Royal Commission report day 19 page 47

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The Royal Commission evidence for 13/5/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 19)

'SConst Charles Johnston giving evidence'

7182 Did the police follow the priest up or remain till he came out?— They were closing on the building as the priest went up. The priest went in at the front door and came out at the back, having gone right through the passage. The police at this time were closing on the building.

7183 Not rushing?— Not rushing, closing up.

7184 Did you see the motions of the priest as he came out?— Yes; he said, “They are all dead.”

7185 And then?— Then the rush was made up to the house.

7186 To bring out the bodies?— To bring out the bodies.

7187 Was Cherry injured at all by the fire?— No, not at all. Cherry in the detached kitchen.

7188 And of course it did not matter for Byrne?— He was not injured; the other two were charred.

7189 Did you notice the position of the bodies as they lay, the two that were charred?— I did.

7190 Had they got the armour on?— No; neither.

7191 Was the armour laid on one side?— The armour was lying about a foot and a half from each of them. I might explain the room they were in. There was a double bed in it, and as soon as the fire had burnt down the bed so that I could get to see them, I got a pile of brick and timber away from the wall, and got out the bed; then I saw the bodies, and the manner in which they were lying.

7192 It struck you then, I presume from what you say, that they had not their armour on when they died?— No, they had not.

7193 Because even though the upper portion of the armour might be disturbed and put away from the body the portion they were lying on would surely be under the body?— The helmet and body-pieces and all were lying alongside.

7194 Not on?— No.

7195 Could not have been on?— Could not have been on.

7196 Did they present the appearance of having murdered one another?— No, I do not think they did.

7197 Could you account for their lying together?— They appeared to me to have laid down in one another’s arms—the left arm of one of them was not so much burnt as the right, that is, it appeared to be underneath the other.

7198 Then the impression on your mind was they did not shoot one another, but they had been wounded and lay down to die?— And been suffocated—that they were under the influence of drink and were suffocated.

7199 And not shot at all?— I do not believe they were shot.

7200 Did you see Mr. O'Connor during the time you were there?— Only once during the day, when I went to speak to Mr. Sadleir, about half-past two, about setting fire to the place.

7201 Where were Mr. Sadleir and Mr. O'Connor then?— They were on the north side of the building, about fifty yards from the railway fence.

7202 How far from the house?— About, I daresay, over fifty yards from the hotel.

7203 That is to say on the Wangaratta side?— On the Wangaratta side.

7204 Did you receive any instructions after you came, other than those that you mentioned, from Mr. Sadleir when you arrived?— I did not.

7205 Did you see the officers visiting the men?— I saw Mr. Sadleir go about among the men.

7206 You did not see Mr. O'Connor?— I did not, only once.

7207 You would have known him?—Oh, yes.

7208 Were the two officers standing out in the open when you saw them?— No, Mr. O'Connor was standing with his back against a tree, with his back towards the building, and I think it was the Argus newspaper he was reading, and Mr. Sadleir was standing in front of him, the tree sheltered them both.

7209 Do you think the place could have been taken much sooner without great risk?— I think if we had been allowed to rush the place we might have got them.....

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