“I honestly believe the whole scenario at the Kelly hut on the 15th of April 1878 was one big setup by police long before Fitzpatrick’s arrival at the hut.” (‘Crichton’s view’ – can be found on the Iron Outlaw website as ‘Keep ya powder dry’)
The simple facts of the events of April 15th 1878 are that Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick visited the Kelly home to arrest Dan Kelly on a charge of horse stealing. There was a ‘fracas’, Fitzpatrick received a wound to his wrist, and returned empty handed. Warrants were then issued for the arrest of various people involved in this ‘fracas’ for attempted murder.
The Kellys and their sympathiser followers have forever maintained their innocence in all this, denying there was any wrongdoing on their part, and yet all of them lied about it, including Ned Kelly who claimed he was 400 miles away when it happened. Jim Kelly lied about it, years later claiming he was there but the records show he was in a NSW prison at the time. Ellen Kelly also lied and at first told police that neither Ned nor Fitzpatrick had been at the house for several months. At other times however Neds sister Kate, his brother Jim and uncle Patrick Quinn all said that Ned had fired a gun and wounded Fitzpatrick and a couple of years later Ned Kelly admitted that he also had lied and confessed that indeed he did shoot at Fitzpatrick.
As was so recently observed yet again, the Kellys version “…will change every time they open their mouths, but Fitzpatricks will hardly deviate in the 35 years between 15th April 1878 and when he is interviewed for newspapers in 1911.” (Grantlee Kieza : “Ellen Kelly”)
Ive said repeatedly that the greatest of the Kelly myths – or in other words the biggest lie that the Kelly believers tell about the entire saga – is that the Kellys were victims of unjustified police harassment and persecution, and it was Police behaviour that drove Ned Kelly to do what he did. In keeping with that conspiracy theory ‘Crichtons view’ as expressed in a recently reposted out-of-date essay taken from The Iron Outlaw site from several years ago, is an example of this conspiracy theory approach to the Kelly outbreak. The conspiracy theory is that Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was a drunk, a womaniser, a liar and a thoroughly bad cop whose visit to the Kelly homestead was a corrupt act designed to entrap the innocent Kellys, and that everything Fitzpatrick said about what happened that evening were lies. This version is like music to the ears of Kelly sympathisers because it presses all their tiny buttons: police corruption, persecution of innocent Kellys, conspiracy theory, and especially vilification of Fitzpatrick. “beautiful” said one;”I could read this all day’ wrote another! There’s nobody in the Kelly story that Kelly sympathisers hate more than Fitzpatrick, whose memory is ceaselessly smeared and ridiculed. I will address this vilification in Part Two.
But close examination of the entire Kelly construct around the so called ‘Fitzpatrick incident’ shows that the liars were the Kellys. Their conspiracy theory version is a lie – one giant lie made up of innumerable smaller ones designed to deflect the blame for the violence and mayhem of the Kelly Outbreak onto the Kellys traditional enemy, the Police. Criminals almost invariably look for someone else to blame for the trouble they find themselves in, and the Kelly’s, and Ned in particular were no exception. What is exceptional however, is how widely they have managed to persuade the public that their lies are true.
The Kelly sympathiser view, as expressed quite typically by Crichton, always deliberately conceals several crucial facts, and invariably misrepresents several others to try to make their case. For example they never comment on the fact that the Kelly brothers fled the scene immediately after, and left their mother there to face the music alone. Apart from not being behaviour one would expect from an innocent person, their flight into the bush is the opposite behaviour one would expect from the devoted son Ned Kelly was supposed to be.
Kellys flight into the bush also proves the lie to the purported claim by Ned Kelly later that his mothers freedom was so important that in exchange for her freedom he would hand himself in. If Kelly was really the devoted mother-loving son he is claimed to have been, and if he had really wanted to help her he would have stuck around the house and faced the music right from the start – after all, he was innocent, wasn’t he? Instead he high-tailed it for the bush to save his own skin and then made this offer which was a grandstanding bit of theatre by a master manipulator who would have known full well there had never been and there wasn’t ever going to be an example of a convicted criminal being released from prison in exchange for a suspect handing himself in. That ‘offer’, something altogether different from a ‘plea bargain’ could never have been accepted by the Police in Victoria or anywhere else in the civilised world, but rejection of it would help Kelly in his PR campaign against the police. It was a pretence, an empty gesture, but in re-telling this silly charade as an example of Ned Kellys magnificence, Kelly sympathisers merely expose their gullibility to the master manipulators wiles. No system of justice has ever worked that way.
Another lie that is often repeated in this context is Mrs Kellys claim, repeated by Ned Kelly in the Jerilderie Letter that Dan needn’t go with the Policeman because he didn’t take to the Kellys place the actual warrant for his arrest. This claim has been refuted time and time again over many years, but still poorly informed Kelly sympathisers (is there any other kind?) drag it up time and again. Do they think that Policemen as they go about their daily duties should carry with them great sheaves of warrants in case they happen to come across a known criminal? Even when a warrant has yet to be issued, Police are empowered to arrest people they suspect of being criminals! A moments reflection would reveal to any informed person the absurdity of that claim, and yet its still part of the Kelly myths.
Crightons conspiracy theory about Fitzpatrick’s involvement, in line with all of them, ignores the most important aspect of this incident , which is that Fitzpatrick did actually have a perfectly legitimate reason to go to the Kelly homestead – there was a warrant for the arrest of Dan Kelly in relation to a major stock theft that Dan was believed to be involved in. Ned Kelly subsequently openly boasted in the Jerilderie Letter that he was indeed the mastermind of an illegal ‘wholesale and retail’ horse and cattle stealing operation, confirming the police suspicions in relation to Dan were correct, and completely undermining people like Crighton who say the ‘scenario’ at the Kelly homestead was ‘was one big setup by police’. Why the HELL would they bother to engineer and set up such a ‘scenario’ when the Kellys had already provided them with a perfectly legitimate reason to visit them? If the Police had been looking for a reason to visit, they didn’t need to go about creating an excuse for themselves because the Kellys gave them a very good one on a plate. The ‘setup’ that resulted in Fitzpatrick’s visit was Kellys criminal stock thieving organisation. Crichtons premise is complete nonsense.
The Kelly apologists like Crichton who ignore this foolish confession by Ned Kelly don’t want to admit that the true origin of the ‘outbreak’ was what Kelly confessed to – major criminal activity that drew the Kellys to the attention of the Police. So they pretend Ned Kelly wasn’t actually a major regional crime figure, they elaborate a fanciful conspiracy theory to explain why Fitzpatrick went there to make an arrest, and they vilify and demonise Fitzpatrick. They are simply echoing the words and the behaviour of their hero Ned Kelly who wished to absolve himself of any blame for the murders he committed and blame them on Fitzpatrick :“Fitzpatrick will be the cause of greater slaughter to the Union Jack than St Patrick was to the snakes and toads in Ireland”
Next week I will write about Fitzpatrick.
But just to quickly recap what we know are the facts of the case so far :
· 1. Police had absolutely no need to invent a reason to go to the Kelly house – the Kellys gave them one on a plate: They were running a major crime racket dealing in stolen horses and cattle.
· 2. The arrest warrant existed but it did not need to be shown to the suspect before he could be arrested and taken into custody
· 3. The police were not ‘persecuting’ the Kellys when Fitzpatrick went to arrest Dan – he was doing his job.
· 4. The Kellys all lied about what happened
· 5. . Ned Kelly more or less admitted his guilt by fleeing the scene, and confirmed it to Steele after his arrest at Glenrowan a couple of years later.
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