Royal Commission report day 32 page 4

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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'

12136 What was their object in running after you?— Sherritt said they thought we were going to rob the sluice-boxes; they had gold there. I said to Sherritt the next morning, “Go round and see what the Chinamen have to say, and tell them we are the Kellys if they say anything,” and Sherritt returned; he said, “It is all right, Harry, the Chinamen say they saw the Kellys last night. I told them not to tell, and they said, 'No ——fear, we know Joe Byrne'”; Sherritt and I arranged not to go out in the moonlight till ten o'clock (it was moonlight then), and remain out two hours longer in the morning. The following night, Saturday the 19th June, Dowling and I were helping Sherritt to cut wood for Sunday. Mrs. Sherritt came running out, and said, “Mr. Hare and Detective Ward are here; Ward told you to go down to Byrne’s.” Sherritt started alone; that was the custom in the Nicolson cave party time for us. I went and saw Ward; he said to me, “Mr. Hare has gone down along with constables Duross and Alexander; go away and be there before them, and say you had left before them, and challenge, lest the other party should fire.” I got my ammunition, and I said to Dowling, who was along with me, “This is a strange affair; I think I will tell the truth.” Dowling said, “Certainly.” When we arrived at Byrne's, Sherritt was there. After some time, I saw Mr. Hare coming with two other constables; I knew him by his height. I did not challenge as Ward told me; we were too close to Byrne's house, but I shouldered my gun by which he would know I was no enemy—that is the officer's salute. I said, “I am Constable Armstrong.” It was the first time I had ever met Mr. Hare. He called me back in from the bush, and said, “How are you getting on?” I said, “Doing the best we can, sir.” He said, “What brought you down before this man; that man (meaning Alexander) does not know the way?” I said, “The fact of it is—I will tell the truth, no matter what is the resort—Dowling and I were helping Sherritt to cut wood; we were seen by Chinamen last night, and we had arranged not to go down till ten o'clock to-night, and remain out a little longer in the morning.” Mr. Hare said, “That man has told me a lie.” I could not say whom he referred to.

12137 Whom do you think?— I never could know what constable till I read in the press. I thought it was Duross, and I thought first it was Alexander. I said, “This has already been referred to before you.” I said, “I cannot account for his telling a lie unless it is because I am the senior man, he might think I would get into trouble for not being out earlier.” Mr. Hare said, “Do you believe in Sherritt?” I said I had every confidence in him. After some conversation, he said, “I am taking Sherritt away; what will you do in the event of the outlaws coming?” I said, “I know Steve Hart, and I could form a good opinion of the others. I will call them to bail up, and if they do not, we will all fall on them.” He said, “Do not you think it would be as well to let them go to Byrne's and dismount, lie down beside their horses, and shoot them as they get on.” I said, “I think that would be a very good plan, sir.” He bade me good night in the most friendly manner, and wished me success; did not abuse me by any means, as he said in the evidence. When I returned to the hut I said to Sherritt, “Mr. Hare seems a nice sort of man to speak to; it is a devil of a pity that lie was told; it will look bad for us.” Then Sherritt said, “This is some of Mr. —Jack's work,” meaning his brother, “he is always carrying stories to Ward and Mullane, to say I am drunk at the Chinese camp, and so on; if they come always in this way I will throw up the job.” On Sunday the 20th, Paddy Byrne stood on his grey mare in the front of the hut, looking in, we all watching him through the joints of the door, between the boards. On Monday-the 21st, about a quarter past eleven , we were camped about 600 yards from Byrne's house, at night. It was occasionally light moonlight. Sherritt had left us at this time; he went to have a look round towards the stockyard and towards Byrne's Gap. Dowling called out, “There is a horseman.” I said, “Look out, then.” I saw the horse, and recognized it as Byrne s grey mare, and also Paddy Byrne by his position on the horse—the stooping position he used to ride in. We waited till about four o'clock in the morning. We could not follow the horse, as Sherritt had left us, and we would have been seen ourselves, the night was so light; we could see as far as Madden's Gap,, that is about a mile. When we returned to the hut in the morning, Sherritt was there. I said, “Aaron, it was a pity you had left us. Paddy Byrne has gone off scouting on his grey mare. I am going off to Beechworth to report and send the trackers up. Do you watch and see if you can pick up the tracks, and if the mare has returned.” I said to the other men, “Whatever information you get, bring it into Beechworth, no matter what it is.” I reported to Senior-Constable Mullane at seven o'clock in the morning, and the trackers were sent up by the afternoon train; but Ward had said Sherritt could not pick up the tracks, and they were not sent out. Dowling came in that night to say that the mare had returned. On Saturday morning, the 26th of June, Sherritt said to me in his own hut, “Armstrong, you are discovered. Denny Byrne passed in the rear of the hut, and looked in twice. They can set fire to this hut, and shoot you one by one as you run out.” I said, “We will have to chance that: they can shoot us, too, any night on the way to Byrne's. However, I will go in to-night and tell Ward, and he can tell Mr. Hare if he likes.” About half-past six on the same night, I was lying on the bed

12138 Who was in the hut?— The four constables—Alexander, Duross, Dowling, and myself; Mrs. Sherritt and her mother, Mrs. Barry.

12139 And Sherritt?— Yes. Duross was having his tea in the kitchen. I was falling asleep, lying on the bed, about half asleep. I intended going in that night to tell we were discovered.

12140 Where were your horses?— We had no horses. I heard a knock at the door, and a voice said, “Sherritt, I have lost my way.” Mrs. Sherritt said, “Aaron, go out and show him.” The door was opened, and I heard a shot.

12141 He went to the door, and opened the door?— Yes. I took little notice of that shot. I thought it was Duross's revolver had gone off accidentally. Duross came into the room. I then heard the second shot, and I made some remark to say these were the Kellys. I took my shot gun and revolver and got on my knees on the bed. The other men were in a scene of great confusion, picking up their arms as hurriedly as they could. I remained for a chance to fire out of the window.....

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