The Royal Commission evidence for 10/5/1881
(see also introduction to day 17)
Constable Alfred John Faulkiner giving evidence
5243 Who was really in charge of the party?— Mr. Sadleir, I believe, was relieved at Kilmore by Inspector Baber. Mr. Hare was then at Lancefield. He said I would have to remain behind, and, after he started the trackers, he asked me how it was we did not reach Lancefield last night. I replied I did not know. He asked me if the horses were not able to travel that distance. I replied that it could not have been that, as the horses were all fresh. I had had to ride my horse half a mile behind to keep him steady. Constable Deacon and I were then told off to go in a certain direction to search for the robbers of the bank. When we arrived at Kilmore we were informed that the men had been captured. I returned to Benalla, and was there till November, when I was told off for special secret duty, watching the house of Mrs. Byrne at night-time and sleeping in a cave through the day.
5244 Was Mr. Nicolson in Benalla at this time?— Yes, he was in Benalla, but the day I arrived to go to this duty he was in Beechworth.
5244a. Who was the officer in charge of the cave party?— While it lasted it was between Detective Ward and Senior-Constable Mullane, that is the senior officer; of course Mr. Nicolson was at the head.
5245 But not yourself?— No.
5246 Who was the recognized head of the cave party?— It was always the senior man; they were relieved at times, and the senior man was always at the head.
5249 That will be 1879?— Yes.
5250 By Mr. Nicolson. —You did not go out with the first?— No.
5251 Did not Canny go out with you?— He had been up before me. The instructions we received with reference to this duty were that four of us would be told off with Aaron Sherritt as a guide in watching the house (Mrs. Byrne's place) at night-lime. If possible, we were to try to capture Byrne alive, to stick a handkerchief in his mouth and bring him in to Beechworth. We were to try to capture the others if they came to the place. The duty I had to undertake whilst with the watch party at the cave was that Aaron Sherritt had the power, if he wanted a man to go to any place, he was to take me, which he did, to go out through the day, occasionally. I was introduced to people by his wife as a friend from New South Wales.
5252 Were you enjoined to secrecy with regard to being secreted in the cave?— Yes.
5253 What were you told about it?— To confine ourselves to the cave during the day, and about whatever time it suited to go down to this house at night. We were boiling our tea with spirits of wine, so as to cause no smoke, and living on bread and fish.
5254 And told not to let anyone know where you were secreted?— Yes.
5256 Mr. Nicolson. —May I read this note I made at the time— “Arrange for a party of four constables, with five days' provisions, to proceed to cave near Mrs. Byrne's, to rest during the day and come out at night, and watch Mrs. Byrne's but for Joe, to capture Joe outside going to or fro, without creating a noise, if possible; if that cannot be managed, to take him in the hut; and, in that case, arrest all those in the hut, the mother and all, and convey them as quietly as possible to Beechworth.” Were those the instructions?— Yes.
5257 There is nothing about a pocket-handkerchief?— That was the stopping of his mouth. I did this duty during the day, and watched the house of Mrs. Byrne during the night. After nine or ten days of that duty we would be relieved for four or five days, returning to Beechworth. The duty I had to undertake, when relieved from this cave duty for a few days, was—I was sent out a distance of about twenty miles all round Beechworth, serving summonses, attending inquests, and other police duty by myself, and, on one occasion, I was sent to a place so close to Mrs. Byrne's that one of her sons held my troop- horse whilst I went to the house with a despatch. I was under the impression that if I complained to my officers they might think it was cowardice on my part. At the same time I thought it was unfair to be sending me as a constable to a place where I was doing secret duty, but I did not complain. I was four or five weeks doing secret duty with Aaron Sherritt, in the house he was shot in, but I was not there at the time he was shot. I was at the cave duty from December 1879 to April 1880.....
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