Royal Commission report day 32 page 3

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The Royal Commission evidence for 21/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 32)

[[../../people/peA/armstrongHPC.html|Const Henry Armstrong]] 'giving evidence'

12123 Can you say any other way it might have got known —No, I could not say anything of my own knowledge as to that.

12124 You were in Sherritt's house, watching?— Yes.

12125 How long had you been there?— I think about twenty-three nights. The cave party shifted to Sherritt's hut before it was broken up, and I was sent to that but again after Mr. Nicolson withdrawn in Mr. Hare's time. They shifted then because the cave was getting very dirty.

12126 You were in Sherritt's house on the night he was shot?— Yes.

12127 Will you describe what occurred?— Perhaps I had better state the instructions I received I was ordered from Wahgunyah Beechworth on the 31st May 1880 , to watch Byrne's place. I got a telegram when I arrived at Beechworth to return to my station at Wahgunyah. As I was starting to the station with my papers made out, Detective Ward up from Benalla by the two o'clock train and countermanded that order. He said I would have to go out to watch Byrne's, with two other constables, McCall and Alexander. The instructions I received from Ward were in the Beechworth barrack yard. The late Aaron Sherritt was present. He (Ward) said, “Armstrong, you will be in charge; you will watch Byrne's from eight o'clock at night until about five in the morning.” I asked him if I would keep a sentry, and he replied, “No; keep no sentry; keep inside.” Ward left then, and he came back again about seven o’clock at night, riding with some other man. He said, “I will go away and get your ticket to go to the quarterly assembly in the benevolent asylum—you and McCall.” I said, “I do not want to go.” This was Thursday night, on the 3rd of June. We waited until twelve o'clock at night, and finding he had not returned, we started on our own account, we three—Alexander; McCall, and I. When we arrived at Sherritt's hut Sherritt was in bed. It was two o'clock when we arrived there. We did not watch Byrne's that night. About the 5th, Constable Magor joined us. He remained until about the 17th. He returned to Beechworth then, along with Constable McCall. Duross and Dowling came out in their place; that left the four constables who were in the hut at the time Sherritt was murdered. We used, when we would return in the morning, to be round the kitchen fire until Sherritt and his wife got up; then we took our blankets all into the room, and, by the permission of Sherritt and his wife, Duross and I slept on the bed with our blankets. Alexander and Dowling slept on the floor. It was a weatherboard hut, with a shingle roof.

12128 Are you quite sure it was not slabs let down between uprights?— Well, I have heard so many differences of opinion about that that I can scarcely recollect, but I believe the sides were weather-board and the roof shingles. I am inclined to think that the ends were slabs.

12129 One witness gave evidence that rifle bullets were fired at the house and did not penetrate quite through, but knocked the plaster down on the inside?— I noticed that in the papers; I think there was a sort of clay between the uprights.

12130 You know that a bullet fired at a weatherboard would go through both sides of the house?— Yes, indeed.

12131 Was it a boarded floor?— Yes, all boarded. The house was our own. We paid for it out of our own private money; that has never been refunded. The owner of the hut came about 11 o'clock in the morning. He was a foreigner, and he ordered Sherritt to clear out. Sherritt would not give up possession; then the man said he would go and get the police. He was the original owner of the hut. Sherritt took forcible possession of it. I said, “For God's sake bring the man back here; he will turn us out and we shall be discovered.” So Alexander lent Sherritt the money to pay for the house.

12132 Had Sherritt the house rented?— He took forcible possession of it; it was an abandoned house.

12133 “Jumped” it?— Yes, we paid him for it sooner than be turned out. The room we were in— I think it would be eight feet and a half or nine feet wide, by about seven and a half feet long.

12134 Then there would be just room for two to sleep on the floor?— Yes, with the exception of about two feet at the foot of the bed where we had provisions stored.

12135 You advanced the money necessary to buy it, and he never repaid you?— I do not want to make any complaint of that. We gave him money for cooking, and to please him. Nothing unusual occurred until the 18th of June. We were crossing the creek on the way to Byrne's when a lot of Chinamen came after us, and called out. Sherritt said, “They think we are going to rob their sluiceboxes.” I said, “We will point the guns, and they will think we are the Kellys.” Sherritt said “Yes.” We pointed the guns, and they ran away.....

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