After years of research and investigation, the headless skeleton of the legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly has been identified by experts at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.
Kelly, who was captured and hanged in 1880 for killing three police officers, was considered by some to be merely a cold-blooded murderer, while by others a folk hero and symbol of Irish-Australian defiance against the British authorities.
Following his execution, Ned’s head and organs were removed for study and his body was thrown into a mass grave along with 33 other criminals.
The bodies in the grave were transferred from the jail to Pentridge Prison in 1929 and it is believed that during this transfer, workers stole skeletal parts from a grave marked with the initials EK – thinking that they belonged to Kelly.
The hunt for Ned’s body began in earnest in November 2009 when a skull said to be his was handed in to the VIFM by Tom Baxter, a West Australian farmer.
While tests proved that the skull was not Kelly’s, doctors and scientists at VIFM were able to identify and confirm his body among those mingled in the mass grave by using a DNA sample taken from Melbourne school teacher, Leigh Olver, the great-grandson of Kelly’s sister Ellen.
“This is an extraordinary achievement by our forensic team here in Victoria. 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,” Victoria’s Attorney General Robert Clark said.
Olver, who supplied the DNA, said he was relieved to finally have some closure.
“It’s such a great relief to finally have this side of the story resolved,” he told reporters, adding that he hoped a suitable resting place – one of “dignity” – could be found for his colorful relative.
In addition to being the inspiration for numerous books, the exploits of Kelly and his gang have been the subject of multiple television series and movies alike.
The 2003 flick Ned Kelly, featuring Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, and Naomi Watts, is just one of those films. Check out the trailer below: