The Royal Commission evidence for 21/6/1881
(see also introduction to day 32)
Const Henry Armstrong giving evidence
12217 Is there an old Byrne?— He is dead. There are only Mrs. Byrne, Paddy, Denny, and one girl; she was at service. This grey mare Paddy purchased at Tarrawingee for £20. Mr. Hare said he gave us a blowing up. He spoke to me in the most friendly manner, so much so that I remarked to Sherritt that “Mr. Hare seems a nice man to speak to.” In reference to this statement of Mrs. Sherritt's, about the police concealing themselves under the bed, that is totally untrue.
12218 That was the statement in the papers?— Yes. About the outlaws coming in. I only lost sight of the door once when I was kneeling on the bed, and there were three other men looking on then.
12220 You would have shot them?— Yes.
12221 Were you at a disadvantage in rushing, having to go out into that lighted room and outside afterwards?— Yes. I think two men would have shot the whole gang if they were in the same position. If I had them there I would have only asked for one man at each door. Reference was also made to my having, in the morning, asked Mrs. Sherritt for a drink of tea; but that is put the wrong way. Something like that did occur. I took Mrs. Sherritt a drink of tea in in the morning. She said, “I will not drink that—Dan Kelly was outside the door and may have thrown poison in it.” I never asked Mrs. Barry to do anything.
12222 Did they seem terrifically cut up at the death of Aaron?— Yes, they were pretty much so. I have a letter from Detective Ward which is very damaging to him. I wish to speak in the plainest terms of the Sherritt family, after the statement in the papers. The letter is as follows:— “ Melbourne , May 9th 1881. Dear Armstrong, I saw Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Sherritt' they will tell the truth and carry you through the whole affair clear; they were going to give what they were going to say, but their father old Barry, was present, and he said, ‘She’—meaning Mrs. Sherritt—‘made a statement to Mr. Gale, reporter for the Age, and that he, Gale, brought down Mr. Ingram to hear her swear to it before him.’ Mrs. Barry has written to Gale to have this statement returned and not published, and on these grounds Barry would not allow any more written statements to be given, but I have arranged all right for you. Mr. Allen will work for me. Mr. H. has promised to have Mr. Allen called, and he will be able to corroborate Mr. Hare's statement with reference to what Aaron said to him about you. I will see Mr. Ingram—he is in Melbourne—and ask him what was the contents of the document she had sworn to before him, and will let you know what the result is. I was at the Board to-day, but have not been examined. Dowling and Falkiner have been examined. I asked Dowling if he received any instructions from me on the night of the 19th of June, when Mr. Hare and I were down, he said ‘No.’ He heard me say ‘Go down to the hut to watch.’ In cross-examination he said he heard me say I told Duross to tell a lie. He could tell me whether you or himself met me first, or which of you were wheeling the barrow of wood. I will most likely be examined to-morrow, if so, will let you know and send you the particulars as to the opinion of the Board as to the four men's conduct. Allen will make all right for you; stick to the truth. Please burn this letter and write me a short note as to how you are getting. Dowling in his cross-examination broke down and contradicted himself very often.” This is Mrs. Sherritt's letter. That does not correspond with the last statement made by her— “Dear Henry, I wish to write you those few lines just to let you know that me and my mother will say all we can in favor of you and Alexander and the rest, and you may let Alexander know about it. I would not wish for anything that you and the other three would get into any trouble about that night when Aaron was shot; and my mother says she was very thankful to you and the others for not firing out that night when we were hemmed in by the Kellys, for she and me would very likely be shot as we were out in the dark and it was better you did not fire.” On the 6th of May I met Detective Ward at the Assize Court , Beechworth. He spoke to me in reference to the lie he told as to Mr. Hare. I gave him no reply. He met me again at night, outside the court house, and got Senior-Coustable Mullane to witness the conversation he said, “I have seen Mrs. Sherritt and Mrs. Barry. They say you ordered Duross and Dowling out of the hut—they would not follow you—and they had their feet under the bed, crushing the women under it. Prove that like a man; study your own character; and come out scot-free.” I said, “Apart from any action the Government may take in reference to my conduct in connection with the murder of Sherritt, I do not want to remain in the police force.” I said, “I would stick at a lie independent of any person.” I left him then. On Sunday the 8th he wanted to see me at Senior-Constable Mullane's room. I met him there. He said, “I have been out at Sebastopol . I saw Mrs. Sherritt’s father, and he said the women screened the police at Beechworth at the inquest, but they will do so no longer if the next two men gave such evidence as the Melbourne men had given,” meaning Duross and Dowling. Mullane said, “Mrs. Sherritt made a sworn declaration before Mr. Ingram in reference to the conduct of the police at Sebastopol , which has never so far been published, fearing she will be pulled for perjury.” Ward and I left together. I said, “Ward, are you and Mullane together in this enquiry”? He said, “Yes; but Mullane is too conscientious.” (Mullane is a very upright man as far as my dealings are concerned.) I said, “What do you want me to do for you, Ward?” He said, “I want you to take me out of this lie before Mr. Longmore. Mr. Hare says it is only the concoction of those two men, the statement they made.” He said “Ah! man, look at Mr. Fincham there, too.” I said to him, “I will”; but I had no notion of doing it. He said, “If you do I will win the women over again to carry you and Alexander through. I have got Alexander right. I will get a statement from Mrs. Sherritt, which will prove it to you, and forward it to you at Wahgunyah —you will have to burn it. I will send you a copy of my own evidence from Melbourne ; you will have to burn that also. I will get Hare to call Mr. Pat Allen to prove that you and Alexander are good men, and the two Melbourne men are no good. That will be you, Alexander, the two women, Mr. Hare, Pat Allen, and I, against the two Melbourne men.”....
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