There are some central facts about the Kelly story that nobody disputes such as these ones: In the short space of twenty months between October 1878 and June 1880 Ned Kelly killed three policemen at Stringybark Creek and stole from their corpses, he robbed two banks of a lot of money, he sanctioned the murder of an old mate, Aaron Sherritt, and he attempted to murder a score or more police in a horrifying train wreck at Glenrowan. The difficult job people have who think Kelly was a hero is finding some way to explain why all these apparent brutal crimes are not brutal crimes at all but actions that in some way are consistent with their beliefs about Kelly that he was the embodiment of great Aussie values like looking after your mates and belief in a fair go for everyone. This dilemma is nowhere more comically illustrated than the Facebook Page called “Ned Kelly Sympathisers” which bans anti-police posts as one of its rules of Membership! Have they forgotten that the whole point of their hero Ned Kellys entire campaign of violence and murder was ‘anti-police’? Its as absurd as would be a Facebook page dedicated to war that banned discussions about fighting. What’s even more absurd is that Ned Kelly himself wouldn’t be permitted to be a member of that group because he was entirely preoccupied with ‘anti-police’ rhetoric and actions.
In the first part of this discussion (HERE) I described two of the main claims that Kelly followers think excuses Kelly for his crimes: the first was Kellys own assertion that he was forced into this life of crime by police harassment and persecution, that he finally decided he had had enough and he took a brave stand against it, becoming a martyr in the process. The second was Ian Jones belief that Ned Kelly was politically motivated and was planning a kind of revolution in the North East, meaning his plans for Glenrowan were an act of war against a political enemy.
In Part One I showed how careful analysis of both of these ‘pillars’ of sympathiser belief are like the chimneys that once stood at the Eleven Mile – they’ve crumbled and are now rubble.
In this Post I will analyse the other two ‘pillars’ of Sympathiser belief.
PILLAR THREE: Fitzpatrick was the cause of the Outbreak because he molested Kate Kelly and as a result of police corruption Mrs Kelly went to prison for trying to defend her, and the same corrupt police went after her sons who were forced to fight back.
The story of the Outbreak preferred by Kelly sympathisers relies considerably on the routine abuse and vilification of police but none is hated or has had his reputation more thoroughly trashed than Constable Alex Fitzpatrick. It’s taken 140 years but now it’s known for certain that almost everything said about him by the Kellys and their sympathisers from that day to this, and about what happened at the Kelly house when Fitzpatrick went there to arrest Dan Kelly are lies mixed in with conspiracy theories.
We know for a fact that virtually every Kelly family member or friend who gave statements about what happened lied about it: Ned Kelly said he was hundreds of miles away at the time: everyone knows he was there – even Ian Jones accepted that Kelly was lying when he made that statement. Mrs Kelly and Kate Kelly when asked the day after the incident said at first that neither Ned Kelly nor Fitzpatrick had even been there the night before. Kate Kelly later claimed when Fitzpatrick arrived she was there on her own, but that’s another lie. We also know they lied about Fitzpatrick and every Kelly supporter ever since has repeated and embellished them, claiming he was drunk – he wasn’t – claiming he disobeyed orders to go there – he didn’t; claiming he should have had an arrest warrant in his hand before he could arrest Dan Kelly – no, he didn’t; claiming he wasn’t shot by the Kellys – he was; claiming he was a known liar and should never have been in the police, claiming he was a womaniser who molested 14 year old Kate Kelly, claiming that he died of cirrhosis of the liver….on and on the litany of lies goes.
The claim that most triggers Kelly supporters is the one that he molested or even, as Kelly biographer John Molony claimed, raped Kate Kelly – and that’s one of the worst lies spoken about him, a claim which surprisingly enough Ned Kelly himself later on said wasn’t true. But such is the depth of their loathing, even Kellys own denial isn’t accepted by the police-hating Kelly admirers. But consider this: if it had been true, and it was the reason Fitzpatrick was assaulted, then, unless Mrs Kelly was a complete fool or was getting legal advice from an idiot, she would undoubtedly have pointed that out in her defence, when later charged and eventually sentenced for her role in the attempted murder of Fitzpatrick. If true, not only would that claim have likely resulted in her being set free, it would probably have ended the career of a man they evidently hated, Fitzpatrick. So why wasn’t it mentioned in Court as part of Mrs Kellys defence? The answer is simple: because, as Ned Kelly later said, it didn’t happen, and the false claim about molestation wasn’t invented till the following year by which time Mrs Kelly had been sent to prison and the Kelly Gang had murdered three police at Stringybark Creek.
A brilliant and comprehensive dismantling of the entire Fitzpatrick myth has been published by Stuart Dawson. It can be found online by looking for “Redeeming Fitzpatrick”. It’s another of Dawson’s analyses that as far as I know only one Kelly sympathiser has ever attempted – but failed – to refute. That bizarre evidence-free conspiracy theory is debunked HERE.
The Kelly sympathiser claim that Fitzpatrick was the cause of the outbreak is now officially dead. It was only ever an attempt by the Kellys to try to lie their way out of a massive screw up on their behalf, possibly mostly the fault of the hot tempered and uninformed Ellen Kelly who wrongly believed a policeman could only arrest someone if they had the warrant in their hand – thats never been true and still isn’t.
PILLAR FOUR: The corrupt police searching for the Kellys in the Wombat ranges planned to kill them if they found them. They were in disguise, they were heavily armed, and they took special straps designed to assist in carrying back corpses – but the Gang surprised them in a fair fight and the police got what they deserved. Kelly only killed in self defence.
Kelly claimed that he killed Lonigan at Stringybark Creek in an act of self-defence. Kelly said instead of obeying the order to bail up, Lonigan ran back and got behind a pile of logs, then lifted his head up and was about to shoot but Kelly fired first and killed him – it was either kill or be killed: self-defence.
One powerful reason for dismissing the self-defence claim is that Kellys own defence team didn’t raise it at his trial for the murder of Lonigan. This surely means Gaunson and Bindon didn’t believe such a case could be made, or that it was very weak – and it’s obvious why: there was no evidence to support it other than Ned Kellys claim – but he would say that wouldn’t he? – he was fighting for his life.
Fortunately for history, Lonigan underwent a careful post mortem examination by Dr Samuel Reynolds and he showed that Lonigan couldn’t possibly have been hiding behind a “battery of logs” as Kelly claimed, because he had a wound in his left leg that had entered from the side, another wound through his left arm and of course the one that went through his right eye that killed him almost immediately. Reynolds also noticed that the wounds were all inflicted at once, meaning that Kellys gun was loaded with multiple projectiles, or a quartered bullet, as McIntyre later reported. The pattern of wounds Reynolds described could only have been made if Lonigan was out in the open, and within seconds of the order to bail up, exactly as McIntyre had said. In Court, Reynolds report would have been used to discredit a ‘self-defence ‘claim, if the defence team had decided to use it – but they didn’t.
The claim about self defence has collapsed : forensics exposes Kelly version as lies, as bullshit. Forget self defence. It was never self defence – it was murder.
Those murders were also not the result of anything like a fair fight. Lonigan didn’t manage to even withdraw his gun from its buttoned-down holster, let alone fire it. As Kelly himself later admitted in the Jerilderie letter, “any policeman or other man who does not throw up their arms directly as I call them knows the consequence which is a speedy despatch to Kingdom Come”. This warning describes exactly what happened to Lonigan, but it was delivered months after the debacle, not before. He was shot and killed within seconds of the order to Bail Up.
Scanlan’s death was equally merciless and absolutely not the result of a fair fight, as he died well before he could fire a shot from the rifle slung across his back after falling from his horse. Kennedy was the only one who managed to shoot back, but no-one could seriously claim as a fair fight, four armed criminals chasing down a single fleeing, then wounded then mortally wounded policeman with a six shooter. The outcome was inevitable. It was an act of sickening and inhumane cruelty, unforgivable.
To bolster the Kelly claim – now disproved – that police were only killed in self-defence, a variety of other fictions have been created, such as that the Police carried special ‘body straps’ with them, that they were heavily armed, that they were in disguise and that police had declared they would shoot to kill on sight.
We know these are all fictions because, for example, the historical record shows police took only one extra rifle (borrowed), a shot gun (borrowed) and some extra rounds of ammunition for their standard issue revolvers. By no definition is that ‘heavily armed’. The historical record also shows that police were not in disguise but as was common on bush patrols at the time were dressed in civilian clothes. The fiction about body straps was invented by Ian Jones who was merely passing on a dubious piece of oral history, but he later admitted that he had no idea if they were ever taken into the bush. However its recorded they took hand-cuffs, indicating they were hoping to catch Ned and Dan Kelly alive and bring them back to face the Courts.
What actually happened was this : the fugitive Kellys established a hideout in the Wombats and spent a lot of time practicing their marksmanship. All the trees nearby were later found to be riddled with bullet holes, with evidence of the bullets having been dug out and reused, indicating the Kellys were at the very least not planning to be taken easily. Once Ned Kelly knew police were in the region, many options were open to him, including lying low and hoping they wouldn’t be found, fleeing the area entirely, or handing themselves in to avoid a confrontation. Foolishly he chose the highest risk and stupidest option of all, an armed confrontation. He had seen how frightened unarmed travellers responded to Harry Powers armed confrontations, and watch him time and again relieve them of their possessions without a shot being fired. Kelly imagined he would do the same to the police patrol, failing to take into account the low chance that members of an armed trained police search party would react the same way as innocent travellers. Kelly was obviously highly anxious and on edge when he called on Lonigan and McIntyre to bail up, because the instant Lonigan appeared to not be bailing up, Kelly fired directly at him, and killed him. Not a warning shot but a lethal shot from a quartered bullet that hit Lonigan in four places at once. Absolutely disgraceful cold blooded murder.
Ive never believed Kelly went to SBC with a plan to kill the police. What he went there with was a stupidly unrealistic immature half baked and barely worked out plan for an ambush that had a very high likelihood of going terribly wrong and ending up with people, most likely police, being killed. And thats what happened – but they weren’t killings in ‘self defence’.
The self-defence argument is also now completely disproved, meaning nothing is left to explain Kellys life of crime other than the bleeding obvious: he was a notorious criminal