Experts identify Ned Kelly remains

The headless remains of Australia's most storied criminal, Ned Kelly, have been identified, officials said today, ending a decades-long mystery surrounding the final resting place of a man now seen by many as a folk hero.

Kelly, who led a gang of bank robbers in Australia's southern Victoria state in the 19th century, was hanged in 1880. His corpse's fate was unknown, though it was long suspected his body lay alongside 33 other executed inmates in a mass grave at a prison.



Officials pinpointed the location of the grave site in 2008 and later exhumed the bodies for analysis. A DNA sample from one of Kelly's descendants confirmed that one of the skeletons — which was missing most of its skull — was that of the notorious Ned, said Victoria Attorney General Robert Clark.



"To think a group of scientists could identify the body of a man who was executed more than 130 years ago, moved and buried in a haphazard fashion among 33 other prisoners, most of whom are not identified, is amazing," Clark said in a statement.



Kelly, whose father was an Irish convict, led a gang that robbed banks and killed policemen from 1878-80. These days, he is considered by many Australians to be something of a Robin Hood or Jesse James-like character, fighting the British colonial authorities and championing the rural Irish underclass.



For years, Australians have wondered what became of Kelly's remains. After he was executed at the age of 25, his body was buried in an unmarked grave at a prison called the Old Melbourne Gaol. But when the facility closed in 1929, officials decided to exhume Kelly's body along with the remains of other executed convicts and move them to the nearby Pentridge Prison.



The exhumation, however, turned into something of a debacle when a mob of onlookers descended on the site and stole some of the remains, including what was believed to be Kelly's skull. That skull was later recovered and put on display at the Old Melbourne Gaol — now a historic site — next to Kelly's "death mask," a plaster cast of his face made after his execution.



In 1978, the skull was stolen again. Thirty-one years later, on Nov. 11, 2009, a farmer from Western Australia state named Tom Baxter handed the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine what he said was the stolen skull, which featured the inscription "E. Kelly" on its side — Kelly's actual first name was Edward. Baxter has not revealed how he got ahold of the skull.



Scientists at the institute set out to determine who the skull belonged to, and to identify Kelly's full remains among the tangle of skeletons exhumed from the Pentridge site.



Through CT scans, X-rays, anthropological and historical research and DNA analysis, the team finally identified one skeleton as Kelly's. Most of its head was missing.



Stephen Cordner, the institute's director, said the DNA left no doubt the skeleton was Kelly's. Tests on the remains also uncovered evidence of shotgun wounds that matched those Kelly suffered during his criminal rampage.



"The wear and tear of the skeleton is a little bit more than would be expected for a 25-year-old today," Cordner said. "But such was Ned's life, this is hardly surprising."



As for Baxter's "E. Kelly" skull? Not Ned's. The whereabouts of Kelly's skull remain a mystery, Cordner said.



The DNA sample used for comparison came from Leigh Olver, a teacher in the Victoria capital of Melbourne and the great-grandson of Kelly's sister Ellen. On Thursday, he told reporters in Melbourne that he hoped his notorious ancestor will finally be laid to rest in a place of dignity.



"It's such a great relief to finally have this side of the story resolved," Olver said.



Kelly's story has been documented in several books and movies, including a film starring Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and another starring late actor Heath Ledger. Kelly's use of homemade armor to protect himself from police bullets was even given a nod during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when actors on stilts dressed in similar armor were featured in the opening ceremony.



"I think a lot of Australians connect with Ned Kelly and they're proud of the heritage that has developed as a result of our connection with Ned Kelly and the story of Ned Kelly," Olver said. "In our family, he was a hero."

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory