It would appear that the Kennedy Tree Group ( KTG ) won’t be making their Report available until they have presented its findings at a Public meeting, which they say will be ‘live streamed’ on Saturday December 14th, in Greta. They are going to describe finding a tree they believe is the same one that was photographed in 1878 by Charles Burman, a few days after the dead body of Sergeant Michael Kennedy was found lying beside it. According to the KTG spokesman Adrian Younger, the similarities they have observed between the tree in the photo and the tree they’ve located are so striking as to make it ‘unlikely’ that they are not ‘one and the same’ tree.
There are two thoughts that I would like to share about this tree, and will be issues that I hope either their report will address, or they will explain in person at their presentation. I put them up here for others to think about and comment on.
Firstly, as many will know, for many years the Police camp was thought to be at a place identified by Ian Jones on the Eastern side of Stringybark Creek. In those days, when talking about where Kennedy was chased to by Ned Kelly, much was made of the claim that Kennedys track crossed the creek, which meant of course that the tree where Kelly murdered him would have been on the western side of the creek. Now, however, though nobody can agree precisely where, everyone does at least agree that the police Camp site was somewhere on the western side of the creek – which would mean of course that if we still accept that in fleeing, Kennedy crossed Stringybark Creek, his body would have been found on the EASTERN side of the creek. However, Adam Ford claimed as before that the place where Kennedy was murdered was on the western side, but he didn’t explain in any detail why he decided on a western side location or discuss any of the various accounts of the search, such as the one provided by the leader of the search for Kennedy, Shire President Tompkin who reported to Sub Insp Pewtress in a telegram after the second days search, that the body had been found to the east of the police camp.
So my first hope is that whichever side of the creek the KTG tree is, they will explain why they picked that side. It’s actually an important decision to make, because it determined where they did their search.
My second thought relates to the fact that as Mr Younger says, at best they have found a tree which is likely to be the Kennedy tree, rather than a tree that they can be absolutely certain is the Kennedy tree. None of the descriptions from the time have exact instructions on how to find it, and they differ in many significant ways. That was why Adam Ford says to Leo Kennedy in the Lawless documentary that ‘somewhere near where we are standing is where your great grandfather was killed’. However, it did occur to me that there IS something that could elevate the probability from likely to almost certain that the Kennedy tree had been found : the recovery of the charge of shot or bullets that were fired into Kennedy at point blank range as he stood or lay in front of that very tree. So, I would like to know if any metal detecting has been done around the tree, and what if anything was found.
The second part of the KTG claim relates to the Police Camp itself, the place where the two other policemen were murdered by the Kelly Gang. I make no secret of the fact that I believe Bill Denhelds Two Huts site is the place that ticks the most boxes, but even Bill himself is on record as saying that he’s willing to be proved wrong.
The tantalising and at the same time frustrating reality of this search is the fact that we have two extraordinary photos of the very place we are trying to locate. They are the logical place to begin the search for clues to the sites location, which is what everyone has done – but there is very little consensus about what exactly is seen in the photos. Perhaps the most important dispute in relation to the photos, an issue that needs to be decided upon before any argument can be entered into about what’s seen in the photo, is the crucial question of camera angle. Adam Ford and the CSI team think it was pointed to the north and east whereas Bill and KTG agree it was pointing in the exact opposite direction, to the South and West. I discussed this question in last weeks Post and explained why I agree with Bill and KTG that the camera was pointed toward the south and west.
Anyone who supports the Ford site or the CSI team but now thinks the KTG may have solved the problem is going to have to perform a back-flip in their interpretation of the Burman photos orientation. That’s because to accept the CSI site you must have accepted their interpretation of the Burman camera angle, an interpretation rejected by the KTG. I’ll be interested to hear KTG supporters who’ve flipped from the CSI site justify their change of mind about the photo.
One feature of the photos about which there does seem to be consensus is in relation to the slope seen behind the logs in both photos. In my view a correct interpretation of the orientation of the photo – ie towards the SW – requires there to be a slope to the SW at any nominated site, as is seen at the Two huts site. Indeed, that was why Adam Ford rejected Ian Jones site, because the slope seen in the photo could not be seen anywhere at that site. In keeping with their view that the Burman photo is orientated toward the north east, Ford and the CSI team have both pointed to a slope to the northeast of their nominated sites, notwithstanding the objection that the creek separates their nominated Camp sites from the slope, a feature which is NOT found in the Burman photographs. We have yet to see the slope at the KTG site but they have already revealed they believe the photo was taken to the SW, so there needs be a steep slope in that direction for their site to have credibility.
My greatest concern about the KTG claim is that it’s based on specific detail in regard to trees not well seen in the far-from-crystal-clear images that Burman has left us. One of the trees they claim to have identified is a tree whose identity the CSI team made quite central to their argument, but their claim was that it was a completely different tree to the one the KTG is now saying it is. Any argument based on things you claim to be able to see in a photo that nobody else can see has got to be a weak argument : the CSI teams claim to be able to identify particular species of tree and individual specimens in different photos taken years apart was a great and ultimately fatal weakness of their argument. On the other hand, the beauty of Bills argument is that its based on the easily seen features of the photo, the slope, where shadows fall, the hut remnants and the logs.
I just hope the KTG haven’t fallen into that trap, of seeing things in photos that aren’t there. I guess we will all find out on December 14th.