On 28 May 2000, Channel Nine\’s Sixty Minutes aired a segment titled \’Kelly On Trial\’ which was produced by Stephen Taylor and featured reporter Ellen Fanning. The report examined the flawed Supreme Court murder trial and subsequent sentencing presided over by Judge Redmond Barry. Viewers were asked to go online and submit questions to Ian Jones. This web site was listed as the sole reference for people wanting to know more about Ned Kelly. Over the following twenty-four hours IronOutlaw.com received over 6,000 new visitors which helped propel the site into the media spot light where it has remained ever since.
Consider Your Verdict - Ned Kelly goes on trial
Ned Kelly was sentenced to hang for killing police officer Thomas Lonigan in the shoot-out at Stringybark Creek. The death penalty was pronounced on October 28, 1880. But was Ned set up? The trial of our most famous bushranger has long been branded a miscarriage of justice. Experts, including the Chief Justice of Victoria, believe his court case was hopelessly unfair. They argue the judge was biased, the jury improperly instructed, and his conviction unsafe. Now, 120 years later, Ned Kelly gets a fair trial. Using original court transcripts, court re-enactments and the services of two eminent QCs, the outlaw Kelly goes back in the dock. The retrial, the highlight of National Law Week, sees Justice John Coldrey presiding. Defending Ned Kelly is Michael Rozenes QC. Julian Burnside QC, star of the Australian Broadcasting Authority\’s cash for comment inquiry, is prosecuting. The 60 Minutes poll gives Australia the chance to answer once and for all whether Ned Kelly died an innocent man. To read the transcript of our online chat with Ned Kelly expert Ian Jones, see below.
Live Q & A with Ned Kelly expert Ian Jones
Ninemsn in association with 60 Minutes presents a live interview with Ian Jones, a Ned Kelly expert. Jones was a co-scriptwriter of the 1970 film version of Ned Kelly, which starred Mick Jagger, and producer of the TV mini-series The Last Outlaw.
Ian Jones, good evening, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Good evening. I\’ll be delighted to answer any questions you care to ask about Ned. I\’d have to add that I only saw a rehearsal of the trial so, apart from that, I know as much as you do, having seen tonight\’s 60 Minutes.
Ian, have you always had a special interest in the Ned Kelly story? Since I was 10 years old in 1941, which is quite a long time! I have now written two books about the Kelly story, The Friendship that Destroyed Ned Kelly in 1992 and Ned Kelly: A Short Life in 1995. In those books I have said most of what I know about Ned, but each of them could easily have been twice as long.
Ryza: Ian, is all this new evidence really true or is it the fictional dream of some distant Ned Kelly fan? How can this new evidence be verified? From what I saw, all the new evidence is true and in fact didn\’t really go far enough. The straps made by the Mansfield saddler were intended to sling a body on either side of the packhorse. In other words, the Mansfield police were clearly prepared to shoot Ned and Dan Kelly. The other vital piece of evidence is that three days after the shootings at Stringybark Creek, Constable McIntyre confirmed Ned Kelly\’s version of the shooting of Constable Lonigan. This evidence was held by Superintendent John Sadleir of the Victoria Police, the officer in charge of the North Eastern District at the time of the Stringybark Creek shootings. In other words, McIntyre committed perjury every time he gave evidence on oath concerning Lonigan\’s death. And Superintendent Sadleir knew it.
Kenno: Ian, rumour has it that Ned was born in Queensland or was buried there. Any truth to this? Absolutely none. Some talented historian at Ipswich came up with this surprising claim, largely because one of the many fake Dan Kellys who lived in Queensland was buried there. An equally talented historian in Wangaratta claimed that Dan Kelly stood in for Ned Kelly at his execution. Dan was about 14cm shorter than Ned and clean-shaven. Apart from anything else, this makes the theory a little hard to swallow. But it was good enough for our friend at Ipswich to claim that Ned was buried there. Ned was actually born at Beveridge, 25 miles north of Melbourne. He is probably buried at Pentridge Prison near Melbourne, but what was left of his body could be still buried underneath the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Miss_Wood: I have read a lot on the Kelly saga and have never known Ned\’s actual birth date. Can you tell me please? As far as I can find out, it was in December 1854, within weeks, or even days, of the Eureka Stockade battle at Ballarat. Part of the problem was that Ned didn\’t know exactly how old he was by the time he was captured at Glenrowan. He thought he was 28; he was actually 25. The best clue to his age is given by the report from a school inspector, who recorded on 30 March, 1865 that Ned was 10 years and three months old. This age would have been given by Ned\’s parents or his older sister Anne.
Steffi: Ian, where can I see Ned Kelly\’s armour? That is a tricky question. Ned Kelly\’s armour is currently split between the Victoria Police and the State Library of Victoria. The three publicly owned suits of Kelly armour have become mixed up through the years and the suit which is displayed at the Old Melbourne Gaol as Ned Kelly\’s consists of two backplates from Dan Kelly and Steve Hart\’s armour and one of their helmets. Only Joe Byrne\’s armour, which is privately owned, is intact and genuine. I am happy to say that a Melbourne lawyer called Ken Oldis is currently conducting a very thorough and energetic campaign to get the pieces of the Kelly armour reassembled in their original sets. Success of the venture will depend on the goodwill of the Victoria Police, the State Library of Victoria and the Old Melbourne Gaol. Good luck to us all!
boris: Ian, do you think that they will ever do DNA testing on the skull in WA and the remains at Pentridge? That is a distinct possibility, certainly as far as the skull is concerned; but we have no remains at Pentridge which we can test. However, DNA samples are available from other sources.
Starlight: Was Ned Kelly ever associated with Captain Starlight (I\’m a descendant)? I would be very surprised if Ned had any links at all with Captain Starlight. Captain Moonlight tried to forge a partnership with Ned Kelly, according to Police Superintendent Sadleir. Ned didn\’t want to know about it. The only bushranger Ned had any dealings with, as far as I know, was Harry Power.
Paul_mayo: If Ned Kelly hadn\’t shot Aaron Sherrit, would he have been acquitted on the grounds of self defence at Stringybark Creek, considering he was ambushed? Ned Kelly did not shoot Aaron Sherritt. Aaron was shot by Joe Byrne, lieutenant of the Kelly gang and Aaron\’s lifelong mate. Ned seems to have been very reluctant to believe that Aaron had betrayed the gang. A curlier question is whether Ned could have escaped a guilty verdict for the shooting of Sergeant Kennedy at Stringybark Creek. It is almost certain that he did not shoot Constable Scanlon, who, I believe, was killed by Joe Byrne.
proud_brindle: Ian, can you tell the people in the room how the Aboriginal trackers were paid for finding Ned\’s hideout? They didn\’t find Ned\’s hideout, and received a very small payment as members of the Queensland Police while they were in Victoria. As you probably know, a court case is in progress concerning the Aboriginal troopers not having been paid their share of the reward for the capture of Ned Kelly. They were in the first party that attacked the Kelly gang at the Glenrowan Inn in the pre-dawn of the 28th of June, 1880. Each of them was awarded 50 pounds, the equivalent of about $10,000 today. While it appears that two Aboriginal trackers who lived in Victoria received their money, there is no evidence I am aware of that the five Queensland Aboriginal troopers were ever paid their share.
Aisling: Ian, do you feel that the Ned Kelly case was an example of the general victimisation of Irish Catholics at the time by the mainly British-dominated police force and judicial system? I think it would be hard to support that theory, particularly as many, if not most, of the police involved were Irish. It is certainly true that the Irish troubles encouraged the Victorian establishment to see the Irish as a potential source of trouble and, conversely, for the Irish to see themselves as being victimised.
Elshrimpo: Do you know if Steve Hart and Dan Kelly burnt to death in the fire at Glenrowan or did they survive and get Kate or Margaret Kelly to lie and say that it was their bodies? First, they were almost certainly not burnt to death. The Catholic priest who reached their bodies before the burning pub collapsed believed that they were both dead. The two bodies were charred beyond recognition before they could be recovered. However, there has never been one shred of evidence, real evidence, to suggest that either or both of them survived, and everything to support the conclusion that they had died, probably suicided, in the late stages of the siege.
Miss_Wood: I would like the expert to tell me where the proof was that Ned Kelly was a horse thief, when there is absolutely no record of this. Ned Kelly boasted of the number of horses he had stolen and, in fact, effectively admits to horse stealing in his letters. It is very true that he was never tried for horse stealing and, therefore, never found guilty. But it is almost impossible to deny that he was a very clever and enthusiastic horse thief.
ChristianM: Can you clear up a point of evidence regarding whether Ned Kelly went to the officers\’ camp or whether the officers ambushed the Kellys? The Mansfield police party had made camp not much more than a kilometre from Ned and Dan Kelly\’s hideout in the Wombat Ranges. Ned Kelly believed that these four police were part of three teams being sent to locate and, he believed, try to kill his brother and himself. Ned and Dan Kelly, supported by Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, crept up on the police camp with the intention of disarming the police, taking their horses and sending them back to Mansfield. Constable McIntyre believed this to be true.
mepriden: What is the current teaching in schools for Ned Kelly based upon? That would depend entirely on individual schools and individual teachers. I have frequently attended primary and secondary schools to speak on the Kelly story. Please do not take this as an offer for me to make a career of this, which I could very easily do!
Shazza: Is the 1980 mini-series Outlaw starring John Jarratt as Ned Kelly the most accurate version of the Kelly story? I think it was, what do you think? God bless you! I am biased, because my wife Bronwyn Binns and I co-wrote the series and were executive producers on it. However, we told the story as fully and as accurately as we could, given the demands of drama and only eight hours to tell it in.
stef: Have you ever met any of the direct descendants of Mr Kelly? If so, what were they like? I have met direct descendants of Ned. Some have been a little guarded, others have been very open and have helped me in my research. A niece of Ned Kelly\’s died quite recently. She was a wonderful lady and it was a privilege to meet her. Many years ago, I think it was the beginning of 1960, I met a nephew of Ned Kelly\’s in the last months of his life. That was remarkable. In his youth he had been almost a double of Ned, and as a man of 60 still packed a tremendous punch, visually that is!
red: Did the Kelly gang have passage booked to San Francisco at the time of Glenrowan? And where can the best photographs of Ned be found? There are a number of stories about the Kelly gang trying to escape from Australia. The best information I have is that these plans were abandoned once Ned was committed to the plan of establishing a Republic of North Eastern Victoria. I believe that the best photo of Ned was the photo of him taken to commemorate his 20-round fight with Wild Wright in 1874, in his 20th year. This is Ned, literally fighting fit, ready to take on the world. Two photos were taken the day before his execution. They are excellent likenesses, but show him after months of inactivity. There is a book called Ned Kelly, the Authentic Illustrated Story by Keith McMenomy, which contains most of the important Kelly photos.
Kaz: Mr Jones, what has happened to the Kelly house at Beveridge? Has it been restored? The last thing I heard about it was that it was going to be sold and demolished. The house has been sold, I gather, but I would be very surprised, very surprised indeed, if it was demolished. I saw it last week and it is in a pretty sad state but it has been patched up. My crystal ball is very cloudy when I try to imagine its future. Unless something is done soon, there will be nothing to demolish.
Scottness: Does the actual sash that Ned was given when as a child he saved another child from drowning still exist? Yes it does, and it is displayed in the Benalla Historical Society\’s museum, an excellent collection well worth a visit.
damo: Is there such a thing available as an accurate map of the Woolshed area, showing locations of historical events and where houses existed? We didnt have much luck on a recent Ned Kelly run. There is no map that I am aware of showing all these features. Apart from anything else, many of them are on private property. The end papers of my book The Friendship that Destroyed Ned Kelly give you a birds-eye view of the Woolshed, with all the significant sites indicated. Even with a map, they would be often hard to find.
Bronny: Hi Ian, I have just started to do some research on Ned, was he able to read and write, as he signed a letter with an \’x\’. He could read and write, but because of the wounds he suffered at Glenrowan, was unable even to write his name after capture. We have one complete letter in his handwriting, written when he was 15. It is reproduced in my book Ned Kelly: A Short Life, and in fact his signature is across the back cover.
lionchild: Did Kelly\’s barrister ever appeal the decision? Was there an appeal process for murder in those days? If so, why was it not used? The only possible appeal process was to have the case referred to the Full Court, a panel of three judges. Mr Bindon proposed this at Ned\’s trial and was rejected by Sir Redmond Barry, which sounds outrageous by modern standards but was the only process available at that time.
Ian based on what you know now, if you had been Redmond Barry, would you have found Ned guilty? I couldn\’t have been Redmond Barry! It was almost impossible to let Ned Kelly escape conviction on one charge or another. In a frontier society, a man who openly admitted to shooting policemen could not be allowed to escape. The tragedy is that Ned Kelly was not given a trial according to law. I believe that while Ned could have escaped conviction for the murder of Lonigan, he could not have escaped a conviction for the shooting of Sergeant Kennedy. If I had been Redmond Barry I would have taken greater pains to see that justice was done and appeared to have been done, which was not the case with Ned\’s trial in 1880.
Ian Jones, thank you so much for joining us tonight for this topic which still excites the Australian imagination. Do you have a website or contact address for our chatters? I can be contacted via Lothian Books, 11 Munro Street, South Melbourne, Victoria 3207. Thank you all for visiting the room. It is great to be reminded that so many people care about my old friend Ned. God bless you all.