19th Century Bank Robber Ned Kelly’s Body Found, Identified
Discovery Ends Decades-Long Mystery
The photo seen here, which was scanned to digital by the State Library of Victoria in Australia, shows that country’s most infamous criminal, Ned Kelly, standing shackled at a prison called the Old Melbourne Gaol, some time before he was hanged in 1880. For decades, the whereabouts of the remains of this bank-robber-turned-folk-legend have been a mystery. Now, a group of scientists has used the DNA of a known descendent of Kelly to identify his remains among those of 33 others found buried in a mass grave at a 19th century prison.
Although records show that Kelly, who led a gang of bank-robbers in Australia’s southern Victoria state, was hanged and buried in an unmarked grave at the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880, his final resting place has been surrounded by confusion and mystery since the facility closed in 1929. At that time, officials decided to move all of the remains buried on the prison grounds to a different site at the nearby Pentridge Prison. But the exhumation was interrupted my a mob of onlookers, who stole Kelly’s skull and caused the rest of his remains to be lost among the unidentified before they were all reburied at the new location.
Government officials pinpointed the location of this grave site in 2008. Later, all 33 bodies were exhumed and analyzed. Using CT scans, X-rays, anthropological and historical research and DNA analysis, the team of scientists determined that one of the skeletons, which according to Victoria Attorney General Robert Clark was missing most of its skull, belonged to Ned Kelly himself.
Although he was a bank-robber and a notorious killer of policemen, Kelly is now viewed by many Australians as a folk hero, often compared to America’s Jesse James and even England’s mythical Robin Hood. Born of an Irish convict, Kelly ruthlessly fought against the British colonial authorities, and championed the rural Irish underclass from which he rose to infamy. The whereabouts of Kelly’s skull remain a mystery.
To view more Ned Kelly photos that have been scanned to digital, visit Los Angeles Times.