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Aaron Sherritt (1855 - 26 June 1880) was an associate of the gang of outlaws led by Ned Kelly.
He grew up in the Woolshed near Beechworth and was a childhood friend of gang member Joe Byrne. At one stage he was engaged to wed Katie Byrne - Joe Byrne's sister. On 26 December 1879, Sherritt married another girl, the fifteen year old Ellen Barry.
On 26 October 1878, Ned, his brother Dan, Byrne and Steve Hart were outlawed by the colony of Victoria after a gun battle with three policemen at Stringybark Creek. By some accounts, Sherritt offered to join the gang but was talked out of it by Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne.
He was a friend of the outlaws, and at their request, he adopted a dangerous role as a double agent. He gained the trust of Police Superintendent Francis Hare, and led a campaign of misinformation to the police in order to protect the Kelly gang. Meanwhile, he was a trusted messenger and supplier to the gang. Sherritt advised the police to camp out in a cave near Byrne's family home. The police camped there for about a month, with Aaron supervising the stakeout, in a vain hope of capturing Byrne during a visit to his mother. Aaron's presence was to decoy the police to enable Joe and other members of the Kelly gang to access the family hut undetected. Although it was supposed to be a secret operation, their presence there was soon known to the locals. Margret Byrne, Joe's Byrne's mother, discovered the camp in just a couple of days. She noted Sherritt's presence among the police and informed her daughter who then broke off her engagement to him.
Joe Byrne turned against his lifelong friend after a campaign by Detective Mick Ward to erode the friendship was successful. Detective Ward, who strongly suspected that Sherritt was deceiving the police, manipulated a series of events and information to create an impression in the community that Aaron was a true agent for the police and a traitor to the gang.
Death and aftermath
On the 26 June 1880 Sherritt was at home with his wife, mother-in-law and four policemen, Constables Armstrong, Alexander, Ducross, and Dowling. A neighbour, Antoine Weekes, who had been handcuffed and held hostage by Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly, called out "Aaron" at the front door of Sherritt's hut. When Sherritt answered it, Joe Byrne shot him dead. The police officers hid under the bed and did not report the killing until late the following morning.
Within a couple of days, Joe Byrne was himself killed in a shootout between the gang and the police at Glenrowan. Ned Kelly was the only one to survive to stand trial. He was found guilty and hanged on 11 November 1880.
- Brendon Kelson; John McQuilton (2001). Kelly Country: A Photographic Journey. Univ. of Queensland Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7022-3273-2.
- "ANOTHER KELLY OUTRAGE.". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 28 June 1880. p. 5. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "THE KELLY GANG.". Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 10 July 1880. p. 6. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- Alec Brierley, An Illustrated History of the Kelly Gang (1979)
- Ian Jones, "The Fatal Friendship: Ned Kelly, Aaron Sherrit & Joe Byrne" (2003)