Royal Commission report day 39 page 5

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The Royal Commission evidence for 22/7/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 39)

[[../../people/peU_Z/Willis.html|Mr William Willis]] sworn and examined.

14040 By the Commission— What are you?— A saddler at present.

14041 There has been evidence given in Beechworth that you told a certain party that you knew of the police being in Aaron Sherritt's hut?— Yes, I knew it well.

14042 Have you any objection to tell the Commission where you got the information?— I have. I was told as a friend, and the information was given to me in order to benefit me, because I had an order made by the bench.

14043 Would you have any objection to give it privately?— I would not like to, because I was requested not to, and it was on those grounds I received that information. Perhaps the police authorities are of opinion that it was a constable that gave me the information. Now, it was no constable.

14044 What did the party tell you?— An order was made by the bench that Sherritt was to get a month in Beechworth gaol if he did not pay me what he owed me. The order was forwarded by Mr. Langtree , my solicitor, to a man of the name of Phelan, to serve. He was dog officer at Beechworth.

14045 What did the person tell you then?— Phelan kept the order for about a fortnight or three weeks, and he said he had his son watching this Sherritt. When I was telling a friend of mine, who was asking if Sherritt had paid the amount, or if the order was served, I said, “No, Phelan has got the order “; and he said, “He will never serve the order, he is frightened. If you go up yourself, you need not be frightened to go to Sherritt's house, because he is well protected, and he will not do anything to you, inasmuch as he would be too frightened.” He said there were four constables in the house, and that Sherritt did not go out only at night, and that I need not be frightened.

14046 Did he tell you from what source he got that information—whether he knew it of himself?— He knew it of himself. The party was a man who would not injure Sherritt, neither would he injure the police; and this was strictly private. It was known to no other person but himself and another, and they were all the members of his family. They were friends of the police and friends of Sherritt. I will go as far as to tell that.

14047 He said it was only known to another?— He did not tell me that; but I know it was to a member of his family.

14048 Did he lead you to understand that it was known outside at All?— No, he did not; but I went to Beechworth to serve this warrant on the Friday, and on the Saturday night Sherritt was shot. I would have been down on the Friday night, only Phelan had the order, and he was out of Beechworth.

14049 You did not see Sherritt at all till he was shot?— I did not; but I was speaking to a friend of mine in Beechworth, and telling him what I intended to do, and I said, “You had better keep this quiet.” “Oh !” he said, “you need not be particular about it, it is well known to everyone in Beechworth the police have been there for weeks and weeks.”

14050 Did you hear from any other source that it was known?— No. I thought it was strictly private, inasmuch as no one knew it from me except Constable Walsh , and I did not tell him who told me. I told him and Mr. Langtree , and my wife, and no other.

14051 From what your friend in Beechworth said you inferred it was generally known?— Yes, it was well known throughout Beechworth.

14052 Then you did not go down to serve the order at all?— Well, I went to see Senior-Constable Mullane, whom I have know for years, on Friday night, and I told him my errand, and he said he would have served it; and I said the police were protecting Sherritt, and would not do that part of the work.

14053 Did you tell him you knew?— I did not tell him I knew police were there, only some parties. He said he would attend to the order next week.

14054 Did he lead you to understand that he was surprised at your information?— No; but since he said he was surprised how I knew it. Do not go away with a false impression. The information was received by me from this party, who was a very near friend to the man who was shot, and also a friend to some members of the force, so far as the officers were concerned, and also a great enemy to some of the officers—one, I believe, who would do anything to injure some of the officers of the force. I got it from a reliable source; just the same as from Sherritt himself.

14055 Have you any objection to give the name of the gentleman in Beechworth who said it was generally known?— Well, I know he is a man who would not care to have his name brought forward. He is a man holding a very prominent position in Beechworth at the present time.

14056 By Mr. Nicolson— Do you recollect writing me a letter in December last?— I do.

14057 And another in March?— Yes.

14058 Have you any objection to my handing those two letters to the Chairman?— No; if those letters are kept apart from some gentlemen in the room.—[ The same were handed to the Chairman, and perused by the Commission only.]

14059 By the Commission— Had you a daughter of Mrs. Sherritt's living with you at one time?— Yes, for eighteen months; and it was through her I allowed this brother of her's to get into my books.

14060 Was she living with you at the time Sherritt was shot?— No, she had left some time before; but a better girl never entered the house. She was different altogether from the brother. The brother used to come down sometimes to Benalla, and used to stop a day or two in the house, and put up his horse, and stick up everything in the house, and pay for nothing.

The witness withdrew. ....

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