Skeleton of Ned Kelly, Australian Outlaw and Folk Hero, Is Identified
Even with the best scientific techniques, you can’t always get what you want. But if you try, as the Rolling Stones put it, sometimes you get what you need.
In Australia, Kelly needs no introduction; for Americans, it may help to think of him as Jesse James, Thomas Paine and John F. Kennedy rolled into one.
Born about 1854 to an Irish convict exiled to Australia, Kelly became a folk hero as a very young man. He took up arms against a corrupt British constabulary, robbed banks, wrote an explosive manifesto — and in a final shootout in which he wore homemade metal armor, he was shot, arrested and hanged in 1880 by the Anglo-Irish establishment he despised.
As with any semimythical hero, Kelly’s public has always hungered to get closer to the legend. His armor, cartridge bag, boots and a bloody sash became state treasures.
But perhaps the most priceless among them is his missing skull — the subject of a tangled forensic drama that was finally resolved on Wednesday, at least in part, after decades of investigation, debate, tantalizing leads, stalemates, false starts and what can only be called skulduggery.