Royal Commission report day 33 page 3

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The Royal Commission evidence for 28/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 33)

The Reverend Matthew Gibney giving evidence

12311 Did you go in at the front door?— I was then close down to the gate at the railway crossing and I started from there direct for the front of the house. I think I might be about half the distance between where I started from and the house when I was called to. I was told afterwards it was Mr. Sadleir who called to me not to go there without orders, without consulting him–that I should not go there without consulting him.

12312 You were told afterwards it was Mr. Sadleir?— Yes; so I stopped then a few moments, and stepped towards him, perhaps two or three paces, to remonstrate with him. I said something to this effect, “I am not in the police service, I am going on my duty, and there is no time to lose.” So he did not interfere with me further, and I walked on. As I was going on towards the house there was a large number of people about. I am not a very good judge of numbers that way, but I thought there could not be less than 500 or 600 people.

12313 Then they were collected from all parts of the country about?— They were coming in from various directions.

12314 Did you see the two young men when you went in?— When I was going up towards the house the excitement of the people was very great, and they clapped hands as if I was going on a stage; their excitement was high at the time. I went in then on what I think was the room on the right hand side, and it was quite vacant or empty. It was the other end of the house the fire was set to, and then when I came inside I called out to the men that I was a Catholic priest, and came to offer them their life, and asked them for God's sake to speak to me. I got no answer of course, but I thought to myself that they might be on their guard, watching to see whether I was what I said I was. Then I found first the body of Byrne. There was a door leading out of this room towards the door. His body was lying there where he had fallen in a straggled kind of way he seemed to have fallen on his back, like on his hip. He must have died soon, because he was just in the same position as he fell; he was still lying, and his body quite stiff.

12315 Did you see him fall?— No, he had fallen in the morning. I heard when I came there that he was shot, and that he could not have lived long after he fell. When I found this man's body, that part of the house was blazing furiously just before me. I did not think that I would go in then if I got any other passage around, so I went into another back room that was off the one I entered first, and there was no exit out of that–no door–so I had to come back to the same spot again, and the place was blazing considerably. I was afraid at the time that I might be caught with the flame; I just blessed myself in the name of God and rushed through. Then when I came in that passage down from the bar towards the back of the house there was a little room to the left hand, and I spoke again to the men inside. I got no answer, of course, and I looked in upon the floor and found the two corpses lying together.

12316 Both dead?— Both dead. The room was small.

12317 At the time you saw the two corpses lying in that room, had the fire taken sufficient hold of the building to have destroyed those two corpses by fire, or are you under the impression they were dead prior to the fire?— Oh ! I am certain they were dead. —

12318 But we want your own impression whether their death was caused by the fire, suffocation, or any other means?— My impression is that they certainly were not killed by the fire–were not suffocated by the heat of the fire. I myself went in there, and stopped there safely, and just when I came into their presence they were very composed looking, both lying at full stretch, side by side, and bags rolled up under their heads, the armour on one side of them off. I concluded they lay in that position to let the police see when they found them that it was not by the police they died; that was my own conclusion.

12319 You concluded they committed suicide?— Yes, that is my own belief.

12320 At the present time?— Yes, I took hold of the hand of the one that was near me to see whether or not they had recently killed themselves–whether there was life in them, and I found it was quite lifeless. Then I looked at his eyes, and I found that his eyes showed unmistakable signs that he was dead for some time; and then I went to the other to touch him. I satisfied myself that life was completely extinct in both of them before I left, and at that time this little room they were in the fire was just running through it. I saw that the roof itself was sufficiently safe, that I was in no immediate danger. It was very hot, hut still I saw I was not in any immediate danger of being caught.

12321 At the time that you entered the little room at the back of the building where the two corpses were lying, had the two men been living, there was sufficient time for them to have escaped with heir lives from the fire?— Oh yes, there was if there had been life in either of them. I would have had them out myself, and I was perfectly satisfied that they would be taken out. I looked upon it that my own purpose was realized, that I had satisfied myself that what I came to do was over, that it was too late, and then I said I would give word to the police of course as soon as I found how they were. I walked out the back of the house, that was the nearest way then, and called out to the police that the men were all dead inside.

12322 Did they rush to the building then?— There came two or three running up very soon after. The first man, I suppose he was a policeman, that came up, it appeared to me he was determined to have a shot into one of them. That was just the impression I had at the moment.....

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