The Argus at KellyGang 22/7/1881 (2)

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The Police Commission, represented by Messrs Longmore, Anderson, and Gibb, accompanied by several officers of the force, paid a visit to-day to the scene of the murder of Aaron Sherritt, the house of Mrs Byrne, and also to the cave where the police were concealed when watching the outlaws. A start was made shortly after 9 o'clock .The road to the scene of the outrage lay over the ranges in the direction of Chiltern, and an excellent idea was obtained of the broken and mountainous character of the country. The hut occupied by Sherritt had been situated about seven miles from Beechworth, but it had since been removed, and only the marks of the foundation and the dilapidated chimney mark the place. The hut was built upon a slight rising ground, about a dozen paces from the high road, with thin scrub and a few gum- trees in the immediate rear, while beyond the thickly timbered ranges rise to a height of several thousand feet.

Constable Alexander, who was one of those in the hut when Sherritt was murdered, explained the position of the men when Joe Byrne shot Sherritt, and pointed out the difficulties that presented themselves in the way of shooting the two members of the gang. There are several huts, the residences of diggers and selectors, near the spot. The hut of Mrs Byrne is about a mile distant, and can be reached by crossing a creek used now as a sludge channel, but which during the rainy season is flooded, and dangerous to ford. The vicinity of Mrs Byrne's hut was reached about half past 11 o'clock. The party divided into two bodies, and while the chairman and two others proceeded on horseback to the cave in which the police watch- parties lay concealed, those who remained behind paid a visit to Mrs Byrne who, with her two daughters, received them with much civility. The hut is composed of slabs, with a bark roof, and has two small windows in front. It is situated at the foot of the range in a clearing of considerable extent, so that it presents a conspicuous object from any point of view.

About 20 yards from the house there is a water course and some diggings - for the greater part abandoned. To the left of the house a garden has been planted, and the ground in the locality is fairly grassed. Everything presented an appearance of neatness and comfort and on entering the interior was found to be clean and homely. The occupants were engaged at the time attending to some domestic duties but bustled about and seemed pleased with the visit paid them. Some general conversation ensued, but naturally no allusion was made to the painful topic of Joe Byrne's fate. After remaining in conversation for about a quarter of an hour, the party left.

The visit to the cave however, was the most important and interesting feature of the journey. The spot was well chosen for the purpose, as while it commanded a view for miles all around, it was impregnable, defended by a few men, against almost any number of assailants.

On returning to Beechworth the commission sat in the court-house and took further evidence. Mrs. Sherritt and her daughter, the wife of Aaron Sherritt, were heard m private.

Detective Ward was examined at some length, principally in relation to the alleged manipulation of constables' reports, and the circumstances leading up to Sherritt's murder. The cause of the difficulty about the reports arose from the senior constable in charge apparently not understanding the real object for which the reports had been called. Evidence respecting Sherritt's murder threw some additional light on points of detail. Ward distinctly denied having ever suggested to Duross, the constable on duty at Sherritt's hut, to tell a falsehood to Mr Hare about being at Byrne's house, when in reality the constables were engaged cutting wood a mile away from the place where they should have been on duty.

The Chairman impressed upon the witness the fact that the contrary was sworn to by Constables Duross and Dowling. Detective Ward still persisting in his statement, Constable Alexander was called in and stated emphatically that Ward had told Duross to tell the falsehood. Ward again denied the charge, and insinuated that the story had been concocted. The episode created considerable astonishment to those present.


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