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Aaron Sherritt was born in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran in August 1854, to Irish migrants John and Agnes Ann (née Nesbitt) Sherritt. He was the eldest of 13 children. He grew up in the Woolshed near Beechworth and was a childhood friend of Kelly gang member Joe Byrne. On 26 December 1879, Sherritt married the fifteen-year-old Ellen "Belle" Barry.
On 26 October 1878, Ned, his brother Dan, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart were outlawed by the colony of Victoria after ambushing a party of police and murdering 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, but gained the trust of Police Superintendent Francis Hare. Traditional accounts of the Kelly Gang portray him as a traitor, but many of the police suspected he was a double agent working for the Kelly Gang. Detective Mick Ward actively worked to increase tensions between Sherritt and the Kelly Gang.
Death and aftermath
On the 26 June 1880 Sherritt was at home with his pregnant wife, mother-in-law and four policemen, Constables Robert Alexander, Henry Armstrong, Thomas Dowling and William Duross. The police were using the Sherritt residence as a base of operations to watch the neighbours' house, belonging to the mother of Joe Byrne. A neighbour, Anton Wick, who had been handcuffed and held hostage by Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly, called out "Aaron" at the back door of Sherritt's hut. When Sherritt answered it, Byrne shot him at point-blank range in the neck and chest. Byrne and Kelly then held the household captive in the house for 12 hours before they stole back into the bush.
Aaron Sherritt's youngest brother was also named Aaron. The younger Aaron Nesbitt Sherritt was born in 1883, after the first Aaron had been shot dead.
- Victorian Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Marriage registration no. 4299
- 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. 28 June 1880. p. 5. Retrieved 8 January 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
- "THE KELLY GANG". Australian Town and Country Journal. NSW. 10 July 1880. p. 6. Retrieved 8 January 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
- Ingles, Matt On this day: The Kelly Gang's last stand Archived 31 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine, australiangeographic.com, 27 June 2014