Royal Commission report day 24 page 17

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The Royal Commission evidence for 1/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 24)

Const James Dwyer giving evidence

9526 Did Montfort you that?— He told us that Mr. Sadleir would not sanction it. The outlaws came to the front at this time and fired at us. They would fire a shot and then they might be half an hour before they would fire again.

9527 What time was this?— I saw them at half-past two coming from the back kitchen and going to the dwelling house.

9528 How many?— Two; one walked after the other. Constable Welsh of Wangaratta was with me at the time, and I said, “There they go, do you see them?”

9529 Where was the last shot fired - from what portion of the hotel that you saw?— The north window of the hotel, near the chimney.

9530 Facing the front?— Yes.

9531 At what time?— It would be about half - past two.

9532 At what time did you see them at the back?— Half-past two.

9533 Did you see them at both places at the same time?— I saw them pass from the back to the front, and I left that position and went down to where Armstrong and Montfort were, behind the tree, twenty-five yards from the house. I remained there half an hour before I did volunteer to Mr. Sadleir; and at that place Armstrong said that be had volunteered; and he said, “Will you back me up?” he is a brave constable, I know his courage. We fired bullet after bullet in at them, and we heard the heavy thud of one of them falling, like the rattle of the armour on the ground. I said, “There is one of them shot”; and I called out as loud as I could “There is one of them inside shot,” addressing the group of civilians at the station. I think Montfort went up and told Mr. Sadleir that one of them was shot inside.

9534 How far were you from the house then?— Twenty or twenty-five yards at the tree at the north of the chimney; and the four of us there heard it as plain as if the armour was thrown upon these boards.

9535 Did you see Senior-Constable Johnson?— Yes.

9536 About what time?— At four o'clock .

9537 Did you see him before that?— Yes, when he arrived and after

9538 Did you see him when you proposed to rush the place?— Yes, and a long time before that.

9539 Where was he stationed at the time you saw the outlaws–at the back of the hotel?— I could not tell, but at the time he set fire he was at the Benalla side. Half an hour after this heavy thud we heard another thud, and Constable Dixon, “That is another shot.” That was about an hour before the fire was put to it. And a short time after that Mrs. Skillian rode down to the fence by us; and Montfort said, “Go back, Mrs. Skillian, you cannot come in here.” She had come down from the bush, and arrived on the scene and rode to the fence, and we all looked at her. She replied in a very low obscene expression, and turned her horse and went up to Mrs. McDonald’s house and came down on foot, and walked towards Mr. Sadleir, on the Benalla side, with Mr. O'Connor and other parties. What passed between them I cannot say. About five minutes after her appearing, Johnson came up and set fire to it. I saw him coming up with straw lit and setting fire. The priest, when the house was burning, came down and took off his hat, and blessed himself, going into the door; and he said, putting up his hands in this position -[holding up his hands]– “In the name of God, men, will you let me hear your confession?” addressing the outlaws in the house. I heard him say that as he entered the door of the hotel. He passed in and out of the back, and said, “Come up, men, these men are all dead,” addressing us at the tree. The four of us ran up, and Constable Armstrong and I took Joe Byrne, who was at the far end in the passage. I took Joe Byrne by the shoulders, and Armstrong by the feet, and lifted him out. At the door Mr. Sadleir, Mr. O'Connor, and others met us, and the priest, in the crowd, said, “Go back, constables, the other two men are on the beds.” We dropped Byrne and went back to the passage. The blaze of fire was coming and we put up our hands. Steve Hart had his feet up on the bed. He was burning down to here–[pointing to his waist]–and his feet were on the bed, and his hands in that position–[indicating the same]; and his face all burnt and his blood was passing and frizzling like a steak in a pan. Looking again to the left of us, the north end near the chimney, Dan Kelly was lying in the position–[indicating the same]. The left knee was crippled and his hand outstretched. His helmet was off; he had the armour on–the breast-plate; and on his neck and thighs and hand there was blood. I knew him to be Dan Kelly from the low forehead, and the description of them, and that the other must be Steve Hart.....

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