I’ve just visited a Kelly Facebook page where they have had a very brief discussion about an undated essay by John McQuilton : Ned Kelly and the curious case of Susan Scott. There’s a few likes and the obligatory attacks on me, but apart from the suggestion that Mrs Scott had ‘a little thing’ for Ned Kelly, the article goes through to the keeper with nothing but furious agreement with its claims about Mrs Scott. Its the classic echo-chamber response: “a good read” says one and “ a very good and well balanced article” says another.
They all seem to think Mrs Scotts positive words about Ned Kelly should be taken seriously. They must think her judgements have weight because of her middle-class status, her position in society as the wife of a bank manager and mother of seven. They must think that no matter how many wise judges, commentators, writers thinkers and just plain everyday people think that Ned Kelly was a murderous and hateful criminal, the fact that Mrs Scott liked him shows they’re all wrong.
I would like to offer an alternative view about that article and about Mrs Scott, though it is really just an elaboration of the suggestion made on that FB page that Mrs Scott “had a little thing” for Ned Kelly. My thoughts are not directed at the inhabitants of the echo-chamber but to anyone outside it who might have had even a fleeting doubt about John McQuiltons or his supporters’ opinions of Mrs Scotts behaviour.
McQuiltons article recounts the response of Mrs Susy Scott to being held up at gunpoint when the Kelly Gang robbed the Bank at Euroa in December 1878. Suzy Scott was the wife of the Bank Manager. He bravely refused to give Ned Kelly the keys to the safe, saying
“You have come here to take what you wanted not have it given to you, and I will not give to anyone what has been entrusted to my care”
Peter Fitzsimons describes Ned Kellys response this way:
“Ned is sure Scott will think again once his wife and seven children are involved and announces he will go and get them from the house next door”
Scott objects until Steve Hart points two loaded and cocked revolvers at his temples, and he is marched across to his residence, where Mrs Scott and her mother and her children were about to take the baby for a walk. Her son George bursts into tears asking “Are we all to be shot?” and her nanny screams and faints twice. At gunpoint Mr Scott still refuses to hand over the keys but Mrs Scott ignores his stonewalling, finds them and hands them over, an act Peter Fitzsimons says was motivated by a desire to ‘put the safety of her children all else’.
Mrs Scott says the nanny is ‘a silly woman’, and to Ned Kelly “You are not that bloodthirsty villain you have been represented to be”
The gang now helps itself to the contents of the safe, and once that’s done forces the whole household into a buggy and drives them out of town to prevent them from raising the alarm. They are all taken to the Faithfulls Creek Station where Joe Byrne has been guarding the imprisoned Station staff. Eventually, the Gang rides off after taking Scotts watch and warning their 37 prisoners not to leave for three hours, Ned Kelly having told the most senior man there, Mr Macauley that if anyone does leave early, Kelly will hold Macauley personally responsible and ‘then you may consider yourself a dead man’
Kelly sympathisers and writers like Jones and Fitzsimons hail this robbery as a marvel of criminal perfection, and make much of the trick horse-riding and the fact that nobody was hurt, that the Gang charmed everyone it encountered, and the hostages were given food and drink. But nobody should overlook the fact that the robbery was accompanied by constant threats of violence and the brandishing of loaded guns, but even more importantly, and undoubtedly still fresh in the minds of every hostage was the chilling fact that barely six weeks earlier, at nearby Stringybark Creek this same Gang had slaughtered three policemen. Why would any rational person do anything other than exactly what the Gang demanded, especially once it was apparent their intention was only to rob the bank? Why would anyone risk their life defending someone else’s money?
These facts are no doubt what prompted John McQuilton to describe the interactions between Ned Kelly and Mrs Scott as ‘curious’, not that assisting the robbers by locating the key to the Bank safe was especially ‘curious’ – it makes sense in the context of her alleged desire to protect her family from harm, as do her reported remarks to Ned Kelly when he first arrived that he was not the “bloodthirsty villain he had been represented to be”.
However what does seem a little curious is that when advised she was about to be taken away as a hostage along with the rest of the family, Mrs Scott retired to her room to change into something quite extravagant and glamorous, a newly purchased French dress set off with a large hat covered with flowers and tulle, and a pair of long white gloves. What exactly was she thinking?
In fact, what Mrs Scott eventually revealed was that her willingness to assist Ned Kelly, her flattery of him, and her decision to dress-to-impress arose from a state of mind akin to some sort of infatuation with the tall dark handsome bushranger, that left her over-awed and breathless in his presence. It was not all done to simply protect her family because if that’s all it was, after it was all over she would have said so. She would have explained how she bravely put on an act designed to protect herself and her children, and that she was relieved when the violent triple murderer finally rode out. She might have explained how she saw though his superficial charm and played along with it to keep him happy. But she didnt do anything like that at all : instead, long after he had gone and it was all over she wrote glowing praise and expressed admiration for the man :
“There was a great deal of personality about Ned Kelly and he knew how to control men and circumstances. His management of the Euroa affair was good, and he seemed to consider everything and he knew exactly what to do for the best. He would have made a magnificent General and would have done much better as a soldier than a bushranger. He was a good son and I believe a good brother.”
What had happened was that she was completely bowled over by Ned Kellys appearance and his charm, his way with words, his bravado and his bold personality, which of course was precisely what Kelly intended to happen, applying the skill he had been bewitching people with for years to a bored middle-class housewife. As a result, Susy Scott’s judgement and her moral compass was so completely disorientated that she happily humiliated her own brave husband by co-operating with the Gang and openly flirting with Ned Kelly; her thought processes and reasoning were so scrambled that she ignored the direct threats Kelly made that she and her children might be harmed if Kelly didn’t get what he wanted, she forgot about the grieving wives and children of Kennedy and Lonigan , newly made widows thanks to the extreme murderous violence of the ‘personality’ in front of her, and she ignored what no doubt she would have later heard about the violent threats made to various individuals out at the Station. What did she think of Ned Kellys boastful display to his hostages at the Station of the gold watch he stole off Kennedy after murdering him? What did she think of Ned Kelly shoving his loaded revolver into the mouth of someone who dared defy him when he first arrived? Were these the expressions of the ‘personality’ she seemed to have such regard for?
The fact is Ned Kellys ‘personality’ was the typical shallow manipulative and uncaring charm of a psychopath and Mrs Scott fell for it hook line and sinker. Kelly made a complete fool of Mrs Scott, flattering her to get what he wanted from her with a smile, the same day he had threated harm to her husband and children, and stuffed a loaded gun into an innocent old man’s mouth.
The curious case of Mrs Scott and Ned Kelly is an almost text book example of the power that psychopaths can have over vulnerable people. For McQuilton to suggest that it says something positive about Mrs Scott or about Ned Kelly is to completely misread the situation, as is evidenced by his last and most ridiculous sentence : “She was inclined thereafter to compare rude people unfavourably with her ‘Mr Kelly’.”
“Rude people” are worse than a flattering mass murderer, liar, robber and violent thug?
Really Mrs Scott? How completely out-of-touch with everyday norms you have become!
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19 Replies to “Mrs Scott : victim of a psychopath”
Almost… but not exactly – this was an instantaneous reaction to Ned Kellys charm whereas Stockholm syndrome describes a bond that develops over several days between captive and captor. So I think it was just the charm offensive in top gear that bowled her over. Theres nothing at all rational or balanced or reasonable about her behaviour – telling off the poor maid, dressing to kill, chatting and flirting with Kelly….
Agree, Mr T!
Stockholm Syndrome is feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim towards a captor.
Harry Nunn's history of NAB gives bank documents about the robbery, but I think Mrs Scott gave later interviews that re-presented her 'romantic' inclinations…
That's the first thought that came into my head too: Stockholm syndrome – 'feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim towards a captor'.
Harry Nunn's NAB history gives some additional details of the Euroa bank robbery, but he wisely resisted any commentary about Mrs Scott. There are a few later articles about her so-called support for Ned that can be safely ignored as "wobbly at best".
Mrs Scott wore her new dress because she said she thought it was going to be her last day on earth, not because she was flirting with Kelly. She flattered him to stay alive and to protect her husband and children. He behaved towards her in a gentlemanly way and she said so to him. He did not abuse her, and she said to him that he did not appear to her as he had been represented (as a violent lunatic). He and the boys were dressed up in suits, not like the scruffy larrikins she would have expected if she had known they were coming. He used no bad language to her, said her husband – OK, but we have not the context of that answer in the later court evidence, as to what was asked. She was in fear of her life, and I think the "flattery" and rapport talked about is exaggerated from its context to make her appear as an adorer of Kelly. She would not have a bad word spoken about his behaviour to her, because (apart from holding them all at gunpoint) he did not behave badly to her in the sense normally understood, e.g. swearing and violently threatening. She never said it was a good experience and would love to relive it, did she? It was hell seeing her husband stuck up and the family and nurse intimidated at gunpoint. She did the best she could. Give her a break, and don't make her a Kelly sympathiser.
Well said Stuart. That was my take on Mrs Scotts behaviour too. She used flattery to try and control things a bit and look after her family. Obviously, she was no dummy. And she also didn't see the dirty, rough ruffians the papers made them out to be. An effort at great marketing from Mr Kelly worked to a point. And thus in a way, it was more a victory for the Gang than the money.
Yes thats the standard explanation for her behaviour but I disagree, because if what she was doing at the time was purely a survival tactic, after it was all over she would have said so, and explained her behaviour in that way. But instead she didnt appear in the least interested in EVER condemning Kelly, and in fact wrote about him. She appears to have published her assessments of Ned Kelly and of the robbery, and all of them were laudatory – as far as I know she never said a word against Kelly, and as has been pointed out, admonished her own maid and later on she compared people who were rude unfavourably with Ned Kelly.
Seriously – how shallow must someone be to think that thier assessment of his character, based on the way he treated her over a few hours one afternoon completely negated the overwhelming evidence of his known acts of criminal violence, his murders and the threats he was making all day long?
This is EXACTLY the effect psychopaths have on people – the force of their personality overwhelms the better judgement of their target and they end up doing and believing things that go against every rational and logical thought they ever had. Its in the papers every day!
Wake up guys!
In fact, I would suggest Mrs Scott grasped the situation they were in quicker and more masterfully than anyone present that day at Euroa and Faithfuls Creek. . And she acted accordingly. AND the presentation from the Gang obviously impressed her. Why wouldn't it? Ned designed it to do exactly that.
“Rude people” are worse than a flattering mass murderer, liar, robber and violent thug?
Really Mrs Scott?
Its the psychopaths 'MO' to find vulnerable people and manipulate them with charm and flattery, smiles and fake pleasantries, lies, whatever it takes to get what they want from them. The situation with Mrs Scott match that scenario perfectly.
But Dee, Mrs Scott begins her memoir by saying “This account is related by an eye witness who went to through the troubles and discomfort of a visit from them [the Kelly gang] and the shattering of nerves which followed.” I'm not denying NK was a psychopath – the article by very experienced forensic psychologist Dr Russ Scott puts that beyond any doubt – and I think you are right in questioning the Stockholm Syndrome explanation which I had thought was right up till today when you have explained it in detail. But the two things possibly in dispute are whether NK was rude to Mrs Scott,, which he was not; and no one here so far has said NK was not a violent murderer or that Mrs Scott did not recognise that. It's his behaviour that afternoon that is the question here. We know Steve Hart or one of them anyway followed the carts on horseback, and waved his revolver menacingly when she turned to look back. so it wasn't a picnic for her. I used to work at a pub and the manager there was stuck up one day while at the bank with the day's takings, which he handed the bag over as they robbed him and others and the bank. He was a bit shaken up but said basically what can you do, just do what they say. I still think Mrs Scott did the best she could, and conducted herself remarkably well in the circumstances from what I've read so far. Happy to be corrected as always, I have no barrow to push.
Thanks Stuart, I havent read Mrs Scotts memoir but would very much like to, so I am relying on what other people quote from it. Her comment about trouble and discomfort is about the entire hold-up – but nobody has quoted her saying anything but nice things about Ned Kelly. Of course no argument ever has only one side – but I could only accept a case for Mrs Scott being a wiley vixen who tried to placate Ned Kelly if she had dropped the tactic once it was all over – but she didnt. And she didnt just co-operate with Kelly during the raid ; she went 'above and beyond'.
My point is that the story of Mrs Scott and Ned Kelly matches almost perfectly the known technique of, and responses to a psychopath, and it explains everything about her behaviour during and after the robbery, whereas the alternative view, as McQuitlon says, renders it 'curious'. It doesnt explain why she went 'above and beyond' , why she didnt EVER criticise Ned, why, well after the raid she continued to make all these assertions about him being a good son and a great soldier on the basis of an afternoon encounter, why it didnt seem to concern her that Kelly left her son howling in terror and her maid fainting in fear, and why she later apparently used the example of Ned Kelly to put 'rude' people in their place.
A slight correction Stuart. Dr Scott is a forensic psychiatrist…
Hi Roy, apologies for the slip. Anyway, his article, "Ned Kelly – Stock Thief, Bank Robber, Murderer – Psychopath”, Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 21.5 (2014), 716-46.", is an extremely detailed and thorough professional examination of the question. I guess a lot of people might not have read it, as it's in a journal where you need to have academic library access to get it online. But a determined interested person could put it on their things to do list and hike off to a uni library one day. You can see which libraries have it by looking up the journal name in Trove.
Thomas Curnow went above and beyond too.. Maybe he took a leaf from Susi's playbook.
Dee, there was this bit about Mrs. Scott's mother and her reaction to the Kelly visit. The "she rather liked it (after it was over)" bit is interesting.
"Mrs. Scott's mother , Mrs. Calvert, had arrived on a visit – she was a very poor traveller and at that time was paying her first visit to the neighborhood. She was very fearful of coming from her quiet home on the Lodden, and when she was leaving a friend went to the buggy to say goodbye. She said "Goodbye, the next thing you will hear of me will be that I am in the hands of the Kellys." How many true words are spoken in jest!
Kelly then went into Mrs. Calvert's room. She immediately guessed who he was for the children had told her he was there. She, of course, felt very nervous, but he calmed her by saying : "Don't be frightened, nothing will happen to you. I have a mother of my own." But she was wonderfully brave, and the adventure did not seem to affect her at all – in fact, she rather liked it (after it was over) for it was a great source of conversation her sleepy hollow of a home town."
Dee, you are right that the Stockholm Creditbank robbery took days to play out. But they weren't facing the Kelly Gang of police murderers.
Times may vary according to the threat level. Susceptible people could fold more quickly. Was Mrs Scott one of them?
Thanks Sharon I saw that as well. To my mind there is something quite revolting about a person who is armed and threatening, who has absolute power over everyone there, who then puts on this act of politeness and charm towards people who are justifiably trembling and cowering in fear, even if they are doing their level best not to show it. When you abduct people at gunpoint and rob a bank, this act of superficial charm and politeness is really just making fun of your captives, mocking them in their powerlessness.
But afterwards he openly admitted it was all a ruse whereas Mrs Scott apparently always stuck up for Kelly.Big difference.