The Argus at KellyGang 22/7/1881

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(full text transcription)




BEECHWORTH, Wednesday.

The Police Commission sat here to-day at the court-house, the members present being Mr Longmore (chairman), Mr Anderson, and Mr Gibb, MLA's

Constable Robert Alexander , after being sworn, detailed the particulars of the murder of Aaron Sherritt, and stated most emphatically that he had repeatedly offered to follow Constable Armstrong, who was in charge of the hut party at the time, if he would rush out and dare Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly, but he was met by the reply, "The party is too small - we will do very well if we are able to hold our ground."

Anton Wicks, a German, deposed, to the fact of his having been stuck up, and hand-cuffed on the night of the murder, and led to the hut of Aaron Sherritt to induce him to come out. Being afraid of his life, he did as he was directed, and saw Joe Byrne shoot Sherritt. When the latter made his appearance in obedience to his (Wicks') summons, only the two outlaws and he were outside, and he was allowed to go away shortly after 9 o clock, when the police refused to leave the hut, and when the measures adopted for setting fire to the hut failed.

Ann Sherritt, mother of Aaron Sherritt, stated that her late son and Joe Byrne were great friends, and that the outlaws made efforts frequently to induce him to join them. Ned Kelly had frequently called at their place, sometimes accompanied by the other outlaws, and had helped himself to whatever food was available in the place. Ned always held the baby in his arms during the visit. Mr Wallace, a state schoolmaster, had frequently visited Aaron, and appeared anxious to obtain information of the outlaws. Before the murder Aaron received notice from one of the outlaws not to sleep in the hut for the next fortnight, but he disregarded the warning.

Mrs Sherritt, widow of the deceased, deposed also to the circumstances of the murder, repeating substantially the facts already published.

Mr Foster, PM, who was examined during the sitting, considered that the real origin of the Kelly outbreak arose out of Constable Fitzpatrick's attempt to arrest Dan Kelly, and thought that an efficient system of police patrol throughout the district would go far to prevent a recurrence of the outrage. This witness also gave some general evidence in relation to the district, and paid a high compliment to Superintendent Sadleir's efficiency as a police officer.

Mrs Barry deposed that she had noticed Aaron Sherritt (who was her son-in-law) looking very downcast some time prior to the murder, and he appeared to apprehend some calamity, but he would make no explanation. She was present on the occasion of his death, and corroborated the evidence given upon that point. Provisions were conveyed in the first instance to her house for the cave party of police, and it would seem that no precautions were taken to prevent suspicion, as they were generally brought to her place in the daytime.

During a portion of the time the female witnesses were under examination, the court was cleared, and their evidence taken in private.

A storekeeper, who desired that his name should not be published, gave particulars as to the mode in which provisions for the cave party were conveyed, and mentioned the names of several persons who were aware of the fact that the police were watching the house of Byrne's mother, and expressed an opinion that the cave party was not so secret as some of the police appeared to suppose.

Senior-constable Mullane was examined at considerable length in reference to the apparent similarity of official reports made by members of the police who formed the cave party, and which reports were not accepted by Detective Ward until they were written in a manner that suited him. The witness asserted that he had nothing to do with the matter beyond following out the instructions of Detective Ward, but admitted that in the case of Constable Barry's reports the first and second were rejected owing to the statements contained therein, that the cave party was no secret, and further, that the third report was substantially a contradiction of what had gone before.

The commission sat taking evidence from 10 o'clock a.m. until nearly 6pm. Tomorrow the commission will visit the scene of Sherritt's murder, and will return and take further evidence in the afternoon. On Friday they leave by the first train for Wangaratta, where further evidence will be taken, and the commission will return to Melbourne on Saturday.


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