Royal Commission report day 19 page 50

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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'

7261 Yes?— They ran as fast as ever they could up to the hotel.

7262 When the priest came out?— Yes, when the priest came out; they pulled out the body of Byrne and then got Martin Cherry.

7263 But the place was on fire at the time?— Yes.

7264 And they ran in while the place was on fire?— It was as much as you could do to get in when we got up to it, with the smoke and fire through the house.

7265 You could not get the other bodies out?— No, it was impossible to get in at that time.

7266 What distance were you from the hotel when the priest entered?— About twenty yards.

7267 Were you as near the hotel as any of the police?— I was.

7268 None of the police were nearer than you were?— No, but we were all closing in on the hotel.

7269 You were at that distance when the priest came out?— Yes; we were not that distance when he went up first.

7270 How far then?— Thirty yards, I daresay, the nearest then.

7271 Arrangements were made for your protection at the time you went up to the building to set fire to it?— A body of police were to cover me while I went on foot.

7272 Did they fire at all while you went up?— Yes.

7273 And they protected you while you approached the building to fire it?— Yes.

7274 How far were they off when they were firing?— I think Mr. Sadleir was the nearest, I should think thirty yards away. He took up a position to watch the back between the two buildings, so that he had a good view if they came out at the back.

7275 Was he directing the men in the firing?— He was.

7276 Did you hear any orders he gave?— Yes.

7277 What?— They slackened the firing, and I heard him sing out, “Keep up the firing,” when I was going towards the building.

7278 Did you hear of any civilians offering to rush the place?— I did not.

7279 If you were left to yourself would you have rushed the place sooner?— I would have rushed the place, undoubtedly, sooner.

7280 Along with the other men?— Yes.

7281 Could you go from the main building to this place where Cherry's body was lying without going through the place; was it entirely detached?— Yes, there might be three feet or more between the detached building and the dwelling-house.

7282 You did not know how Cherry had got into that?— No.

7283 Suppose the outlaws had been alive, do you not think they could have escaped into the shed behind when the fire came?— They could.

7284 By Mr. Sadleir— Did not that take fire afterwards?— Yes.

7285 They would have had to come out of that afterwards?— They would have had to come out of that afterwards.

7286 By the Commission— Could they have got in without exposing themselves to the fire of the police?— Not very well; Mr. Sadleir would have seen them from his position, passing from the passage to the other building, and on the other side there were other men.

7287 By Mr. Sadleir— That shed took fire afterwards?— Yes, after Cherry's body was removed.

7288 By the Commission— From all points were the police sheltered, or were some exposed?— Some were exposed; I saw Constable Dwyer standing down near the railway fence without cover.

7289 How many were exposed within a distance of thirty yards?— I saw Dwyer once.

7290 Within a distance of thirty yards, exposed to shots such as those men were reputed to be, do you not think a man would be certain to have his life in danger as much as he would by rushing the building?— Had the outlaws been out of armour and free from drink he would, but I do not think they could do it in armour.

7291 You think they were prevented from shooting straight by the weight of armour?— Yes, they could not get proper sight by the weight of armour.

7292 In that case would not the danger have been much less in rushing while they had the armour than while they had not?— I think that it would have been safer to rush them with the armour on than off.

7293 Did you get that impression at the time or since?— That was not my opinion at the time, because until I got on the ground I never knew they had armour.

7294 How soon after you arrived did you discover that?— Shortly after I got on the ground, I was taken in and shown Ned Kelly's armour.....

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