While Joe’s true identity was widely unknown during the weeks following the tragedy at Stringybark Creek, in early November 1878 the papers had received word that his name was ‘Bob Byrne’.
One instance of this name being used was in The Herald’s reporting of the police raid on Margaret Byrne’s selection at Sebastopol on the 7th of November. This raid, the paper affirmed, was undertaken ‘with a view to searching the Eldorado ranges for the Kelly desperadoes and their followers who are believed to be two men, named Bob Byrne and another fellow called King.’ The reporter had also received word of Joe’s romantic involvement with Bessie Sherritt, for while reporting on the police search of the Sherritt house at Sheepstation Creek, she was described as being ‘a girl of 21 years of age, who is stated to be the sweetheart of Bob Byrnes.’
The search of Margaret’s property was also detailed within the The Argus:
‘The party pushed on over the ranges, and descending a precipitous and dangerous gorge about 800ft., came upon a green valley known as Sebastopol, having a creek running through it, and overshadowed on either side by the high ranges known as the Woolshed Ranges. A sharp turn to the left brought us in front of a slab hut situated in a nicely-cleared piece of land. This was the hut of Mrs Burns, who is also known to be most friendly to the Kellys, and is further said to be connected with another of the gang. She appeared at first greatly scared at seeing such a large party surround her house, but finding that she was not herself required, slie . became very bold and impudent. ‘ She could not, or more probably. would not, give any information, and, in fact, denied all knowledge of the Kelly’s.’
After the search had been conducted and ‘none of the gang being found in the house,’ the police withdrew and ‘Mrs. Byrnes with her two little girls and a son, continued the milking of their cows, which operation had been disturbed by the arrival of the police.’