ANOTHER KELLY OUTRAGE
After the lapse of several months the Kelly gang have re-appeared, and as will be seen by the particulars given elsewhere, have added another murder to those they committed at Mansfield. It appears that during the past few months an old associate of the band, more particularly of Joseph Byrne, a selector named Aaron Sherritt, has been in the employ, of the police, and has given them important information as to the movements of the outlaws. These facts evidently became known to the gang, and they seemed to have formed a determination to murder the man. On Saturday night the outlaws called at Sherritt’s hut, with a German whom they had captured, and whom they compelled to ask deceased to come out. Sherritt recognising the voice, came out of the door, and Byrne instantly shot him dead. There was a search party of police in the house at the time, but from the position taken up by the outlaws they were unable to fire on them. The Kelly’s remained about the hut until 6 o’clock yesterday morning, and about seven hours afterwards information was taken by one of the constables into Beechworth.
All doubts as to the presence of the Kelly gang in the colony―a fact which has been to some extent a matter of dispute―were set at rest yesterday by the intelligence that they had re-appeared at Beechworth, and had added yet another murder to the crimes already resting upon their heads. Since the gang so successfully plundered the bank at Jerilderie and escaped across country, no trustworthy information as to their whereabouts has been obtained. At various intervals it has been intimated that they were in the country, but the information as to their being in a particular locality at any set time was always many days late, and generally even then of an uncertain character. The particulars to hand with regard to the last outrage perpetrated by the gang are simply these. On Saturday evening the band of outlaws called at the hut of a man named Aaron Sherritt, having with them a German who they compelled to call on Sherritt to come out. The latter, recognising the voice, complied with the request, and on his coming out of the door he was instantly shot dead by Joe Byrne, who put one bullet through his head and another through his body. In the hut were a party of police, but they did not fire a shot at the bushrangers, and acted entirely on the defence. The reason given for this inactivity is that the night was dark, while there was a bright fire burning in the hut, so that while the bushrangers were out of sight the police would have been instantly seen and shot if they had appeared at the door or window. The Kellys fired a volley through the house, and also attempted to burn it down. The gang remained outside the hut until 6 o’clock yesterday morning, when, it is presumed, they rode away. The object for taking Sherritt’s life is clearly shown. It appears that at one time Sherritt was a friend of the Kelly’s, but was most intimate with Joe Byrne. He had been several times in gaol, and on one occasion was convicted with Byrne of stealing a quantity of meat. His father, John Sherritt, an ex policeman, is a selector, now an elderly man, and resides at Sebastopol, which is about eight miles from Beechworth. The deceased man had a selection of 107 acres about a mile from his father’s place, and it is noteworthy that he was assisted in fencing it in by Joe Byrne and Ned Kelly. He was about 24 years of age, of robust health, and was noted as a runner and a jumper. His holding was on the Woolshed Creek, in the county of Burgoyne, and about two months ago he sold it to Mr. Crawford, of the Eastern Arcade who is also a large coach proprietor, and has property to a considerable extent in the district. After selling the land he built a hut at Sebastopol, about two miles away, and it is there he was shot. A few months ago he was married to Miss Burke, the daughter of a well known farmer at the Woolshed. Prior to the Kelly outbreak, as already stated, he was on very friendly terms with the members of the gang and their companions, but recently it appears that he placed himself in communication with the police, and for some months has been employed by them. The information he afforded as to the movements of the outlaws proved highly valuable, and it is stated on good authority that not only did the gang ascertain who was keeping the police posted up, but that they also caused it to be made known in Beechworth some weeks ago that they intended to take his life. The house occupied by Joseph Byrne’s mother, there is every reason to believe, was recently visited by the gang, and the information that the deceased was watching the place is supposed to have been communicated to the murderers; in fact, it is stated that the reason that Sherritt went to the house in which he met his death was, that he might be the better able to watch Byrne’s place.
As soon as the information of the outrage was received by the police authorities efforts were immediately made to pursue the murderers. Parties of police were sent out from the various country depots, and by special train last night black trackers and a further contingent of police were despatched from Melbourne. The first intimation of the affair received by the police in Melbourne was the following telegram:―
“Watch party stuck up by the Kelly gang at 6 o’clock Saturday night. Aaron Sherritt shot dead in the hut he occupied by Joe Byrne. Fired seven shots into the hut, the bullets passing besides the constables’ heads; but owing to the position taken by the outlaws the constables could not return a single shot. They handcuffed a German and took him to the door, and made him call out ‘Aaron.’ Joe Byrne shot him through the eye, next through the body. He never spoke. The gang then fired a volley through the house. They then attempted to burn down the house by breaking up a barrell and bushes, and piling them up against the house. They called on the police to come out or ‘Joe will roast you.’ They remained outside until about half-past 6 a.m., and it was only at half-past 11 one of the constables was able to get to Beechworth.”―M. E. WARD, Detective.
The following are the facts of the case as telegraphed by our correspondent:―
(BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH)
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT)
The town was thrown into a state of great consternation about 1 p.m. to-day, upon the arrival of Constable Armstrong from Sebastopol, a place about half-way between Beechworth and Eldorado, with the report that a man named Aaron Sherritt had been shot dead at Sebastopol on the previous night. This report proved true, and the perpetrators of the foul deed are without doubt the Kelly gang. Four constables occupied the small slab-and-bark hut on the night in question, for the purpose of observing the place where it was thought the gang might at any moment call, and as it now appears were acting very wisely with the object in view. About 6 o’clock last night a knock was heard at the back door, when a German named Anthony Weekes, who had been made use of by the gang for the purpose, called for Sherritt, and asked to be guided on the road home. Upon Sherritt showing himself, he was shot in the face twice by some person who is supposed to be Joseph Byrne, one of the outlaws. There were in the hut at this time four policeman, Mrs. Barry and her daughter, the deceased and his wife. The hut was small, and the front door faced the back. A third shot was fired at Sherritt from the front door, when he fell and shortly died. The night was very dark, and as a bright fire was burning inside, the police were placed at a very great disadvantage. Sherritt fell inside. The doors were closed, and several shots fired through the doors and through other parts of the building at the police, but without effect. An attempt was made to set fire to the building by the outlaws, who remained, it is reported, near the hut for some hours. Subsequently several messages were went by the police to headquarters, but as there was a fear that they had been intercepted, and as no relief came, Constable Armstrong started and brought the news to Beechworth. There seems no doubt that all the gang were present.
The body of Sherritt will be removed to Beechworth to-morrow (Monday) for the purpose of an inquest. The police are upon the scene in force. Mr. W. H. Foster, police magistrate and coroner, visited the spot without delay. A large crowd surrounded the hut, but Mr. Foster was the only person admitted. The body is lying in the hut, and presents a fearful appearance. There are no further tidings as to the police movements.
(FROM ANOTHER CORRESPONDENT)
Constable Armstrong, one of a search party, rode into Beechworth at half-past 1 o’clock to-day and informed the police that the Kelly gang had been at Sebastopol on the previous evening (Saturday) at 6 o’clock, and that Joe Byrne had shot Aaron Sherritt through the eye and killed him. The gang brought a German to Aaron Sherritt’s hut handcuffed, there being a number of police in the hut at the time, and forced him to ask Sherritt the road to Sebastopol. As soon as Sherritt opened the door a ball was sent through his eye and another through his chest. The gang also fired seven balls into the sides of the hut, and kept the police prisoners for 12 hours.
A party of five police left here at 3 o’clock in charge of Senior-constable Mullane, but no further particulars are to hand yet. Mr. Foster, police magistrate, proceeded to the scene of the affray to hold an inquest, but decided to postpone it until to-morrow. The police are very reticent. It is thought that Sherritt was shot in order to check disaffection amongst the outlaws’ friends.
The house at which the affray took place is situated about seven miles from here on the Eldorado-road, and is within half a mile from the residence of Byrne’s mother. It is a two-roomed slab house, and at the rear is a stable. In front there are several large trees between the house and the main Eldorado road. At the time of the outbreak, about half-past 8, there were six people in the house―Constables Armstrong, Alexander, Duross, and Dowling, Aaron Sherritt, and his wife. The German (Antoine Weekes), who was brought to the house by the gang, is a resident of the place, and Sherritt, it is supposed, recognised his voice. He opened the door, and was immediately shot down by Byrne, who said, “You’ll not blow what you will do to us any more.” Sherritt died instantaneously without a struggle. About eight shots were fired by the outlaws. The marks of five balls are visible on the outside wall of the house. Three of the bullets passed through. After Byrne shot Sherritt the gang retired behind trees, and called upon the police to “Come out of that you —— dogs, and surrender.” The police said they would sooner die than surrender, and one of the gang then threatened to burn the house down and roast them inside. Numbers of persons have visited the scene of the murder this afternoon, and the greatest excitement prevails. Amongst those present at Sherritt’s house this afternoon was one of the sympathisers who was in Beechworth gaol some time ago. When he saw that he was recognised he slunk away.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT)
Murchison, Monday. 2 A.M.
Rumours are flying about that the Kelly gang have visited this district. A swagman arrived here last night with the news that he had met the Kellys at a deserted hotel, four miles on the Seymour side of Nagambie. The police went immediately to the place, but the men were gone. A pursuit was at once commenced. The swagman describes the men as being heavily armed. They were inside the house at the time. Four splendid mounts were tied outside with a pack horse.
A further report just received states that one pursuing party came on the outlaws, that shots were fired, and that one of the pursuers was wounded. Rumours of the vaguest character are in circulation.