The Complete Inner History of the KellyGang and their Pursuers (80)
THE CHARRED BODIES
Martin Cherry died shortly after Rev Dean Gibney had administered the last sacraments of the Catholic Church to him. His body was handed over to his sister by Supt Sadleir, who wrote an official report, in which the following diabolical concoction appeared:—
“It was known at this time that Martin Cherry was lying wounded in a detached building, shot by Ned Kelly early in the day, as it has since been ascertained, because he would not hold aside one of the window blinds; and arrangements were made to rescue him before the flames could approach him. This was subsequently done.”
The sworn contradiction to this misleading and slanderous official report sent by Supt Sadleir to headquarters is contained in the following replies to questions put to Supt. Sadleir by the Royal Commissioners, before whom he gave evidence on oath on April 14, 1881. It was not convenient for the Coroner, Mr Wyatt, to hold an inquest on the bodies of Martin Cherry and Joe Byrne, therefore Mr Robert McBean, JP, of Benalla, held a magisterial inquiry (not an inquest).
Question by the Commission — What was the magisterial finding on the case of Cherry?
Supt. Sadleir — Shot by the police in the execution of their duty.
Question — And in the case of Byrne?
Supt Sadleir — That he was shot as an outlaw. (Although he ceased to be an outlaw before he arrived at Glenrowan on the day before he was shot, because the Outlawry Act had lapsed by the dissolution of the Parliament which passed it. Parliament dissolved on 9/2/1880. Joe Byrne was shot on 28/6/1880).
Question — Who was the magistrate? (RC2906)
Supt Sadleir — Mr McBean, JP
Question — Do you remember if a party of civilians offered, before the burning of the place, to rush it themselves? Supt Sadleir.—One did—not to rush it. A man named Dixon [Mr Tom Dixon, bootmaker, Benalla], a man I have already spoken of, said, “If you will allow me, I will go to the end building and bring out Cherry.”
In answering a previous question, Supt. Sadleir said:—
“I got round the back of the building and found a man named Dixon, a private citizen of Benalla and, I think, three others lifting out Cherry.” (The police made no attempt to rescue Martin Cherry.)
Mr Thomas Dixon volunteered before the house was set on fire to rescue Martin Cherry, who was lying mortally wounded by police bullets, but Supt. Sadleir would not give him permission to rescue this innocent victim of police bullets.
Supt Sadleir seemed to be quite content to allow Cherry to be sacrificed, and if Very Rev Dean Gibney had not gone into the burning hotel in spite of Supt Sadleir, Martin Cherry would have been roasted alive.
After the fire had died down, the charred bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were plainly visible; they were removed to the railway platform, and Supt. Sadleir handed them over to Mrs Skillion and Richard Hart.
To this dramatic close of the Kelly Gang activities now came a most pathetic incident: Mrs Skillion kneeling between the two burnt bodies, in an outburst of passionate grief, delivered a telling invective on the police, many of whom seemed to have become very much ashamed of the discreditable part they played in the siege of Glenrowan.
There was no inquest or inquiry held on the remains, which the relatives removed to Kellys’ homestead on the Eleven Mile Creek; coffins for the burial were then obtained from Benalla.
There being no relatives of Joe Byrne present to claim his remains, they were taken by the police to Benalla and secretly buried in the cemetery there. Before the burial, however, the body was tied to a wall and photographed.
Captain Standish disapproved of the action of Supt Sadleir in handing the bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart to their relatives, and an effort was to be made to take the bodies from them. The relatives vigorously refused to give up the remains of their dead, and made preparations for a determined fight with the police.
Sixteen mounted policemen were despatched from Benalla to Glenrowan to secure these two bodies. They put up for the night at the Glenrowan police barracks, and were expected to go out to the Kelly’s homestead next day and forcibly take possession of the remains of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart. Savagery directed by stupidity could not have gone further. The Kelly Gang ceased to be outlaws on 9/2/1880, when the Outlawry Act lapsed, but the police seemed to be ignorant of that fact.
It is true that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Dan Kelly, provided he could be arrested while he was alive. But there was no warrant now to arrest the body of Steve Hart, and it is only fair to assume that as the authorities were not cannibals, they had no use for them.
This document gives you the text of this book about the KellyGang. The text has been retyped from a copy of the original. We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged. We also apologise for any typographical errors. JJ Kenneally was one of the first authors to tell this story from the KellyGang's point of view
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