|The Baxter Skull and Tooth
Its been more than a month since the annual Ned Kelly Weekend at Beechworth. On the Kelly websites and Facebook pages only a scattering of comments can be found, all declaring it a great success, but I had hoped by now to have read someone’s report of the events that were staged. In particular I was hoping to hear something about the lecture given by Dr Craig Cormick , because it was the only original and credible event on the programme – I read that it was sold out – but nothing else. Maybe someone who reads this Blog went to it, and can send in a Report.
I have previously written that the behavior of some Kelly Sympathizers resembles that of Religious fanatics. One such similarity is the often curious relationship that believers have to rational argument and Scientific truth preferring their mythology when it clashes with what science has revealed. An amazing example is the Mormon rejection of the entire well established prehistory of North America in favour of what their religious texts say.
|The Baxter Skull long ago labelled on the side as “E Kelly”
|In a similar way, Bradley Webb the creator of the largest and oldest Kelly resource on the internet, Iron Outlaw, apparently still clings to his view that the skull of Ned Kelly was on public display in the old Melbourne Gaol until it was replaced in the early 1960’s by a skull from India. This replacement skull, the skull of a person Webb says was “some poor Indians” was the one famously stolen by Tom Baxter, believing it to be Ned Kellys in 1979. It was finally returned and analysed by the Victoria Institute of Forensic Medicine, as reported by Craig Cormick in his book, and found with absolute certainty to NOT be the skull of “some poor Indians” as claimed by Brad Webb. Sadly it was not Ned Kellys skull either!
Bradly Webb made his claims about these skulls on his personal website in 2011, and in February this year, after reading Cormicks book I posted a comment on Webbs article about the skull pointing out that he was wrong. This was his reply:
NCS Publishing27 February 2015 at 14:48
To dear old crusty Bill Denheld – firstname.lastname@example.org – (or his semi-literate daughter who posts on his behalf), I know you like to hide behind the ‘Dee’ facade but maybe it’s time you pulled your head out of your arse and realised what you actually know about the Ned Kelly story can be written down on the back of a postage stamp…
I’m pleased I kept a copy of this because if you go there now, these vile and misinformed comments have been deleted, but still there is no acknowledgement that the content of the Post is misleading and wrong. Science has proved Bradley Webb wrong but he clings to his belief like a willfully blind religious fanatic. I do note however that last month on Iron Outlaw a link was posted to a talk about the skull by Craig Cormick on the ABC , which could perhaps mean that Webb has finally admitted his error, though is too embarrassed to openly admit it, or decent enough to apologise to me or Bill and his family for such an outrageous reaction. Such is the caliber of some of the leading lights of the Kelly world!
In any case Cormicks story is a fascinating example of the power of science and forensic medicine to uncover the truth, and would have made his lecture a fascinating one I expect, quite apart from the opportunity to meet the author and to gather additional snippets of information about the case.
Its worth recounting it here, for anyone who hasn’t read Cormicks book :
In brief, a skeleton – minus the skull – was exhumed from the grounds of Pentridge prison and identified as belonging to Ned Kelly by using DNA analysis. The DNA extracted from the bones was mitochondrial DNA and it was compared with mitochondrial DNA from a man called Leigh Olver, a direct maternal descendant of Ned Kelly’s sister Ellen. It was believed that the skull wasn’t with the rest of the skeleton because it had been souvenired when all the skeletons buried at the Melbourne Gaol, including Neds, were dug up and reburied at Pentridge in 1929.
The skull stolen from the Gaol in 1979 and still in the possession of Tom Baxter was thought to be Neds but no DNA could be extracted from it, so other methods had to be used to try to identify it. Old photographs taken of the skull before it was stolen, and an even earlier plaster cast of the skull confirmed Baxter’s skull was indeed the one that had been on display in the Gaol, and held earlier in the Australian Institute of Anatomy in Canberra. There had been no switching of skulls as claimed by Bradley Webb.
The next thing that needed to be done was prove that this was indeed the skull taken from the Kelly grave when it was dug up in 1929, so public appeals were made asking for any family knowledge, traditions, photos or artefacts of any kind that could possibly help. Remarkably, a descendant of someone who was at the exhumation turned up with a 1929 photograph of his grandfather actually holding the skull, and he also brought with him a single tooth that his grandfather had allegedly taken from the skull before handing it on! The tooth had remained in the family who understood it to have been one of Ned Kellys!
It must have been an electric kind of “eureka” moment when the scientists took the tooth and found it was a perfect fit for one of the empty sockets in the Baxter skull, thus establishing with absolute certainty that the Baxter skull was indeed the one exhumed at the old Melbourne Gaol in 1929. It certainly wasn’t “some poor Indians” as asserted by Bradley Webb in 2011. It would also have been pretty exciting when the scientists managed to extract DNA from the tooth, but sadly it proved the skull had never been Ned Kellys! So where is it?
Theres a thread on the Ned Kelly Forum from 2012 about the Skull.
The NKF Member who rubbished Cormick on Facebook earlier this year but then later deleted his comments, asserted in 2012 that he and Mr Webb knew “without a doubt who has Neds head” He wrote that he has “no doubt that the Melbourne University are knowingly in possession of Neds skull” As is typical with these self appointed experts who dismiss actual scientists, Jager felt no need to back up his assertions with anything as trivial as “evidence”, or “ facts” or even his reasoning for claiming he knew where the skull was, and the thread ended limply. These are of course sensational allegations and would if true be headline news on every TV channel and News report. But there has been no further NKF interest in the topic for three years! So here we have another loud mouth claim, like the one about explaining Lonigans wounds that turned out to be nothing but hot air and self promotion.
So we are left with the ongoing mystery of what happened to Ned Kellys skull. It would seem that it was never buried, but kept as a ghoulish souvenir, and may still be “out there” somewhere, but perhaps no longer identified as Neds, because since 1929 his was believed to be the one at the old Melbourne Gaol, the one known now as the Baxter skull.
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