Cave Party 12/1879-4/1880
I was incharge of the cave party with Consts Faulkiner, Canny, Armstrong, McColl. Alexander, Barry, Cox, McHugh, Hagger, Dixon, Alexander. (RC1717) See also (RC5247) (RC5440) (RC13541) (RC13855)
The cave party was formed on 27/12/1879 in consequence of the police getting reports about the movements of the KellyGang that were too old to act upon. The cave party was carried on by four men going out and remaining a week, and being relieved by four others, and coming in and remaining in Beechworth, and then returning to duty.
Before the men were sent out Mr. Nicolson spoke to me. Mr O'Connor, Det Ward, and SConst Mullane were all in the office at Beechworth. He told me the object of this cave party, what the object was, and gave the men instructions in writing. He called them each in separately. See my orders (RC13545)
The duty was carried on with the assistance of Aaron Sherritt, he going with my men at night-he would go down at night-fall himself, watch there until about eight or nine, when my men and I would come down, and we would all watch Mr Byrne's home.
Our instructions were to remain there till four or five in the morning. We were to leave before daylight, in order that we would not be observed coming away.
The difficulty then arose as to how provisions could be brought out to us; and, in consequence of not being able to light a fire, we had to be supplid with porter, ale, and whisky, preserved meats and fish. We had a couple of spirit lamps in order that we would be able to make a cup of tea in the morning when we came in, without any light being seen.
On the first occasion the police sent out the provisions on pack-horses for a few nights, but it was found that we could not do that long without being noticed by a friend of Joe Byrne's. He lived alongside the bridge that the pack horse had to cross. Mr Allen, the storekeeper who had been supplying the police for ten years to forward the things down to Mrs Sherritts, and they made arrangements with her and one of her daughters and one son for those things to be laid at a certain place for us to collect.(RC13855)
The cave party was called in on the 1/4/1880. There came in one evening Falkiner, Hagger, Dixon, and McHugh. I saw Hagger on that night, and I said to him, " I am going to Benalla first thing by train, and I will see him." I left at six o'clock for Benalla on the morning of the 2nd.
The owner of Aaron Sherritt's hut came about 11 o'clock one morning. He was a foreigner, and he ordered Aaron to clear out. He would not give up possession; then the man said he would go and get the police. He was the original owner of the hut. Aaron took forcible possession of it. While he was there we had a run in with Aaron as we did not want any trouble. Const Armstrong even said, "For God's sake bring the man back here; he will turn us out and we shall be discovered." In the end I lent Aaron the money to pay for the house(RC12131)
On 19/6/1880 Sup Hare and Det Ward paid us a visit at Arron Sherritt's home. (RC13861)
Det Ward said to Const Duross in Sherritt's home in relation to the two other police "Say they are gone to watch Byrne's"- I lay my life I heard that. (RC13920)
Hare wanted to be taken down to where we watched Mrs Byrne's home from. I took the lead, and Duross followed, then came Sup Hare. (RC13895)
The Royal Commission was critical of our work during or time at Aaron Sherritt's (RC2nd reportXIV)
I was present in the bedroom on the night when Joe Byrne shot Aaron Sherritt.
Const Duross and Mrs Barry have set out many of the details of what happened. The police party was headed by Const Armstrong and Const Dowling was the other officer present with me.
I was in the bedroom on one side of the calico screen when Joe Byrne shot Aaron Sherritt (RC3775)
Const Armstrong explained what happened the next morning
Special train leaves Benalla to go to Beechworth - follow up on death of Aaron Sherritt
Arrival Glenrowan from Beechworth
I came to Glenrowan from Beechworth and arrived at about 9am. (RC2880)
I did not seem to play a significant role in the events of the day
How did the press report my evidence. (Argus22/7/81)
Following the meetings of the Reward Board in December 1880 I recieved a reward of about £42
Det Ward had another go at me and what happened at Aaron Sherritt's at about the time I gave evidence before the Royal Commission. It would seem that he wanted to control the Mrs Sherritt and Mrs Barry's evidence against us to save himself. (RC12222)
The Royal Commission made the following finding in relation to me
"10. That the constables who formed the hut party on the night of Aaron Sherritt's murder - viz., Robert Alexander etc - were guilty of disobedience of orders and gross cowardice and be dismissed from the service. " (RC2ndReport)
After the Royal Commission report came out I was sacked from the police. (Argus3/3/82)