THE REMAINS OF an infamous Irish-Australian outlaw are to be released to his family – almost 131 years after his death – so that he can be buried with his descendants.
Ned Kelly, whose exploits spawned two major Hollywood films starring Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger, was put to death for the murder of a policeman on November 11, 1880 – precisely 131 years ago this Friday.
Kelly had also been connected with the death of two other policemen – but was seen by many as a folk hero for his stance in opposing the British authorities of the day.
He was hanged in Melbourne Gaol and his body was thrown into a mass grave – where it went missing until two months ago, when DNA samples from an unidentified skeleton showed a positive match with those of Kelly’s descendants.
Now, AFP reports, Kelly’s last wish – that his body be released to his friends, “that they might bury it on consecrated ground” – is to be realised.
His great-great nephew Anthony Griffiths told ABC radio that the family had wanted “what every family wants: just a dignified family burial.
While no decision had been reached on his place of burial, the family said it would like to have a private family service with a later public event to cater for other people who wished to mark his burial.
Relatives of Kelly’s victims, however, were more critical of the plans.
Leading senior constable Mick Kennedy, whose namesake great grandfather was a sergeant killed by Kelly in 1878, said his ascendant’s wife had been left a widow with six children, “and there was no public service for her”.
The Victorian attorney-general Robert Clark, who made the decision to release the remains, told the Sydney Morning Herald he would oppose a public event.
The burial was “a matter of finding an appropriate and respectful resting place” for Kelly but not a chance to pay homage to him, he said.
AFP said he was likely to be put to rest in a small cemetery outside Glenrowan, around 120 miles north-east of Melbourne, where his mother and several siblings are buried in unmarked graves.