|A Photo from the time of the exact place where the body of Michael Kennedy was found, recently believed to have been rediscovered by Bill Denheld.
Not many of the things Ned Kelly believed are as insane as the idea that he was defending himself when he murdered three Policemen at Stringybark Creek. When arguing this point, Kelly sympathisers such as ‘Anonymous’ focus on the first killing, that of Lonigan, and split hairs over whether or not Lonigan drew his gun, or fired it, was running for cover or behind a log when he was shot, was a person who claimed he would kill Ned Kelly when or if the opportunity arose, had been given an opportunity to surrender and so on. The idea that Ned Kelly shot Lonigan in self defence is very far from proven, highly contentious and despite the conclusion of the absurd mock repeat trials some years ago there is no certainty any real Court would have accepted it.
However the point that seems lost on the Kelly sympathisers, and which renders all this debate more or less pointless is that no matter what conclusion you draw in relation to the shooting of Lonigan, there is no dispute about the death of Kennedy – Kennedy was killed in cold blood trying to ESCAPE the scene. He was CHASED by the Kelly Gang, and it was Kennedy who was shooting in self defence. There can be NO DOUBT that Kennedys death was cold blooded murder, and its no wonder Kelly sympathisers want to keep the focus on Lonigan because as soon as it turns to Kennedy, all their arguments about Ned not wanting to kill policemen collapse in a bloody heap.If Ned had NOT wanted to kill Kennedy he could have simply let him go – but instead, Kelly followed him a long way through the bush, wounded him, caught up to him and executed him on the spot.
In fact, despite Ned Kellys predictable attempts to exonerate himself in relation to these killings with the claim of self defence, being unable to keep his mouth shut he said a whole lot more in the Jerilderie Letter that exposes his true motivation and frame of mind when he went to SBC to confront the search party:
Firstly, he had convinced himself the Police were going to kill him – this sounds awfully like paranoid delusion:“they must remember those men came into the bush with the intention of scattering pieces of me and my brother all over the bush..”
“I could not help shoot them or else let them shoot me which they would have done if their bullets had been directed as they intended”
“this cannot be called willful murder as I was compelled to shoot them or else lie down and let them shoot me”
“in every paper that is printed I am called the blackest and coldest blooded murderer ever on record But if I hear any more of it I will not exactly show them what cold blooded murder is but wholesale and retail slaughter something different to shooting three troopers in self defence and robbing a bank, I would have been rather hot blooded to throw down my rifle and let them shoot me and my innocent brother”
Secondly, he decided that he would confront the Police:
“We thought it best to try and Bail those up take their firearms ammunition and horses and we could stand a chance with the rest”
And third, he had become so consumed by hatred of the police that he wasn’t going to tolerate the slightest resistance:
“I am a widows son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed” (HIS underlining !)
“It is only foolhardiness to disobey an outlaw as any Policeman or other man who do not throw up their arms directly as I call on them knows the consequence which is a speedy dispatch to Kingdom Come”
“had he not obeyed my orders or attempted to reach for the gun or draw his revolver he would have been shot dead”
These three quotes explain exactly what happened to Lonigan, Scanlan and Kennedy, and why. Neds out-of-control ego had him believing his word was law, nobody had the right to question it or disobey it, or even hesitate to obey it – the slightest resistance would invite immediate and lethal punishment – not a warning or a second chance, but a speedy dispatch to “Kingdom Come” , no questions asked – exactly what happened to the three Policemen.
In addition to these words there are many more in the Jerilderie letter in which Ned expresses contempt and undisguised hatred of Police – but to confuse the issue there are a few places where he expresses an idea that all he planned to do at SBC was bail up the Police and take their guns and horses, the preferred scheme of kelly sympathisers:
“ We thought there were more in the tent asleep those being on sentry we could have shot those two men without speaking but not wishing to take their lives we waited”
“ I could have shot them without speaking but their lives were no good to me”
“McIntyre jumped on Kennedys horse and I allowed him to go as I did not like to shoot him after he surrendered”
This is actually quite typical of Ned Kellys thought processes : confusing and contradictory, saying in one sentence he only planned to take their arms ammunition and horses, and in another saying that because they had come to kill him he was “compelled” to shoot them in self defence. I don’t believe he is referring here to a compulsion that derived from someone pulling a gun on him, but a compulsion derived from the very presence of the Police Party in the bush – its quite clear from numerous statements of his, as quoted above that in Kellys eyes they were there to find and kill him, but he wasn’t about to lie down and let that happen. Those few sentences about simply disarming the Police are paraded by the Sympathisers as their evidence that Neds intentions were benign and it was the police who created the chaos that ended in their deaths, saying that it was foolishness and “cowardice” that made them fight. But his actions are consistent not with these latter statements about not wanting to kill but with the former ones, where he declares his refusal to lie down and be shot, and his readiness to kill anyone who didnt do exactly what he told them to.
Given that he made good on his threat to despatch to Kingdom Come three of the policemen who disobeyed him , I cant see why he wouldn’t have done the same to the fourth once he too disobeyed his orders and made a run for it. McInytre certainly believed he was shot at, but fortunately for him he wasn’t hit. Kelly’s explanation for McIntyres survival sounds very much like a hypocritical attempt to claim credit for something he had no control over. “I allowed him to go” – yeah right! Sorry Ned, he got away and in spite of your best efforts you couldn’t stop him.
Sympathisers also love to draw attention to the fact that Kennedys corpse was covered in his Police cloak, making out that this was a sign of some sort of respect for him, but they neglect to explain why the other two victims didn’t receive the same respect, and they ignore the horror of the murder of Scanlan on his horse, the pursuit and killing of Kennedy at point blank range, and the outrageous indignity of robbing all the dead policemen of personal effects like watches and wedding rings. I suggested in a previous Post that the cloak was provided because at first the gang were going to leave Kennedy there alive but wounded, but then they changed their minds and shot him. If it was supposed to be a sign of respect its typical of the confused contradictory nature of Ned Kellys state of mind at the time – everything else he did and said in relation to the Police was disrespect, violence hate and contempt.
I think its pretty clear what was going on in Neds enraged mind : Does anyone doubt he had developed an intense and irrational hatred of Police? Does anyone doubt he had convinced himself that the Police wanted him dead? Ned formulated a plan to deal with both these problems together – Bail up the Police, take what he wanted and God Help anyone who got in his way. He was more than prepared to kill at the slightest excuse – indeed, was probably looking for one. In fact, given his claims that the killings were “self defence” I think he may have already decided he would kill them pre-emptively.
Argue if you like about the possibility that Lonigan was killed by Ned Kelly in self defence, that it wasn’t cold blooded murder – but nobody can make that argument in relation to Kennedys death. That was definitely a killing with “malice aforethought”
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