Royal Commission report day 32 page 8

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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'

12191 Were they behind cover?— I could not say. There was plenty of cover beside the hut. They seemed to me to be right at the door. Any man who will take cover with a Webley revolver I will undertake will drop three men out of four as they come out, a man close up to the door under cover, and you need not expose your arm; and had any one escaped in the rush and gone to the back, they would probably have gone down the shafts; there were old deep shafts.

12192 This is an old deserted diggings?— By the front there was a drain, two or three feet deep, about four yards from the front, and going on from the yard, about five yards from the hut, there was an embankment of about three feet, so any man going out by the front would have very likely fallen down had he escaped.

12193 Then your opinion is, that you could hardly have escaped with your life?— I verily believe no man would have gone out of that hut alive had all the outlaws been there.

12194 Have you decided to leave the colony?— Yes.

12195 On account of this?— Something to do with that, but I have means of my own and have better prospects; I am going to try my luck in the States of America. I think any man would have done the same in the same condition.

12196 You do not think it would have been wise to have kept a watch outside at night?— Well, we got instructions to keep no watch, but with the murders of the Mansfield police no party of police should have been sent to a place, either with a search or watch party, without the permission to keep a sentry. Had it been left to ourselves I would have kept a sentry, by all means, in the shell at the back, and he could have, at least, shot Byrne and would have saved Sherritt's life, and he would have been a useful man to the police yet. There were two shells at the back and also a tree with two forks immediately at the door—in the front there were three trees quite close to it. Now, a shot was fired over that hut during my absence at Wahgunyah, and I never knew anything of it till after the murder. It has also turned up in evidence that Jack Sherritt sent a letter to Mr. Hare warning him of a likely surprise and Mr. Hare never told us of that, I got no information. The reason was that Mrs. Sherritt's brother, twelve years of age, Barry, was going to school along with Denny Byrne, brother to the outlaw, and also at the hut at the same time. I told the boy not to come back any more, and cautioned Sherritt and Mrs. Sherritt not to let him come back any more, fearing he should tell who were there.

12197 Is that how you got news of their determination?— No; but I was afraid the boy might tell Byrne.

12198 Do you think a boy twelve years of age, going to school, and seeing strange policemen in the house, is likely to be silent to his schoolfellows?— It would be possible he was too young. Denny Byrne was then about fourteen, an old-fashioned boy. He used to speak to the boy that passed the hut, passing twice a day. I have also heard that Mr. Hare received information that the outlaws were about to do something to astonish the world. I heard nothing of it, although I was twenty-one days out in the bush.

12199 You consider Mr. Hare should have allowed the men to know what rumors were going about?— I think so. I tell you candidly I did not know the outlaws were in the country at the time. No information whatever was given to the men.

12200 Did Aaron Sherritt communicate with von whether they were in the country?— He told me honestly he did not know a single thing about them. He said, “My belief is, Harry, that they are in the ranges between the Rose River and Gippsland, and there is a fifth man, unknown to the police, supplying them with provisions. They may come round here once in three months, or they may not come. I have seen or known nothing of them since they passed on the way to Jerilderie. I was talking to Joe Byrne and Steve Hart then;” and it is also my own opinion that they never trusted him after he refused to go to Jerilderie.

12201 Did he get an offer from them to be one of the party?— So be told me.

12202 The place between the Rose River and Gippsland would be up towards Mount Typo?— Yes. I wish it understood that the Sherritt family did all they could to assist the police. The old man was most attentive in carrying provisions to the cave when Aaron was getting married.

12203 Was old Sherritt a policeman?— He told me he had been in the Irish Constabulary.

12204 Did you see Jack Sherritt and the one that joined the police?— Yes, I saw them in the depot.

12205 Would you include those two in your statement that you believe the family did all they could to help the police?— I believe they did, although they told some petty lies. Of course Aaron chiefly boasted of his past movements, but nothing to deceive me. He used a great deal of policy with the officers; for instance, on the night of Mr. Hare's visit he told Mr. Hare that the outlays were in the habit of coming about after his departure. I said, “Aaron, why did you tell Mr. Hare a different story?” “Well,” he says, “I must use a little policy.” He said at the house, “I am as true as you are; I am just working for the pay I am getting for my wife; I am as true as you are. I would take some other calling if I were dismissed from the service of the police. I am getting 7s. a day.”....

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