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Aaron Sherritt (1855–1880)

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 whom 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 half-past 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 Kellys, 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 21 years of age, of robust health, and was noted as a runner and 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 that 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 beside 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 barrel 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.

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'Sherritt, Aaron (1855–1880)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Aaron Sherritt, 1880

Aaron Sherritt, 1880

State Library of Victoria, A/S17/07/80/164

Life Summary [details]




26 June, 1880 (aged ~ 25)
Sebastopol, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death