Royal Commission report day 26 page 14

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The Royal Commission evidence for 7/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 26)

Mr John McWhirter giving evidence

10313 On the inside?— On the inside of the hotel—called out in a very loud voice.

10314 Was that immediately after the first volley?— Immediately after the first volley, and the order had been given to stop firing. I heard also, immediately after the outlaw had spoken, the cries of women inside. It was very hard to guess the time on an occasion like that, but I should say in about ten minutes Mr. Hare came back to the platform. His leg was drenched with blood, and he asked us to tie something round tight wound in his wrist. I removed his overcoat and Mr. Carrington bound up the wound with a silk pocket handkerchief. This occupied some little time, and Mr. Carrington was assisted by the other members of the press, Messrs. Allen, Melvin, and myself. Mr. Rawlins, during this time, was holding Mr. Hare's gun, and when the wound had been tied up, Mr. Hare asked Mr. Rawlins for the gun. Mr. Rawlins said, “Surely you are not going back, let me have the gun.” Mr. Hare replied, “I am going back”, and I advised him that he had better remain where he was for a short time. He took no notice, but walked off in the direction of the hotel, taking the gun with him. He was away some little time, about five minutes I should think, and returned again; when I saw him coming towards the railway station he was staggering like a drunken man. I ran up to him and gave him my arm, and we assisted him into the railway carriage, he was then in a fainting condition, and we gave him some sherry which the ladies had. I advised him that he had better return to Benalla, and have his wound attended to by the doctor; that by doing so he could send more men from Benalla, and could himself return with them if necessary; after his wound had been dressed by the doctor. After a little persuasion he consented to do that, and I ran to the engine driver to tell him to go back to Benalla with Mr. Hare, and to assist Mr. Hare in rousing the men at the police barracks as quickly as possible. The engine driver seemed to misunderstand what was said to him, as he proceeded down the line a short distance and then ran rapidly past the station without taking Mr. Hare with him, and went on to Benalla. I then asked the driver of the second train to take Mr. Hare, and Mr. Hare got into the engine and was taken back. Before leaving, I spoke to the engine driver, telling him not to forget to bring back the doctor, and one or two things of that sort.

10315 Was it long after the first engine started that the second engine went?— I think about five minutes between the two engines.

10316 Not more?— I think not, five or ten minutes, just a safe distance.

10317 The engine was ready to start as soon as it could safely?— Yes. I should have stated that on going back to the station the first time I saw Constable Bracken, and he was then in a very excited condition, running about the verandah posts saying he had escaped death. I learned from him he had been made a prisoner in the house, and that there were about thirty more prisoners there. He suddenly disappeared from the platform, and a minute or two afterwards I heard him ride rapidly down the line on one of the police horses in the direction of Benalla. After the departure of Mr. Hare I think Mr. Stanistreet, the station master, came out of the hotel. I heard him challenged by the police, and heard him say, “ Stanistreet, station master.” He was questioned as to who were in the house, and he said about thirty or forty prisoners; that they were lying on their faces. I think it was in the front room he said.

10318 Who questioned him?— I believe it was Senior Constable Kelly. He said that Mrs. Jones's daughter and son had been wounded. There was very little firing done for some time afterwards. Senior Constable Kelly at once started to take the men round the house, and placed them at intervals. About twenty minutes, I should think, after Mr. Hare had left, Senior Constable Kelly returned to the station quickly, carrying with him a rifle stained with blood and wearing a skull cap. He told us he had found the rifle in the bush at the Wangaratta side of the hotel, and he feared one of the outlaws had escaped, and the ground was stained with blood near there, and he asked what was best to be done under the circumstances. We (when I say “we” I mean the members of the press) advised him that he could do nothing till daylight, and as the man was evidently wounded the black trackers would have very little difficulty in tracing him. Constable Phillips came up at that moment and stated that he had beard that all of the outlaws were in the place. Mrs. Reardon, soon after that, came outside and began to scream; Mrs. Jones was also screaming and cursing the police.

10319 For what?— She was calling them murderers, and said Ned Kelly was man enough for any of them, and why did not they come up and take them out of that. She just heaped one abuse on the back of another.

10320 Did you see Constable Kelly go to the carriage door where Mrs. O'Connor was when he came with the skull cap?— Yes. Mrs. O'Connor, or one of the ladies in the carriage, was calling out asking where Mr. O'Connor was—was he all right, was he safe, and Senior Constable Kelly stepped forward to the van and said— “He is quite safe—he is in a drain.”

10321 When Kelly discovered that rifle, was that the first time he had been round, or before the placing of the men?— I could not say that. He was going round the house, and I think he was placing Constable Phillips at the time on the Wangaratta side when he found the cap. I think Mrs. Reardon did not come out till after Sergeant Steele arrived. After remaining on the platform some time, watching the hotel, I heard the sound of men coming down the side of the range from the Wangaratta side. I called to some of the police nearest that there were some men coming down the hill. I then heard Senior Constable Kelly's voice challenge some one on the side of the hill, and heard the reply that it was the Wangaratta police with Sergeant Steele. At that moment we heard the train coming from Benalla with the Benalla police, with the second party; the one party arrived about two minutes before the other. Mrs. Reardon came out of the hotel; she was told to come towards the police. She was carrying a child in her arms and she did so; at the same time she said— “Let my husband and boy come with me.” She came up to near the railway fence when two men came out of Mrs. Jones's hotel.....

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