Body of Ned Kelly to be returned to family

Family set to receive headless remains of Australian outlaw who was executed 132 years ago.

    Kelly's remains were formally identified last year, but his skull remains missing [GALLO/GETTY]
    Kelly's remains were formally identified last year, but his skull remains missing [GALLO/GETTY]

    More than a century after his execution, the headless remains of Ned Kelly, the infamous Australian outlaw, will be returned to his descendants for a family burial.

    The Victorian state government said it had issued a new exhumation licence on Thursday for Kelly's remains.

    A property developer behind the Pentridge Prison site where Kelly was buried will now be forced to hand over the skeleton, rather than using the remains for a museum or memorial, as originally planned.

    "The Kelly family will now make arrangements for Ned's final burial," said Ellen Hollow, the great granddaughter of Kelly's sister Kate Kelly.

    Considered by some to be a cold-blooded killer, Kelly was also seen as a folk hero and symbol of Irish-Australian defiance against the British authorities.

    Kelly was captured in Victoria state in 1880 after having murdered three police officers. He was then hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in November of the same year.

    But his body went missing after it was thrown into a mass grave.

    The bodies in the grave were transferred from the jail to Pentridge Prison in 1929 and then exhumed again in 2009.

    His remains were formally identified last year, minus the skull which remains missing.

    "We appeal to the person who has the skull in their possession to return it," said Hollow in a family statement.

    Huge bounty

    Believed to have been born in 1854 or 1855, Kelly became an outlaw two years before he was hanged.

    He survived a shootout with police in 1878 that saw him, his brother Dan, and friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart slapped with a bounty of £8,000 - the largest reward ever offered in the British Empire at the time - for anyone who found them.

    Over the next 18 months the Kelly gang held up country towns and robbed their banks, becoming folk heroes to the masses.

    In a final gun battle at Glenrowan, three gang members died and Kelly, dressed in home-made plate metal armour and helmet, was wounded and arrested.

    The Kelly gang's exploits have been the subject of numerous films and television series.

    Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger played the lead role in the 1970 movie "Ned Kelly", while Heath Ledger starred as the bandit in a 2003 remake.

    Kelly has also been the inspiration for many books, most notably Peter Carey's novel "True History of the Kelly Gang", which won the 2001 Booker Prize.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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