Irish Australian outlaw Ned Kelly’s remains have finally been identified – and a Melbourne jail skull from his death mask exposed as a fraud.
Australian authorities have now irrefutably proven which bones from a mass grave are Kelly’s, 131 years after he was hanged for murder.
Kelly was the son of Tipperary immigrants and became one of the famous figures in Australian history.
The famous bushranger’s bones were identified by Australian scientists using DNA from his great-great nephew.
They have also categorically proven that the Ned Kelly skull on display in Melbourne Gaol is not the genuine article.
New mystery now surrounds the location of Kelly’s skull, last located on the desk of a Victorian state police detective in 1929.
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“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,” said the Victoria state attorney-general Robert Clark.
Kelly, champion of the poor and scourge of Australian society, was famous for wearing homemade body armor in a shoot-out with police.
The Irish-Aussie rogue was sentenced to death for his gang’s murder of three policemen. He was hanged in Melbourne Gaol on November 11th, 1880.
Initially, Kelly’s body was buried in the grounds of the jail and a death mask was made from his head. His remains and the bones of other prisoners were exhumed and re-buried in a mass grave at the newer Pentridge Prison when Melbourne Gaol closed in 1929.
It is believed Kelly’s skull became separated from his skeleton during the transfer.
When the mass grave was exhumed in 2009, a call was made to identify Kelly’s remains.
“Kelly has remained a consistent icon of Australia and Australian bush life, so therefore it has a high level of significance from the Australian community because it’s part of its cultural heritage,” said David Ranson, deputy director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.
“From a point of view of Australian culture there’s always been this dichotomy of Ned Kelly the police killer and the folk hero at a time of unrest and tensions.”
Ranson added that DNA tests has proven that a skull on display alongside the Kelly death mask at Melbourne Gaol does not belong to the bushranger.
“Did that get lost in the transfer from prisons or was it souvenir-ed? We don’t know,” said Ranson.