Ned Kelly murdered Sergeant Michael Kennedy


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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20 Replies to “Ned Kelly murdered Sergeant Michael Kennedy”

  1. Mmmm I wonder what would have happened if Kennedy & Scanlan had surrendered when called upon?

  2. By going to deliberately confront police camp at Stringtbark Creek, the Kelly gang obviously had murder in mind.

    Judge Barry addressed the point in the previous comment by 'Anonymous' at length during his summation in Ned Kelly's trial. The police officers were going about their lawful duty. The gang had no right to be there or to confront police.

  3. It is always conveniently forgotten that, due to petty public service economies back then, the police received almost no shooting practice. The trees at the Kelly lair nearby showed that extensive firearms practice had taken place. Kelly hit Kennedy with gunfire several times, but Kennedy never hit Kelly once, which underlines my point..The killing of Kennedy was done in the privacy of the forest. All we are left with today is Ned's account of what happened.

    He just didn't tell the truth very often.

    I agree with Dee that this was murder most foul.

  4. The robbery of the dead bodies of the three police, whose pockets were turned out, made this small massacre stand out as a truly repulsive crime. Shot and robbed.

    When given the chance, a descendant of Sgt Kennedy describes the complete disaster that his murder caused within his family reaching down to today..

  5. Those absurd mock retrials of Ned Kelly by the ABC, groups of lawyers, and at the Beechworth annual Kelly festival were, and are, ludicrous travisties. There is no official shorthand record of the trial and the many newspaper versions have been endlessly misquoted and misinterpreted. Future mock retrials will be attended by noisy protesters.

  6. There seems to be a willingness to accept that Neds’ versions of what happened as being self-serving misrepresentations – or lies.

    So why the willingness to accept Neds’ version of the events leading to the death of Sergent Michael Kennedy?

    Why should anyone believe Neds’ account if he is such an unreliable witness?

  7. Interesting question! As you know, and as Ian Jones stated in A Short Life, Ned Kelly certainly told lies, so I do not uncritically accept needs version of this event or any other that he describes. In fact Ive already expressed doubts about his account of Kennedys death, but actually Neds account bareley adds anything to what was already known – the chase over almost a mile through the bush, the exchange of shots evidenced by damage to trees, the wounds on Kennedys body, the death by a shot delivered at point blank range. Neds account adds nothing of significance and one is left to wonder at what detail he purposely left out.

  8. Jamie Black says: Reply

    Quarter of a mile, Dee. 440 yards.

    Still… quite a distance to chase a police sergeant just to heartlessly kill him as he lay dying.

    "The Kelly Gang Unmasked"book also says Ned was a notorious liar. Me too.

    Ned could tell any story he liked. He was the only living witness by mid-1880.

  9. Who then can prove that Ned Kelly did indeed fatally shoot Kennedy, or at all for that matter?
    It could just as easily been Steve Hart, Joe Byrne, Dan Kelly or even a fifth party. A person or persons unknown.
    Guess we will never know for sure.

  10. All we know is that Ned Kelly claimed very emphatically to be the one who killed Kennedy. We also know a great deal about who was there and what happened immediately prior to his death, and this detail makes it very likely indeed that in that detail Ned Kelly was telling the truth. Rather than say we will never know for sure if Ned kelly killed Kennedy, I would say we do indeed know, with near absolute certainty that he did. The room for doubt is so infinitesimally small as to be negligible.

  11. Ned was a big loud-mouth who convicted himself. Victoria Police and prosecutors spent endless time and effort contacting witnesses who heard Ned describe the police murders at Stringybark Creek sometimes in considerable detail.

    Who then can prove that Ned Kelly did indeed fatally shoot Kennedy? Ned did !

  12. Obviously its time to put up a new Post if you’re resorting to discussions about someone being a Liberal Party Member and belief in UFO’s! So Ive deleted that line of comments : “Abuse and unreasonable comments will be deleted”

  13. Dee, your sense of fairplay is doing us a disservice. Many people have suggested you ban that infernal internet serial pest who comes here to disrupt discussion. His personal FB page proclaims his voting intentions and interest in UFOs. The latter should be mentioned because it shows where he is coming from. It is kind of nuts to mention your political persuasions these days. The guy is an extremely tiresome drongo. We shouldn't have to deal with his dopey comments here!

  14. I understand your frustration perfectly, as that is also the fellow who boasted about wrecking my previous Forums. He wants to provoke us into giving him an excuse to complain to Blogger that he is being vilified, as his rabid hope is that my Blog will get taken down like the Forums were after his lying complaints and whining to the Forum hosts. However, there is no mechanism for blocking people other than requiring all comments to be vetted by me before they go “live”, and I think you might find that just as frustrating. I have no way of uncovering the IP address or other ID of any particular “anonymous”. The dumb Posts from the fanatics that I leave for public consumption expose these idiots for what they are. And exposing them is one of the objectives of this Blog. Its being achieved quite successfully don’t you think? Thanks for your support Sam.

  15. What has any of this to do with the subject at hand?

    Derogatory comments like : Interests in UFOs mentioned as it shows where he is coming from. Tiresome drongo. Dopey comments. Lying complaints. His rapid hope. Do these come under the “Abuse and unreasonable comments will be deleted” category?

    The dumb Posts from the fanatics that I leave for public consumption expose these idiots for what they are?
    As for disrupting discussion – the above two posts are a prime examples.

  16. Alright so now you can post something that DOES have something to do with the subject at hand. I’m predicting you won’t. And prove my point yet again about the Kelly fanatics.

  17. Ned said that it was he who shot and Lonigan and Scanlan. Both were witnessed in part by McIntyre. He was already down for their deaths. So it may be that Ned took the blame for Kennedy death to shield another person or others.
    Kennedy may also have fallen in with the “good man" that Ned told McIntyre was down the creek. If Ned did shoot Kennedy one would hope it was not with his misfiring “pop pistol” that he apparently shot Fitzpatrick with and was suggested that he used to finish off Lonigan.
    Both Ned’s single barrelled guns would be empty at the time Kennedy made his run from tree to tree. One to shoot above Kennedy’s head. The other to shoot at Scanlan. Did all four members chase Kennedy? Did no one else fire shots at him?
    Evidenced by damage to trees, the wounds on Kennedys body, the death by a shot delivered at point blank range does not prove who fired those shots. Or who fired the fatal shot. The tragic end result remains the same.

    Neds’ versions of what happened are often seen as being self-serving misrepresentations – or lies. Ned Kelly also claimed to be the one who killed Kennedy.
    If everyone now knows, human memory and opinion is actually surprisingly unreliable, and subject to all kinds of bias and error, and one is left to wonder at what detail Ned purposely left out. One is left to wonder if Ned Kelly did indeed shoot Kennedy.

  18. It has always interested me that Kelly and subsequently his defenders, claimed that the principal reason for confronting the police at SBC was self defence. He also suggested that the attack was to obtain police firearms. I am a retired copper and was taught during my training that self defence applied when one's life was in real and imminent danger, not distant and remote. I also had it drummed into my head that self defence ceases the moment the threat passes. There was of course the element of reasonable force but that is not what is at question here.

    If Kelly and his cohorts felt their lives were in danger from the approach of the Mansfield police party, why did they not attempt to flee the area? Surely if they put some distance between themselves and the police any threat they perceived was gone.

    Insofar as the actual assault on the police party at SBC is concerned, I believe that self defence does not enter the equation. Kelly and company made the approach and and were obviously intent on murdering as many of the police as they could. Lots of Scotch mist about the number of bullet wounds on the police bodies with some pretty bizarre suggestions as to how these came about. To me the evidence suggests that some of those wounds were inflicted post mortem; a nasty business.

    But it is the hunting down and the cold-blooded execution of Sgt Kennedy that finally sinks any self defence claim. When Kennedy fled the immediate area of the SBC police camp, any perceived threat to the Kelly gang had ceased. Instead Ned hunts Kennedy down and fatally shoots him before robbing his body of personal items, in itself a mongrel act. Not a lot of self defence here that I can see.

  19. I disagree with the premise that the police were in a position of sympathy at all. These were different times. Nothing like today. The Kellys weren't angels, we know that. But they'd never killed anyone. It's pretty clear the cops persecuted them with impunity over a period of time (and a lot of other people too, I'll bet). And locking up Ned's mother was ridiculous. Just because the cops represent the law doesn't automatically make them, nor the law, right. The cops were hunting Kelly and his gang down and wouldn't have been too troubled bringing them back alive or dead. The gang got the better of them and they lost. Maybe the way it was done was ugly: we don't know. But at the center of it all is the fact that the Kellys were tired of how they were treated and had had enough, the cops wanted to prove a point, and they went to war. Like they say: Don't poke the bear. In addition, Kelly had MANY sympathizers. Why do you think that is? People generally take the position of police when crimes happen. But they didn't then. Either the cops were as bad as Kelly said, or the context of the time renders them too different for us to really ever get a handle on it. But it is a matter of fact that the Kellys had many supporters, and that indicates something. If my mother was treated like that, I would take things as far as I had to, wouldn't you? Whether you're a nice guy or not has little to do with it.

  20. Youre just repeating the tired old Kelly myths about them being persecuted, the whiny complaints of criminals down through the ages who always say theyre innocent and theyre being picked on. The Kellys were emphatically NOT persecuted by the police but rather attracted police attention by their lawless behaviour. Those are the FACTS! You are welcome to submit your descriptions of the actual events where the innocent Kellys were persecuted.

    He had MANY sympathiser did he? Not ONE turned up to help at Glenrowan . Not ONE gave him a single penny when he needed money for a decent Barrister. Great mates alright!

    And if your mother went to Gaol for three years you think she would be pleased if you killed three policemen in revenge do you? What a ridiculous suggestion.

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