderson, James Ward and William Murdoch. Before this my body was stored at the The Vine hotel. There Anton Weekes identified my body and William Dobbyn performed a post mortem on me (Age1/7/80) (FH)
My mother in law and wife gave evidence of the night when my friend Joe Byrne came to my home and shot me. They also told the court about the police dealt with them and pushed them under the bed. Anton Weekes told the jury how he met up with Joe Byrne. Const Armsrtong told the story from the police side. This was supported by evidence from Const Alexander.
At the end of all this evidence the jury said they were quite satisfied as to the cause of my death. One of the jury stated that in his opinion the surviving member of the gang ought to be present when the verdict was given. Mr Foster said he could not adjourn the inquiiry for that purpose.
The following verdict was returned:- 'That the deceased Aaron Sherritt, in the colony of Victoria, on the 26th day of June 1880, from gunshot wounds, received of Joseph Byrne, and that such wounds were inflicted by the said Joseph Byrne on the said Aaron Sherritt, with intent to kill the said Aaron Sherritt, thereby feloniously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought to kill and murder; and that Daniel Kelly aided and abetted the said Joseph Byrne in the murder of the said Aaron Sherritt.' After the jury had been discharged the foreman mentioned to several person within the court that there were eleven in favour of adding a rider in favour of adding a rider to the effect that the police did all that could be expected of them under the circumstances.(Age 1/7/80) (Argus29/6/80)
See what happened to Patrick Allen's statement about the police (OMA6/7/80)
Later My wife had to sell my house at the Woolshed, which has subsequently been dismantled, and only get £1 for it. (OMA26/4/81)
The Royal Commission visited the site of my house, where I was murdered (Argus22/7/81)
What happened to the Sherritt family My wife lost our child and she remaried KellyGang