In the midst of a discussion about Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick I was challenged by this claim on Facebook recently, and my reply was a commitment to present a detailed response on the Blog:
“You have not ‘disproved the stories about Fitzpatrick’, you have presented an alternative and stated that it is THE true version. No different to those who believe otherwise, perhaps it would sit better if you said it was how you and some others see it, not that anyone who disagrees is somehow a lunatic.”
The versions being discussed here are the version found in the latest Kelly history books – which is that Fitzpatrick was a controversial young policeman who was assaulted and shot when he went to arrest Dan Kelly at his home in April 1878 – and the Kelly sympathizers version, which is that Constable Fitzpatrick was an incompetent womanizing drunk whose corrupt misbehavior was entirely responsible for the Outbreak and all of the misery and loss of life that followed.
The idea being expressed by my challenger is an argument that’s popular in Kelly apologist circles, that there is so much uncertainty about what really happened, and the detail is so confused, and because it all happened over a century ago and none of us was there to witness it ourselves, nothing can be proved and therefore one claim about what happened is as good as any other.
What I will show in this essay is that the argument about uncertainty making every viewpoint legitimate has no relevance to this discussion because there is almost no confusion or uncertainty about most of the relevant facts. The supposed confusion and uncertainty is an artefact, deliberately created and maintained by the Kellys and their supporters in an attempt to muddy the waters, to sow confusion and doubt and so provide a defense for criminal behavior by discrediting Fitzpatrick. The Kellys certainly had the motive to create doubt and try to shift the blame to someone else : if convicted of the charges that followed Fitzpatricks visit to the Kelly home, several faced long gaol sentences. What I will show is that there are NOT two equally plausible versions of the story, but one which is consistent with the known facts and another which contains baseless conjecture, lies and slander and ignores inconvenient facts. There is only one version of the Fitzpatrick story that the facts support, and that a rational person could accept and its not the one sympathisers promote.
Because of what they’ve come to believe is the truth about him Kelly apologists hate this man with an intensity that borders on pathological. This is how Kelly promotor Gary Dean described him:
“Although young, he had a lot of experience with women, and his attitude towards them was one of a merciless hunter”
Other Kelly apologists use different but equally spiteful terms and they all express the same contempt that Gary Dean has for Fitzpatrick, a man they believe was a lying low-life and a promiscuous sleaze and abuser of women.There is quite literally no other character in the saga they hate more, and whenever he is mentioned they become agitated and defensive and more or less completely unable to engage in any kind of rational discussion or look objectively at the facts. Their reactions to this essay will be no different. But to anyone capable of looking at evidence objectively and thinking rationally about facts….read on, let the discussion begin:
What we actually know about Fitzpatrick’s personal life is this : before he was a policeman he had a relationship with Jessie McKay, of Meredith, they had a child, the relationship broke down and Fitzpatrick paid maintenance for the child. That is everything we know about that relationship, and in the absence of any other information thats where that particular discussion should end – anything else claimed about it is completely baseless speculation. What we also know is that by the time Fitzpatrick was a policeman working in the north east he had a new partner, Anna Savage, and she was pregnant. Fitzpatrick married her and stayed married to her until the day he died some 40 year later. We also know how he was regarded by his family at the end of his life. He was described in his Obituary as a ‘beloved husband, loving father’ and ‘darling Papa’ of three grandchildren.(The Argus, May 7th 1924). Again, that is everything we know about that relationship, and in the absence of any other information thats where that particular discussion should end – anything else claimed about it is completely baseless speculation.
So in summary, all we actually know about Fitzpatricks private life is that he seems to have had only two serious relationships in his entire life, a far smaller number than what Gary Deans words were intended to convey in his attempt to paint Fitzpatrick as a ‘womaniser’. Two relationships aren’t usually regarded as constituting ‘a lot of experience’ or as defining someone as a ‘womanizer’. As for the claim that ‘his attitude towards (women) was one of a merciless hunter’– again this disgusting slur is not based on any known fact. In fact, paying maintenance to Jessie McKay suggests he took his responsibilities seriously, and the long-term success of his marriage to Anna Savage shows the label ‘merciless hunter’ is just further slander. I invite every sympathiser who thinks thats not slander to produce the evidence that supports it – and predict none will be forthcoming. I would also predict that many people reading this have either themselves or have relatives and friends who have had children with more than one partner : are those family members to be labelled sleazy womanisers who prey on women too – and are your women friends and family members who have had children with more than one man also going to be labelled as sluts and immoral, like Fitzpatrick was or is there a hypocritical double standard being applied to Fitzpatrick here?
The other component of the Kelly apologist’s portrayal of Fitzpatrick as a sexual predator is a claim that he committed some sort of indecent assault, an ‘outrage’, on Ned Kellys 14 year old sister Kate. There is almost nothing about any aspect of this claim that is credible, and, as I will show it is almost certainly a lie.
One of the many variations in the Kelly versions of Fitzpatrick’s visit to the Kelly shanty in April 1878 states that though he was engaged to Anna at the time, he also had dishonourable intentions in regard to Ned Kellys 14-year-old sister Kate Kelly. There is quite literally not one shred of evidence anywhere that supports that claim. Despite this absence of facts according to the Kelly apologists, in pursuit of that interest, Fitzpatrick visited the Kelly house on April 15th using the pretext that he was there to arrest Dan Kelly. Instead, he was attacked because according to historian John Molony when he got there Fitzpatrick raped Kate Kelly. In stark contrast to Molonys claim, the only time Mrs Kelly ever mentioned this incident was many years later, and all she said was that Fitzpatrick tried to kiss Kate. Ned Kelly said the story about Kate being molested by Fitzpatrick was a lie. So did it happen or not?
Here are the facts – no mention of any kind of assault on Kate Kelly was made by anyone at the time, or for all of the rest of that year. Not a single word. This absolute and total silence about a claimed sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl by a policeman is astonishing, and cries out for an explanation. More than anything it suggests an assault didn’t take place. Even more remarkably, this complete silence continued all the way through Ellen Kellys trial six months later, in October, for attempted murder, the surprising thing being that this story of a sexual assault would have provided her with an almost perfect defence. If she had used it, and convinced the Jury it was true, not only would she have likely avoided a three-year gaol sentence, Fitzpatrick may have ended up in prison. This glaring absence from her defence also demands an explanation. More than anything it also suggests an assault didn’t take place.
The very first mention by anyone anywhere of this alleged assault was in a newspaper article in February 1879, ten months after it was supposed to have happened.
The Melbourne Herald reported an interview with Kate Kelly in which she claimed to have been at home on her own that day when Fitzpatrick arrived and he ‘commenced in violent manner to behave improperly.’ Kate then reported that Ned Kelly burst into the room, and shot Fitzpatrick in the wrist. She was also reported to have said Fitzpatrick had the warrant for Dan’s arrest in his hand, a claim we know for certain was false. We also know for certain her claim to have been at home alone was false, and she contradicted Ned Kellys claim that he wasn’t there and that he didn’t shoot at Fitzpatrick. Her claim also contradicts the assertion by some that Fitzpatrick’s wound was not caused by a bullet but by the door latch.
Its impossible to imagine a rational justification for keeping this story secret for ten months and only exposing it long after doing so could have been of any use, another reality that suggests this assault never happened. Molony suggested the assault was kept secret because of the shame of having ben raped, and to protect Kates reputation. In that circumstance its even more difficult to imagine why the first person you would talk to about it would be a journalist if for some reason it was decided Kates shame and her reputation were no longer important. Again, an argument thats not rational and raises more questions about this incident than it tries to solve.
Of note is that a few days after this Interview was published, the Kelly gang handed over the Jerilderie letter, Ned Kellys version of the Outbreak to that point: it contains several unflattering references to Fitzpatrick but no reference to a sexual assault by him on Kate.
In summary, there is no reason to believe that Kate Kellys story about a sexual assault by Fitzpatrick was true – her account of what happened includes many proven lies, it contradicts many of the details provided by her own family, her own brother said that claim was a lie, and there is no reason not to believe him on this occasion.How many Kelly Fanatics know that another of their heroes, Max Brown agreed with Ned Kelly about this, writing that ‘the myth does not fit the evidence’.
Heres my challenge to the Kelly apologists who promote their hateful hypocritical and pernicious tales about Fitzpatrick being a womaniser who committed an ‘outrage’ on Kate Kelly, and was a ‘merciless hunter’ of women: prove it, prove Max Brown was wrong and show us all how the myth DOES fit the evidence.
And if you cant prove it stop spreading lies and slander about Fitzpatrick being a predator on women.
In my next post we will discuss the claim Fitzpatrick was a drunk.