Ovens & Murray Advertiser (14)

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The belief entertained of late by many persons that the Kelly gang of outlaws, comprising Edward Kelly, his brother Daniel, Joseph Byrne, and Stephen Hart—had not left the district has been confirmed by the intelligence, which threw the residents of Beechworth and its vicinity into a state of great consternation, received at half-past one o’clock on Sunday afternoon, to the effect that Aaron Sherritt, who is well known in this district, had been shot dead in his house at the Woolshed the previous evening. Constable Armstrong was the bearer of the news; and the general impression was that the perpetrator of the foul deed could be none other than a member of the Kelly gang, who have eluded the vigilance of the police for the past two years and have enjoyed an immunity from capture astonishing in the extreme and their being brought to justice for the many fell crimes committed by them was looked upon by not a few as a consummation devoutly to be wished, but not to be fulfilled.

The facts of the affair above alluded to are as follows:- At about six o’clock on Saturday evening a knock was heard at the back door of a weatherboard house with shingled roof, occupied at the time by the deceased and Constables Armstrong, Alexander, Dowling and Duross, who had been for the past few days told off for the special duty of watching the residence of Mrs Byrne (the mother of one of the outlaws), where it was considered likely that the gang might at any moment call, and, as it now appears, they were, with the object in view, acting very wisely.

The house in question is situated 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 Sherritt took possession of the premises, which were erected some ten or twelve years ago by Allan De Lacy.

The unfortunate deceased; who incurred the enmity of the outlaws by the assistance he rendered the police in the pursuit of four of the most bloodthirsty young villains that have, perhaps, disgraced the history of the colony; formerly held a selection of 107 acres at Sheep Station Creek, in the fencing of which he was, it is noteworthy fact, assisted by Joe Byrne. Mr Hiram A Crawford, coach proprietor, of Beechworth, afterwards purchased the land.

The victim of personal enmity was but five and twenty years of age, and his father, John Sherritt, a hardworking selector on the creek above mentioned and was some time since a member of the police force. Aaron, not later than Boxing Day last, married a daughter of Mr Edmund Barry, a labourer residing at the Woolshed: and much sympathy is naturally felt for the youthful bereaved widow. It were better, perhaps, had the “dead past should be allowed to bury its dead” in such a matter as this, and, in speaking of deceased, refer as softly as possible to any faults of which he may have been guilty during his life.

But to show the intimacy which existed between him and Joe Byrne (as he was familiarly known) we may mention that after the latter’s father died, many years ago, they were inseparable companions; so much so we are informed, that whenever Mrs Byrne was applied to by her son for anything he might happen to require, her invariable answer to the request would be: “You had better get it from Aaron Sherritt, as you and he are such great chums.”

About two and a half, or three years ago, Sherritt and Byrne were discovered near the latter’s residence by a man named Doig killing a beast, for the ownership of which neither could satisfactorily account, which led to their arrest on a charge of cattle-stealing, conviction, and subsequent sentence of six months’ imprisonment—the penalty being light, as the ownership of the beast could not be proved. Since that time, however, Sherritt (to whom we are given to understand, the late Mr JH Gray stood godfather) has led an apparently honest life; while the evil associations which young Byrne contracted had a contaminating influence upon his mind, and he was induced to join a band of youthful banditti, whose hands were against every man when they felt so disposed; and against whom, of a certainty, every respectable man’s hand has been held since October, 1878.


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