Saturday 29 November 2014

Body Straps: What is the evidence?

13th December : Please read UPDATED COMMENTS

A central claim in the Kelly mythology is that when the Police headed into the Wombat ranges in search of Ned and Dan Kelly, their intention was not to capture them but to kill them. Ned Kelly submitted what he believed were two proofs of this, the first being the reported statement of Senior Constable Strahan: 

“I’ll shoot him down like a dog. I’ll carry two revolvers and one I’ll place by his side and swear that he had it on him when I shot him” 

The problem with this quote is that it was provided by Neds Uncle, Patrick Quinn.

Kellys second proof that the Police intention was to kill rather than capture was the type and the quantity of arms and ammunition the Police brought with them. Such an armamentarium, in Ned Kellys eyes at least, could only mean one thing : they were planning to kill him. In fact, it means nothing of the sort – there are many sound reasons why Police would want to take with  them more than just the standard issue when heading into the Bush on a campaign that may have taken weeks, against an armed foe wanted for attempted murder of a Policeman.

And why, if their intention was to kill the Kellys did the Police take handcuffs? They provide much better physical proof of intent than do the possession of guns or the claims of family members because handcuffs only have one use – the apprehension of living suspects.

Later claims about the Police being in disguise, and that they didn’t have the correct warrants  with them are not relevant to the question of what the Police intended to do once they found the Kellys.

However, something that might have been relevant in the discussion about Police intent, but was never mentioned at the time, is something claimed in more recent tellings of the Kelly story, that the search party took “body straps” with them. These are long custom made leather straps designed to assist in the transport of a corpse on horseback.  More than anything else body straps could be seen as the “smoking gun” in the Police parties kit, though , given they were tracking a suspect accused of attempted murder of a Policeman, their presence could also suggest they feared Kellys next attempts might be successful - as indeed they were.

Latter day retellings of the events at Stringybark Creek almost never fail to mention the body straps, and to label their presence as proof of the murderous intent of the searching Police, and thereby justification of Neds actions. You can hear Mr Trevor Monti a self proclaimed Kelly historian and Victorian Barrister list them as one of the “facts” about SBC that he wanted to pass on to Derryn Hinch in a  video that I mentioned in my post in July  “Ned Kelly on You Tube”.

Whats curious about this claim though, is that there is no evidence that it was ever made at the time, either before during or after Neds trial or by Ned or McIntyre in any of their recorded statements about everything that happened there, yet nowdays its almost the centerpiece of the argument about Police intent. Body straps are not mentioned in the 1948 publication “Ned Kelly ; Australian son” by Max Brown, or in  1954 in “The Kelly Hunters”, two highly sympathetic retellings of the Kelly story. However, Peter Fitzsimons, author of the most recent of the Kelly biographies (2013) not only mentions the body straps as being central to the self defence argument in Court, he names the Mansfield saddler who made them : Charles Boles.

To me, it seemed peculiar that this significant piece of evidence, something that is now regarded as vital to the case , was completely overlooked at the time. The Kelly Gang ransacked the Police camp after the killing had stopped, stealing weapns, ammunition, money and personal posessions  but never mentioned the presence of this “smoking gun”  Surely they would have if they had found it?

Peter Fitzsimons provides no reference for the source of his claims about the body straps, so  I started with “Ned Kelly : A Short Life” my favourite Kelly Biography.   In the chapter on SBC Jones writes “The Mansfield Saddler Boles revealed that the party carried two long straps, specially made to sling a pair of bodies on either side of their pack-horse” and in the notes to this chapter, he references this statement to his earlier work “The Fatal Friendship”

This is what is written in the Fatal Friendship on the topic :
“The party’s equipment included unusually long straps, designed to be looped around a pair of bodies so they could be slung, straight on either side of a pack horse. Bodies draped over a horse in the time honored way of Westerns, stiffened into impractical shapes”(pp63)
In the footnotes to this chapter he writes
Straps for carrying bodies,Kinnear Papers, transcribed by the author, 1952. "Two long straps 10 feet by 3 inches wide to strap bodies on the pack horse. These were made by Boles the Mansfield saddler and are now in 1934 in the possession of J.Egan farmers of Mansfield"

Ian MacFarlane in The Kelly Gang Unmasked regards this story as “far fetched” because the search party was so seriously under-funded that they had to borrow tents and the additional arms they acquired.  Under those strained financial circumstances it makes no sense that they would have gone to the expense of paying for customized body straps when they knew how to make them for free by buckling together stirrups and reins – and indeed used this very method to bring  back the bodies of their dead comrades.

Nevertheless I decided to track down the Kinnear papers, Ian Jones source for this information, to read for myself the original material. Unfortunately neither of those two publications of his includes a proper Bibliography, a regrettable absence from these otherwise excellent resources. In his Notes  Jones says that he “transcribed” them in 1952 but unfortunately doesn’t provide any further information as to what precisely he is referring to as the Kinnear papers. However I found a reference to an 1880 publication “History of the Kelly Gang of Bushrangers” published by D Kinnear Brown and Co. and kept in the reference section of the Mitchell Library of NSW.  I visited the Library recently and read the “History of the  Kelly Gang” – even photo-copies are not permitted – but there is no mention within it anywhere of body straps.

I also came across an entry about one Edward Hoare Kinnear, in the  Australian  Dictionary of Biography. Listed in the “Select Bibliography” attached to this entry is a reference to the “family and business papers held by Kinnears Ltd Melbourne”  The Biographical details refer to the business empire of the Kinnear Family of Moonee Ponds and Footscray, but nothing to suggest any assosciation between them and Kelly Country or the Kelly Outbreak…..

So what  is to be made of  Jones claim that Police took body-straps into the Wombat Ranges? Essentially it is presently an unverifiable,  inherently unlikely story, and one which is not included in any of the earliest accounts of the events at Stringybark Creek.  The failure of early accounts to mention them requires an explanation : the ominous presence of body straps would almost certainly have been noted and commented on at length if indeed they were there. However the claims about them only appear publically generations after the events in question, at a time when nobody  would be able to either verify or contradict them. The inclusion of a specific year, 1934, in Jones’ reference suggests that may have been where the story first began to take shape, perhaps as an oral tradition attached to the straps that came into the possession of the Egan family of Mansfield, a story whose origins were not in historical fact but in the vague and wishful mists of time.  If the descendants of the 1934 "Egan farmers of Mansfield" are still in the area it would be interesting to find out from them what they know of this story and if indeed those straps are still in their possession. The straps would be a fascinating and valuable piece of Kelly memorabilia and there would be great public interest in them - but the fact they are presently unknown suggests to me they are lost to history if they ever did exist. Ian Jones also has reported being told about the existence of a document prepared by Ned Kelly that declared North East Victoria a Republic, but in more than 50 years of searching it hasn't been located - one is forced to the inevitable conclusion that the reports of its existence were mistaken. I am inclined to think the reports of body straps are also mistaken.

There is certainly no current evidence or compelling reason to believe that the body straps story is anything other than yet one more of the baseless Kelly Myths. However if anyone has information about what the Kinnear Papers are and where they can be consulted, or where those straps might be, I would be delighted to hear about it. 

Sunday 23 November 2014

Was Ned Kelly a Psychopath?

Heath Ledger  as a Psychopath in Batman : he also played Ned Kelly, another Psychopath?
The day after the anniversary  of Ned Kellys death, the Queensland Courier Mail ran an item with the accurate but cleverly provocative  headline Ned Kelly’s last words were not ‘such is life’.  It was provocative of course because most people do indeed think they were, and it was clever because undoubtedly it would have drawn attention, as was intended to an internet publication entitled Ned Kelly — stock thief, bank robber, murderer — psychopath”, written by Ian MacFarlane and Russell Scott, a forensic Psychiatrist. They proposed that the “such is life” myth is but one of many popular misconceptions about Ned Kelly, the biggest one being that rather than an admirable and heroic figure who cared about the Poor and about Society in general, Ned Kelly was a violent psychopath who only really cared about himself. Predictably the Kelly fanatics responded with personal attacks on the authors, allegations that this was all about trying to sell a book and make money off Ned (its not a book and its free to read on the internet, and of course Ian Jones latest book wasn’t about making money off Ned was it?) and recitations of Kelly doctrines like the “Robin Hood” myth, the Police Corruption dogma and the “Kate was Groped” excuse: anything but consider the proposition or try to counter it with rational argument. 
The second last of the 81 comments published was my own contribution:
Can someone explain why "psychopath" might not be such a bad description of a person who bragged about being the best stock thief in the area, that he could beat anyone in a fist fight, told lies, robbed banks, took hostages, murdered three policemen and a former friend, planned a terrorist style attack on a train full of police and made armor to stride about the wreckage of the train and kill any survivors? Seems a perfectly reasonable thing to at least ask the question.

To Kelly sycophants the very notion that Ned Kelly might have been a psychopath is blasphemous, and they would never entertain the possibility for even one second. One of them, a prominent Ned Kelly Forum Member had already responded to the article some weeks earlier by suggesting on his Facebook page that its just “puerile rhetoric”, all of Psychiatry is nonsense, that the Psychiatrist has issues himself, that people like me are the only Psychopaths in the Kelly story, and its us that the Psychiatrist should be investigating! This of course is the same individual who for many months attacked and denounced Ian MacFarlanes earlier book though he had never read it, and who more recently announced  that I am Ian MacFarlane.! (News to me as well!) As that saga demonstrated yet again, evidence and facts are not important to these people – so their hysterical negative reactions to this publication are entirely predictable, and ignorant and therefore irrelevant.

But for the more rational Kelly fan – and there are some! -  this article is never-the-less a challenging read, because it is intended I suspect for a professional audience rather than the general Public. Most of us, when we hear the term “Psychopath”, think of crazed serial killers and madmen, people who delighted in killing and torturing their victims, people like Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson and Hannibal Lecter , -  “Good-bye Clarice. Will you let me know if ever the lambs stop screaming?" .

Its not immediately obvious how such a label could be made to fit Ned Kelly, who, for one thing, has never been accused by anyone of torturing people or killing for pleasure.

Therefore to present their case to a general rather than Professional  readership I think this article would have been greatly improved by an initial description of exactly what personality disorders are and what constitutes a Psychopath in general terms. Having investigated this for myself, I have discovered that the experts disagree among themselves on what defines a Psychopath but they agree on some basic features.

Heres a description from a Scientific American article that says that  "few disorders are as misunderstood as is psychopathic personality”
“Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.”
It turns out that the people and behaviours we non-psychiatrists think of as Psychopathic are just the extremes of a spectrum that makes up the Psychopathic personality that has people like Hannibal Lecter at one end and at the other end, people who walk amongst us, have no criminal record, and may have lives which at least to casual acquaintances seem quite normal. In between the extremes are all manner of  difficult individuals, all of whom to some extent are devoid of guilt and remorse, inclined to have superficial interpersonal relationships devoid of empathy and love, to have issues with honesty and impulse control and a tendency to be violent.  

So the question about Ned Kellys personality becomes “Does it fit somewhere along that spectrum known as Psychopath?”

The first part of Scott and MacFarlanes article chronicles the life of Ned Kelly in some detail, highlighting the poverty and the criminal environment that Ned grew up in. In doing this they are pointing out the environmental influences that shaped  Kellys  adult personality - its believed that personality is created out of inherited traits that are moulded and built upon by subsequent positive and negative influences, and as they show, there were many negative influences on Ned Kellys life from a very young age, not the least of which would have been that of his alcoholic father. Ned from a young age, his mother father uncles and brothers all had many run-ins with the Law, sometimes resulting in acquittal and at others with imprisonment. There was also drunkeness and violence within and outside the immediate family, open expressions of hatred of authority, the Police, of squatters and the English, and there was support and admiration for anyone who opposed authority and in particular for the activities and lifestyle of Bushrangers, who were the working class heroes of their day. 
They write that the Jerilderie letter “offered a remarkable insight into Kelly’s grandiosity and narcissism” – wish I had thought of those terms – and describe the relevant detail of the Stringybark Creek murders, the bank robberies, Glenrowan and Neds capture, his trial and execution. 

Up to this point, the influence of Ian MacFarlane is obvious as it is very much a prĂ©cis of The Kelly Gang Unmasked, with the same uncompromising and unsympathetic tone. Much of the information provided in this part would be news to anyone who only learned about Ned Kelly from the mass media and from the popular press, but its necessary to tell these harsh truths to understand the context in which this analysis of his personality takes place. To be more accessible to the general reader I thought the tone could have been a little less severe - the reader is left in no doubt about the authors feelings about the Kelly Gang and Ned in particular, something which might provide some readers with an excuse to dismiss the  entire thesis. Its a big leap in one step to jump from thinking of Ned Kelly as an icon and hero to deciding instead that he is an irredeemable sociopath.

The last third of the article highlights features of the life of Kelly that reveal aspects of his personality that contribute to the view that he was a psychopath. Its divided into sections that are devoted to explorations of the Interpersonal, Affective, Antisocial and Lifestyle features of Kelly’s life and create a compelling basis for the diagnosis of “Psychopath”.  The central feature of the Psychopathic personality seems to be a lack of empathy, an inability to feel guilt or remorse and a callousness that enables the psychopath to relentlessly pursue his own grandiose schemes with no regard for what it might cost to those around him.  These traits are easily made out in Ned Kellys involvement in, and subsequent recorded statements about the Police killings at Stringybark Creek, in the murder of Aaron Sherritt and in the planned train wreck at Glenrowan. 

Kellys lies are easily demonstrated – the authors point out the many inconsistencies between events that happened and the various contradictory statements of Neds  about them, documenting his propensity to tell lies when it suited. They note – as I pointed out in an earlier post - that even Ian Jones doesn’t believe Ned Kelly told the truth about where he was at the time of the “Fitzpatrick Incident”. But there were many other obvious lies and misdirections and falsehoods, for example in his statements  from Prison about what his intentions were for the Train at Glenrowan,  and in claiming he sent Curnow to stop the train.

Nobody disputes the claim that he was a thief.

Nobody can deny his narcissism : “I am a widows son, outlawed, and my orders must be obeyed”  and everyone has read his boasts about being the best stock thief in the district and that he was never caught, that he could beat anyone in a fist fight, that if he had been allowed to defend himself in court the outcome would have been different, even the notion that by wearing armour he could confront and defeat an entire Police force....

In discussing “affective features” - i.e. the emotional dimensions of Ned Kellys life – they highlight the absence of any record that Kelly had any significant “intimate relationships”. In fact various women have been nominated as being in love with Ned Kelly - five are listed by Ian Jones -  but none was ever  important enough to Ned to gain a mention in any of his many letters and recorded speeches; it appears these young womens infatuations were not reciprocated. This has led to suggestions Ned may have been gay. On the other hand it is well known that Ned Kelly exhibited a special charm that had women hostages singing his praises: surely that implies something positive about his character? The non-psychiatrist has forever been persuaded that these gushing reports by infatuated women who encountered Ned Kelly in bank Robberies show what a gentleman he was – but to the trained expert they reveal something altogether different. In fact, being superficially charming to casual acquaintances in a life devoid of real and enduring relationships is a typical characteristic of a sinister and shallow psychopath. This is why expert psychiatric analysis is so necessary – the layperson is fooled by the record just as the women were at the time.

I found it a fascinating and compelling discussion, especially once I had gained a little understanding of what a psychopath is and how one can be recognized. If you had to be like Charles Manson or Hannibal Lecter to qualify as a Psychopath, then I would have to say Ned Kelly wasn’t one - he's not quite at that extreme end of the spectrum. But if a psychopath is a person who never seems to experience guilt and remorse, is inclined to have superficial interpersonal relationships devoid of empathy and love, to have issues with honesty and impulse control and a tendency to be violent, then it seems pretty clear : Ned Kelly most likely was a Psychopath.  

Here is a typical list of the features of Psychopathy: Ned ticks most of these boxes:
   Glib and superficial
   Egocentric and grandiose
   Lack of remorse or guilt
   Lack of empathy
   Deceitful and manipulative
   Shallow emotions

Social Deviance:
   Poor behavior controls
   Need for excitement
   Lack of responsibility
   Early behavior problems
   Adult antisocial behavior

Heres a link to the excellent article that this list comes from:

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Kelly Fanatics in humiliating Retreat

Instead of making Updates to my earlier Posts I have decided to Post these comments separately because the format of this Blog is such that they might otherwise not be seen, and someone needs to draw attention to whats going on in the miserable world of the Kelly fanatics.

The most notable news is the removal from the FB Page of the worlds greatest kelly website, the false allegations made by the worlds leading Kelly fanatic and  bully that Dee is Ian MacFarlane. Along with it has gone the "Dee (aka Ian MacFarlane ) is DDead" comment by Iron Outlaw! Someone  has complained and they've been forced to back down and delete their ignorant comments.

On the Ned Kelly Forum FB page, the disgraceful attacks on Dr Cormick, indeed the entire thread that developed after someone asked if anyone had read the CSIRO Publication has also been removed, no doubt also after another complaint.

Its not often that these bullies take a backward step, but they've obviously bitten off way more than they can chew lately and have been well and truly slapped down and humiliated by Facebook, who have forced them to remove these offensive and ill-informed Posts. Its a shame that Facebook cant also order them to apologise to these Authors that they have offended, but these graceless thugs will no doubt be feeling some considerable embarrassment today. An apology is much too much to expect from them, and unfortunately I doubt they will learn the lesson they should from this mess of their own making, and before long will be continuing on with their mad  campaign of hate, bullying, misidentification and myth-making.

These people are more interested in preserving their faith in a particular version of history than in finding out whether or not its the truth - which of course is their legitimate democratic right : if a person wants to believe nonsense they are free to do so. These latest episodes in which they declared I am Ian MacFarlane, called Ian MacFarlane and Dr Cormick "clowns", made absurd and wrong claims about the scientists research and about the origins of a skull are all perfect illustrations of how fanatics operate, convincing themselves of something thats not supported by a single fact and seeming not to care in the slightest about the total lack of evidence to support their view - this is exactly how religions and religious fanaticism work. People who arrogantly just "know" they are right don't need to bother with silly stuff like "evidence" and "facts" and logic - thats for dummies!

I am not really interested in these extremists : like religious fanatics everywhere they are immune to objectivity, to facts and evidence - their minds are made up. They are never wrong and they never see a need to correct  their blunders or apologise. My interest is in the people who DONT want to believe nonsense, and are genuinely interested in knowing accurately as possible the detail and the truth about Kelly history, rather than  blindly swallowing the myths that these intolerant and vulgar fanatics promote. 

I am sure this latest saga will have done their cause no end of damage : mad hate campaigns and ignorant slander are not a good look. My message to them is : Keep it up, you're making my job a whole lot easier.

Friday 14 November 2014

Dee is Not Ian

I decided at the very beginning of my engagement with the Kelly world, that I was not going to expose my true identity. This was because I had been observing the goings-on for a while, and had seen quite vicious personal attacks on named individuals, both men and women, by people who seemed at times quite irrational and unbalanced. I determined that I would not expose my identity and that of my family to the possibility of  personal vilification and perhaps even personal attack by these unpleasant elements of the kelly sympathiser network, and so adopted the identity of "Dee".

As it turned out, personal abuse and threats were indeed directed at me, as Dee, and included doctored images of ugly women and pornographic pictures inscribed with named individuals which were posted to my Forum, and as if that wasn't enough, my entire Forum was sabotaged on more than one occasion.  

This bullying was  conducted in the hope that I would be silenced and go away, but it made me realise why the Myth lives on - it is protected by bullies and thugs who have no respect for the rights of others to have an alternative opinion and who attack and vilify any voice that dares oppose them.

My decision to protect myself and my family by not revealing my identity has certainly been vindicated by the events that followed, but I am sure to the kelly fanatics frustration, rather than making me go away their appalling behaviour has made me more determined to oppose them. I will not go away - there is a genuine need for other voices in the kelly conversation, not just those of the kelly fanatics.

What I am interested in are the arguments. To me what is important is not who you are but what you say and what you do, and the identity of the people who posted to my Forum or who have made comments on this Blog has never been a concern of mine. Identity has of course been a major pre-occupation of the Kelly people, and it is this interest of theirs that has prompted me to make this post.

During the course of the year Kelly fanatics have been going mad trying to work out who I am. At irregular intervals they have confidently announced on various sites that they know who I really am, and have named a variety of different people.  They never bother to admit their previous mistakes or apologise to the people they wrongly named, but they carry on with their insane "Pin the Tail on the donkey" game, blindly and stupidly outing this person and that person as Dee. I have responded on more than one occasion, because it concerns me that these named individuals are being innocently drawn into this kelly madness, but on it goes. 

Yesterday, November 13th,  there was a perfect example of what I have been saying about Kelly fanatics preoccupation not with the arguments or the truth but with identity: There was a discussion on the Facebook page of the worlds greatest kelly website about a newspaper article that had exposed the fact that Ned Kellys last words were NOT "Such is Life" . This provoked much indignant huffing and puffing from Kelly fanatics so I made a polite contribution, making the point that Ian Jones, - who had been mentioned by one of them - agreed with the people who had made that point about "Such is Life". 

Then this:
There is more to this Dee Dee than meets the eye. It is not a ‘she’, is not young and closely resembles an older, uglier and dumber Clive Palmer with the hint of an accent that is still present after about 40 years in this country.

And a bit later :
Dee Dee is Ian MacFarlane. A transvestite you may ask, but who knows with a warped and demented mind like he has. As Steve said Dee Dee is a Troll and I couldn't describe 'it' any better than that

Not much later this was posted by Mr Webb:
Dee Dee (a.k.a Ian MacFarlane) is now DDead..

And with that, my posts were deleted and I was banned from commenting!

Nothing at all about the argument. Just a direct abusive personal attack, another round of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" - wrong again of course but facts are not important to these people - and then censorship and expulsion! As I said above the Myth lives on because it is protected by bullies and thugs who have no respect for the rights of others to have an alternative opinion and who attack and vilify any voice that dares oppose them.

What a disgrace they are!

Monday 10 November 2014

UPDATED(2) Book Review: Ned Kelly Under the Microscope

On November 11th 1880, 134 years ago this week, Ned Kelly was hanged and his body buried in the grounds of the Melbourne Gaol. Since then, nearly 400 books have been written about him and the tumultuous events that resulted in his untimely death at age 26, and now, yet another one has just been published.

It is a CSIRO publication, “Ned Kelly Under the Microscope” subtitled “Solving the forensic mystery of Ned Kellys remains”,  and you can order it online for $39.95. Mine arrived a couple of weeks ago in a brown paper package, a soft cover book of  265 glossy pages, 26 chapters and lots of interesting colour photographs charts and diagrams.

This new work is actually a collection of essays Edited by Dr Craig Cormick, a “science communicator and author” who most sensibly asks in the Preface “Do we really need another Ned Kelly book?” His answer was “as long as it has something new to say, Yes we do” and having now read it, I have to agree with him that this book does indeed have something new to say. It adds something that’s all too rare in the vast library of Kelly literature - much needed reason and factual illumination, as opposed to myth-making, fantasy and fabrication.

The contributors are mostly scientists and forensic pathologists of one sort or another, but there are also contributions from Lawyers, historians, a journalist, an anthropologist a real estate valuer and our own Ian Jones, described as an historian and an award winning screenwriter producer and director.

The subject under discussion is of course the story of what happened to the body of Ned Kelly after death. We know a death mask was made, but was  his body then subjected to an undignified desecration by Doctors  and medical students who souvenired parts of him, as some have claimed?  He was buried in the Labour Yard at Melbourne Prison, but since then there has been a series of burials at other sites, exhumations and reburials in 1929, pilfering of bones by souvenir hunters and eventually confusion about who was buried where, as well as various rumours about who was in possession of his skull and his brain. So many unanswered questions…

The opportunity to try to answer some of these questions arose when permission was sought from Heritage Victoria to build on and landscape the heritage-listed site of the former Melbourne Gaol Hospital, in 2002. Five executed prisoners had been buried in the Hospital grounds rather than in the Labour Yard between 1916 and 1924, but when exhumations were undertaken in 1937 so they could be reburied at Pentridge, only four were found. Heritage Victoria requested an archeological excavation before development could go ahead, the fifth coffin was found and then, realizing how poor and incomplete were the records of what had happened to the coffins reburied at Pentridge, they also recommended further work there. The site known as the Pentridge cemetery included a small memorial marking  Ned Kellys eventual resting place, and was believed to contain the coffins of  the 10 prisoners executed at Pentridge, along with those reburied there after exhumation from the Melbourne gaol.

In fact, the archeological dig found just one coffin. It contained the remains of  Ronald Ryan, the last person executed in Australia.

The search for the other coffins and then the decision to try to identify the bones of Ned Kelly, and then to negotiate the return of a skull thought for many years to be his, and the clever science involved in getting answers makes fascinating reading. Some of it is quite technical, but the writers make every attempt to make it accessible for a non scientific reader  - describing how DNA is isolated from tissues for example, Dr Dadna Hartman a molecular biologist writes “This is like fishing with bait that binds to only one type of fish, and leaves everything else behind in the water” How easy is that?

But there is more to this book than forensic science. An answer is given to the question of who might have made the armor – a real Blacksmith or the Gang out in the Bush? -  using x-ray diffraction, X-Ray fluorescence, optical metallography  and transmission electron microscopy. There are discussions about phrenology and handwriting analysis, a piece about the archaeology of Glenrowan, discussion about the guns that were used by both the Police and the Gang, a police Perspective is presented, discussion about how hanging works, who else was hanged, and numerous parenthetical discussions of a paragraph or two on related topics like the claim that Dan Kelly and Steve Hart survived Glenrowan, or explaining what mitochondrial DNA is, when was Ned Kelly born, who was Ann Jones and so on.

Ian Jones contribution is a sentimental personal reflection on how much it moved and inspired him to finally see those bones. He wrote “I had encountered a reality that overtowered the legend”.  I wonder how he would have been moved if he had been looking at the smashed skull of Constable Lonigan, or the shattered chest of Michael Kennedy?

All in all though, this is a wonderful read, a book you can dip into at any point rather than something you have to read from cover to cover. It is packed with interesting information and historical insights, fills in some vital details and provides wonderfully comprehensive answers to a few more of the many puzzles that still remain in the Kelly Story.

Its a book all Kelly students should read, but so far, the only two Kelly sympathiser references to it that I have been able to find on the internet were from people who haven't. They seem to be developing a habit of trying not to read things about Ned Kelly they might not like.  Kelly Forum Member  Lisa posted that she wont buy it because she watched a TV documentary on the subject and found it upsetting. That seems reasonable to me – certainly theres some quite gruesome descriptions in this book, and if youre one of those people who think Ned Kelly was an Icon, it could be upsetting, but I think she would enjoy reading the Ian Jones chapter. 

Brad Webb on the other hand, owner of the worlds greatest Kelly website, has this to say in a comment about the book that was "Liked" by 21 people on the sites Facebook Page:
 “Despite sounding like another academic poindexter I don't actually know who this clown Craig Cormick is. Suffice to say his research on Ned Kelly is right up the proverbial shite creek.” 

Brad Webb  clearly hasn’t read the book because if he had he wouldn’t have had to write that he doesn’t “actually” know who Craig Cormick is because his credentials and photo is there for anyone to read. Not only that, if Mr Webb had bothered to read the book he wouldn’t have ridiculed Dr Cormick and called him a “clown” when at the same time posting a link to an article he wrote  himself three years ago on the subject of Neds missing skull -  if you read Brad Webbs  “stunning Independent Australia Exclusive” from September 2011 you quickly realize whose “research on Ned Kelly is right up the proverbial shite creek” – and its not Dr Cormacks. 

For the benefit of the 21 people who “Liked” Mr Webbs article and who obviously also haven’t read the book I will point out only a couple of the many things in his “exclusive” that demonstrate who the real clown is here. Firstly, lets not dwell on  his assertion that anyone expecting a quick resolution to the question of Kelly’s remains will be disappointed.” (They were buried a mere 16 months after his article was published)

Lets also not dwell on his rehash of the now discredited idea that Medical students took Ned Kellys brain and souvenired his skull. It didn’t happen.

Lets instead look at his claim that the skull labeled “E Kelly” that Tom Baxter stole and then returned to the VIFM was actually “some poor Indians”. Webb claims that the real Ned Kelly skull was on public display until an acquaintance of his working with the National Trust, one Des Anderson swapped it with one taken from “a crate full of skulls and bones” shipped across from India in the 1960’s, and it was this substitute skull that was stolen in 1978.

What Mr Webb would discover if he had bothered to read this book is that there is an iron-clad set of forensic and other findings that prove without doubt that the “Baxter skull” was the same one exhumed from the Melbourne Gaol gravesite in 1927. Its fascinating to read how this unbroken chain of evidence was uncovered - it involved some clever detective work, some luck , a tooth and some shrewd forensics. But Mr Webbs claim is rubbish.

He also makes this somewhat patronizing assertion:
“These 'historians, pathologists, anthropologists, odontologists, radiologists, and ballistics and DNA experts' could have saved themselves a lot of time and money if someone had thought to contact the organiser of 'Ned: The Exhibition' which was held at the Old Melbourne Gaol in 2001-2002. They would have been shown a copy of a hand drawn map of the Pentridge Prison grave sites complete with all the reinterred remains clearly marked in plots, including the location of Ned Kelly’s coffin. I have a copy of that circa 1929 map with Ned's grave clearly labelled in the exact same spot they uncovered his remains in 2009.”

Again, if he had bothered to read the book he would have learned the researchers also have a copy of that map. In fact, I think its the one they reproduce in the book. But the map is like a map of a house that shows which room the body is in – the trouble was, nobody knew exactly where the house was and the Map was no help.

I am really starting to get sick and tired of the way some of these Kelly people behave. Thats two authors and two books that they haven't read in the last couple of years that they have never-the-less attacked and ridiculed because they contain facts and reason and arguments that upset their cosy mythologies about Ned Kelly. 

I wonder if Mr Webb would consider a retraction and an apology? Or is he going to continue to hide his head in the sand and hope the facts will go away, like so many of the Kelly fanatics prefer to do.

Happy Remembrance day everyone - and I am thinking about the real heroes killed in real wars, not criminals hanged for the murder of Police.

UPDATE: Theres a new comment about this book on the Ned Kelly Forum Facebook Page, posted by an NKF Member in response to another member who asked if anyone had read it. I posted a helpful reply but it was deleted immediately - No surprises there! The books Editor Craig Cormick posted a reply today that has been allowed to stand, providing a link to a newspaper review of the book, but this was followed by the following laughably immature Post from a prominent Kelly Forum member who clearly also hasn't read the book: 

"a majority of the research used by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in this book was taken from Kelly researchers after the discovery of Ned's remains in Pentridge.. as it was required by law that the remains were to be identified at the VIFM, it hardly makes any of the contributors to the book "experts", when in all fact they are just doing their job and trying to profit from Ned's story..

The idea that "a majority of the research...was taken from Kelly researchers" is utterly absurd fantasy and complete nonsense. If theres any truth to that claim perhaps the ignorant poster of that nonsense could put it up for everyone to see. He won't because there isn't any.

Today, November 17th, NKF deleted the whole thread that followed their Member "Shez" asking if anyone had red the CSIRO Book. As I predicted, the fool that made those claims about the book would not be posting any evidence because his claim was bollocks. So, no doubt after reading my comments above,  they have been shamed into removing the entire thread and are hoping nobody noticed. 

Once again no hint of an apology from Mr Jager for his outrageous slander against the forensic Scientists who donated their time and any profit to  Charity, no hint of an apology from Mr Webb for his outrageous attack on Dr Cormick, or retraction of his stupid claims about that skull - just a cowardly secret retraction -  all in all two more disgraceful examples of how these blind Kelly fanatics attack anything and everything that doesn't suit their delusional fantasies about Ned Kelly.  

With friends like these, the Mythology of Ned Kelly hardly needs enemies.