Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Ned Kelly's descendants win legal fight for skeleton

1880: Australian bushranger Ned Kelly (1855 - 1880) in the gaol hospital, Melbourne.
Edward 'Ned' Kelly (1854 - 1880), Australian bushranger and outlaw, wearing his famous bucket in a shoot-out. Original Publication: People Disc - HF0360 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mike King poses between the helmets of famous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly in his home town of Jerilderie

Folk hero or cold-blooded killer - the skeleton of Australia's most notorious criminal will finally be returned to his family - 132 years after he was executed.

Victoria state government officials said Ned Kelly's remains would be given to the 19th-century outlaw's descendants.

Kelly led a gang of bank robbers in Victoria and was hanged in 1880.

The whereabouts of his corpse was unknown for decades. Last year, forensic scientists identified his skeleton after it was found in a mass grave on the site of a now-closed prison.

Kelly's descendants wanted the remains returned so they could give him a proper burial.

Ellen Hollow, great-granddaughter of Kelly's sister Kate, said the family was pleased with the government's decision.

Leigh Chiavaroli, the property developer of the former Pentridge Prison site where Kelly's skeleton was buried had hoped to keep the remains on the grounds. He declined to comment on the government's decision.

Ms Hollow said: "The Kelly family will now make arrangements for Ned's final burial. We also appeal to the person who has the skull in their possession to return it to (forensic officials), so that when the time comes for Ned to be laid to rest his remains can be complete."

Kelly, whose father was an Irish convict, led a gang that robbed banks and killed policemen from 1878-80. These days, many Australians view him as a Robin Hood-like character who fought the British colonial authorities and championed the rural Irish underclass. Others dismiss him as a cold-blooded cop killer.

After Kelly was executed, his body was buried in an unmarked grave outside a former prison called the Old Melbourne Gaol. But officials decided to exhume his remains along with those of other executed convicts in 1929 when the jail closed.

The plan was to move the skeletons to the nearby Pentridge Prison, but a mob of onlookers stole some of the remains - including what was believed to be Kelly's skull - during the exhumation.

The skull was later recovered and put on display at the Old Melbourne Gaol, now a historic site. But in 1978, it was stolen again.

In 2009, a farmer handed the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine a skull he claimed was Kelly's. Forensic tests last year, however, determined it was not the outlaw's skull.

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