Royal Commission report day 5 page 7

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The Royal Commission evidence for 30/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 5 )

Stanhope O'Connor giving evidence.

1171 Were you aware that there was a man then in the house beside the outlaws, before the place was set on fire, or when it was being set on fire?- I cannot remember.

1172 The old man Cherry?- I cannot remember whether I heard of it before or after, now. I remember so much afterwards that I am frightened to say now whether I knew it before. Before going further I would like to hand in copies of the telegrams that Captain Standish sent to my Government, asking to keep me. These were sent before he asked me, dated 16/6/80- "Would like to retain troopers till Superintendent Chomley returns with trackers from Queensland; he will reach Brisbane on Monday." That telegram was the telegram before I left Benalla. This is the telegram the Government sent 27th May 1880 - "Colonial Secretary, Queensland. Kelly gang have again broken out. It is of the utmost importance that you should give orders to Sub Inspector O'Connor to remain here and assist for a few days. He will return to Queensland to-morrow, unless you telegraph to-night to contrary. - ROBERT RAMSAY, Chief Secretary." The reply was- "Keep O'Connor and police so long as they can be of any service to you. Sorry to hear those scoundrels are adrift again. - A.H.PALMER." Anybody would have inferred from that I had been asked to go and had refused. Instead of that, it was sent before I had ever been communicated with. Well, the house was burned, and eventually the bodies of the two remaining outlaws recovered, together with that of Joe Byrne, and Captain Standish arrived on the scene.

1173 Were those the only two bodies discovered?- The two outlaws, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart, and the body of Joe Byrne.

1174 Were they all dead?- They were all dead.

1175 Were you present when Cherry's body was taken out?- I was, and he was not dead.

1176 Did you hear any remark he made?- He could just speak in a low voice; I could not tell what he said; the priest spoke to him, and gave him absolution I believe, and he died immediately afterwards.

1177 Martin Cherry was the only men taken out who was not dead?- Yes. Captain Standish arrived upon the Glenrowan platform at about half past five.

1178 What was the cause of Cherry not being able to speak?- His being shot in the house.

1179 Was he injured by the fire?- No, not touched by the fire; the body of Joe Byrne and Martin Cherry were neither of them touched by the fire. Captain Standish got out on the platform, and immediately saw me, but took not the slightest notice of me.

1180 That was about half past five?- Yes; until I put out my hand, which he just touched with his fingers. Mr. Sadleir also stated to me that Captain Standish was very cavalier in his manner to him. After a little delay, the whole party, with the exception of a few men left to guard, proceeded back to Benalla. I do not know if it is necessary to state here, but in Captain Standish's evidence, he says, "I instructed Mr. Sadleir not to hand over the charred remains of the outlaws." To the best of my memory, I overheard Captain Standish, in reply to Mr. Sadleir about the bodies, say, "Certainly, by all means, let them have them;" that they were to give up the bodies. I have had no conversation with Mr. Sadleir about this, so of course, if he says "No," I am mistaken; but, from the best of my knowledge and belief, Captain Standish gave him permission to give them up.

1181 Do you remember Kate Kelly going up to the house?- No, not actually going up to the house; but I remember her making a step in advance, as if she were going up.

1182 Was she ordered buck by the police?- Yes.

1183 What time was that?- Just after the house was set on fire, she made a step forward, and Mr. Sadleir, who was in charge of the attacking party, said, "Kate Kelly, stop a minute, where are you going?" She said, "I am going up to see Dan," or one of them she mentioned. Mr. Sadleir said, "Will you induce them to surrender?" "Surrender to you dogs; no, I would sooner see them burnt alive!" Mr. Sadleir said, "Stand back;" and he said to me, "If that woman gets up there, we cannot do a single thing; we will have to leave the outlaws, instead of trying to rush in and get the bodies." We cannot do anything if she got in and got them under her protection. We thought they were alive at that time. If she had said, "Yes, I will induce them to surrender," we would have been very glad for her to have gone up.

1184 Do you remember any conversation with the priest before be went into the house?- Yes, I remember the priest started to go up immediately, about half a second, after Kate Kelly; and Mr. Sadleir stopped him, and he asked him some question, which I have forgotten, and I have forgotten the answer. At any rate all the crowd began to clap him; and he drew back again when Mr. Sadleir remonstrated. He then went on-the crowd clapped again. Mr. Sadleir said, "If anybody is to go up, it is my place, and I beg you to go back." The priest stood back, and the crowd clapped, and he stepped forward at the same time. The priest was in front of the body of police. Mr. Sadleir and myself, and several men, moved with the priest, the priest having a lead about the length of this table. ...

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