Sunday 11 September 2016

The CSI @ SBC Report is Pseudo-Science

The ‘Kelly Tree’ in the Wombat Ranges of North Eastern Victoria has long been promoted as marking the site near Stringybark Creek where three Policemen were killed by the Kelly Gang  in 1878. Tourists are encouraged to go there to pay their respects to the slain Police, even though it has long been acknowledged that the place where the murders took place is not near the Kelly tree. To some people that doesn’t really matter – for them, being in the bush close to where this horror took place is sufficient. However, for others knowing the exact place is of such vital importance that they spent many hours scouring the bush and analyzing the records for clues that might make it possible for them to find the exact spot. Eventually, Bill Denheld identified the correct place, the so-called Two Huts site, and I described how he did it in a Post you can read HERE.

An alternative site had earlier been identified by a group that Bill Denheld was originally a member of, and they self-published a report of their investigation and their findings in 2011 in a document they sell for $50 called the CSI@SBC Report. (Crime Scene Investigation @ SBC) In a Facebook discussion about my Blog Post on the topic  of the true site I was repeatedly accused of bias and of being one-sided because, it was claimed I had never visited SBC or read the CSI Report.  Both allegations are completely false, but to complete the picture, in this Post I will provide a critique of the CSI@SBC Report, Chapter by Chapter and show how completely it fails to identify the true site.

The CSI Report looks pretty impressive, and has a sort of ‘sciency’ feel to it with 8 numbered sections, every paragraph numbered, many photos and figures, a long list of Notes, a Bibliography and no less than 18 appendices, making a total of 93 pages. However the report itself only runs to 42 pages, and even that contains much that is just padding, as I will point out.

Section 1 : Introduction
This is a brief overview of a bit of history and what the Report sets out to achieve.

Section 2: Mansfield Police Partys Route to Stringybark Creek
This is interesting reading, but has no relevance to the issue at hand. The issue is not how the Police got to SBC but the location of the exact place at which they set up their camp once they arrived.  This chapter adds nothing : its just padding.

Section 3. The case for the Eastern Bank Police Camp Site Location
This is an extremely long winded and pointless examination of the now discredited case for the Camp being on the Eastern bank of SBC, a case which was made at length by Ian Jones at a symposium in 1993. They attach that presentation and the interesting discussion afterwards as Appendix 1. One thing that amused me in that speech by Ian Jones was that he referred to Strinybark Creek as a spring, a point that the CSI people refuse to accept when its advanced by Bill Denheld, who all along has agreed with Jones description of SBC as a spring. The CSI people instead nominate swampy ground near their favoured site as the ‘spring’ Ned Kelly referred to. I will return to that suggestion later.

The Section 3 discussion of horse tracks and McIntyres sketches in their attempted refutation of the Eastern Bank Police Camp site location is obscure and ponderous. It would have been much simpler for them to quote McIntyre, and be done with it, as I did in the Post about the Two Huts site :

“Sergt Kennedy has selected a clear place near an old burnt hut as the most suitable for our camping ground as it was out of danger of any timber which might fall from the forest trees. Our tent was pitched near the north west corner of this clearing, which was partly natural and partly caused by human agency. The entrance to the tent was facing east and also the creek which was about 70 yards distant.”

If the tent was facing east, and facing the creek, then the tent and the site of the ambush can only have been on the western side of the creek. Period.

The fact is, these days nobody believes the Police camp was on the eastern bank and there is no need for this report to include the erroneous arguments that once were made for it. This section is therefore also redundant and is just more padding.

Section 4: Information assisting the case for the western Bank Police Camp site
This has to be one of the most peculiar collection of arguments Ive ever read in all the bizarre Kelly literature that’s out there.  Simply put, the arguments advanced here are so tenuous as to be absurd. The most obvious one is their claim to have identified in an 1897 photo of the Kelly tree, an adjacent tree which also appears in the Burman photos. By this method they believe they have demonstrated that the true site of the Police killing, as depicted in the 1878  Burman photos was right beside the Kelly tree shown in the 1897 photo. They claim that the tree in the Burman photo and the tree shown beside the Kelly tree in the “Beautiful Mansfield’ Booklet are one and the same tree because both have an obvious ‘burl’ on their trunk.  The problems with this  suggestion are firstly that these indistinct shapes on tree trunks they have called  burls are not identical and may or may not be burls in both cases. Additionally, and fatally for their argument the Burman photos were taken looking south or south west, showing the north or northeastern sides of  trees, but, as they go to great lengths to point out, the Beautiful Mansfield Photo was taken looking in the opposite direction, to the north east, looking at the south eastern sides of  trees.

Therefore, whatever these two marks are, they are on different sides of trees and cant be used as a justification for saying they are one and the same tree.

An equally absurd argument about a tree is their extraordinary ‘discovery’ of the modern day Kelly tree in the background of one of the Burman photos of 1878. These photos are small and remarkably indistinct, and the CSI report itself says the tree in question is partly obscured by another tree – and yet they confidently assert they can identify not only the species of Eucalypt but that this is the very tree that 148 years later we identify as the Kelly tree. A completely unsustainable argument.

In keeping with their psychic ability to see things that nobody else can see, at 4.6 they state “Out of frame to the right of the photographs is the swampy ground McIntyre refers to in his descriptive accounts as being 20 yards from the tent”  Im surprised they didn’t also notice the Bunyip hiding behind the large tree on the left!

The Burman photographs are of course actual photos of the site the CSI team and Bill Denheld had been trying to find. There are no other proven photos of the site, and therefore they are key pieces of evidence in the puzzle and warrant the most critical scrutiny, which is what Bill Denheld has done and which is a huge strength of his research.  The CSI team devotes  an inordinate amount of space to discussion of other  far less relevant photos  and devotes far too little space to a proper evaluation of the Burman ones. Now, the CSI team believe they can see swampy ground out of the picture to the right, and an obscure tree in the background destined to become the modern day Kelly tree, but they maintain a deafening silence when it comes to interpretation of the main features of the photos, namely the logs and especially the people seated on them. At 4.5 they write “The photographs show the two large logs that became central to the unfolding drama of that fateful evening and they portray  the remains of the burnt hut, a few yards behind which the Police party pitched their tent. Remains of two of the huts timber posts and the burnt butts of split timber wall slabs can be identified. The positions of the huts end posts and the earthen drain along the North west side of the hut provides clues for the alignment of the hut facing SBC”

Who would have guessed reading that, that there are actual people in these photographs? For the CSI team the three people in the photograph are hardly worth mentioning! 

They claim the arrangement of the people in these photos does ‘not accord with McIntyre’s descriptive accounts of the affair, or positions shown in his scale  diagram of the camp site” and so they ignore them. This is certainly the most significant of the many blunders made by the CSI team in this report, to dismiss so readily the significance of these figures and to fail to grasp what they tell us about the Crime scene. Those figures were very deliberately placed in the scene by the Photographer to recreate as accurately as he could what he was told took place there. He did the exact same thing at the base of the tree where Kennedys body was found, positioning someone on the ground and covering him with a cloak to recreate  the actual scene accurately before taking his famous picture of that ghastly killing ground.  This of course is exactly what he  also did at the Camp site – a 
careful recreation of the scene to give his photos more meaning. The only real mistake he made was to have Ned Kelly and McIntyre quite close together, and too near the camera. They are both looking North, Kelly hidden behind the log as Kennedy enters the clearing on the right, from the north, his arm raised in salute.  

Its clear the CSI team have assumed that the Photo has been taken from where the Police had pitched their tent, in the North West corner of the clearing and the photo is looking to the east or north east. This why they say they can see the drain along the northwest edge of the burnt hut site – but where is there anywhere in the Kelly literature any proof that these photos were taken from the site where the tent had been pitched? There is none, not a single word anywhere that indicates where the photos were taken from but for some unexplained reason the CSI team have assumed they were taken from the place where the tent would have been and are facing the east and north east. This is illustrated in their Appendix 11A. On the basis of this unfounded assumption, they have declared that Burman placed his actors in all the wrong places, having them looking south, Kennedy approaching from the south, with Ned hiding on the North side of the log. The CSI team believe that Burman got it all wrong even though he had been informed by Monk who only a few days before had been there and seen with his own eyes exactly where the bodies were, and who himself would have been told by McIntyre what happened and where the returning Police would have come from. The CSI teams mistaken assumption about where Burman took his photos from is a fatal flaw and more or less completely destroys their entire argument. Their desperate attempts to reorientate the photos by finding burls and future Kelly trees and swamps out of view do not succeed : Burmans recreations are very close to the mark, and are taken looking south or south west. The CSI team are 180 degrees out. No doubt about it.

In fact the Burman photos were taken from a north and eastern position looking roughly southwards, and the site where the tent would have been was on the other side of the log at the right of the photo, but out of view. 

In this section of their report they also place considerable weight on the presence of a hut drawn on a Survey of the area in 1884, which they assume to be the hut mentioned by McIntyre  at their Camp site. They base their selection of the camp site on the distances they estimate this hut was from the junction of Ryans Creek and Stringybark Creek, as drawn on the 1884 map. However no evidence is provided to support this assumption that the hut on the map and the hut at the Campsite are the same hut. In fact there have been numerous huts in the area, and a variety of maps with huts on them so it’s a very brave call to announce that the one on the 1884 map is the one referred to by Ned Kelly and McIntyre. They provide no actual proof to link the two, a fact which further undermines their argument. I’ll return to this problem later.

After 10 pages of this hopeful over-interpretation of photos and Survey maps, somewhat surprisingly the CSI team concedes these arguments don’t amount to anything much and conclude Section 4 with this :

4.15  While important to the investigation and its outcomes the maps the photographs survey results and their information do not precisely fix the camp site layout in the surrounding environment.

Section 5 Location and layout of the Police Camp Site on the Western Bank of Stringybark Creek
The problem with this section is that its based on that unproven assumption about a Hut on an 1884 map, and a misinterpretation of the  Burman photos.  Any argument based on unproven assumptions about huts and a demonstrably wrong understanding of the orientation of the critical Burman photos must therefore necessarily be weakened  to the point of being virtually fatally flawed. 

In Section 5 the CSI team  introduce their belief that ‘a seasonal soak’ near the place they’ve claimed is the true site, is the “spring” mentioned by Ned Kelly in his version of  the killings that took place at SBC. As Ive already mentioned, Ian Jones and Bill Denheld believe the “Spring” is actually the creek itself, but the identification of this ‘soak’ as a spring falls a long way short of being a significant finding adjacent to their site, as, apparently, in rainy weather many such ‘soaks’ or ‘springs’ appear, and then dry up with the weather. Equally the identification of various species of tree and of spear grass and other flora  in no way strengthens the case for the CSI site near the Kelly tree, because for one thing  nobody can be certain that the precise topography of the place and the location of various trees and undergrowth is today identical with what it was more than 130 years ago. Indeed to suggest it hadn’t changed would be to draw a rather long bow.

In this section they also describe a ‘stone pile’ and suggest they are the remains of the fireplace of the hut referred to as the shingle hut, the hut McIntyre said was near where they pitched their tent. This pile is almost 100 yards from where they have calculated where the CSI camp site was, so is not actually ‘near’ where the tent would have been ,the pile of rocks is not definitely remains of a fireplace and is the only hut ‘remains’ identified in any sort of proximity to their proposed campsite. At Bill Denhelds site there are the remains of two fireplaces and post holes from a hut exactly where the Burman photos would lead one to expect to find them.

Section 6 “Bail up! Hold up your hands” – The two encounters and later search for the slain Policemen.
This section consists mostly of descriptions of events that took place at SBC extracted from the writings of McIntyre and of Ned Kelly.  They add absolutely nothing to the putative purpose of the Investigation which was to identify the site of the ambush, so one has to ask why are they included? At 6.4 the report states that “McIntyres descriptive accounts together with his scale diagram provide compelling corroboration that the Police camp site was located on the western bank of Stringybark Creek(Their underlining)

This had already been established and didn’t need to be re-established! Section 6 adds nothing to the debate about identification of the true site and is just further padding!

Section 7 Findings
7.1 asserts that the Police Camp was on the western Bank of SBC. This is the only  finding printed in bold and underlined. This is an entirely uncontroversial finding, but they assert it again at 7.4 for some reason. All their other ‘Findings’ are based on the unproven assumptions about huts on an 1884 map and a demonstrably wrong understanding of the orientation of the critical Burman photos. The ‘finding’ that the ‘stone pile’ is near the Campsite, is demonstrably wrong because its actually almost 100 yards away, and once again they fail to make any ‘findings’ in relation to the vital Burman photographs. 

Section 8 Conclusions
There were four : and the first one was never in dispute : the Police Camp was on the western bank of SBC. They’ve stated this several times already!

The second of their conclusions was that the Police tent was about 55 yards south of the present day Kelly tree. ( This is odd because they say you can see the present day Kelly tree in the Burman Photos, yet in those photos it appears to be much closer than that )

Their third conclusion is that the tent was near the hut shown on the 1884 map. Well, we all agree the tent was near a hut but why are they so sure that the 1884 map identified the right hut ? And why when they have taken their measurements from that Map do they end up at a place where there is no sign of a hut having ever been there? And why do they then suggest that the rock pile 100 yards away could be those hut remains yet the tent was said to have been pitched “NEAR” the Hut? 100 yards away is NOT near. Logically, if they thought that the stone pile was indeed the hut that the Police tent was ‘near’ they ought to have picked their tent site close to it, but of course to do so would upset their arguments about the Burls and the Beautiful Mansfield photo and the Kelly tree.They don’t say it but I am guessing that at the rock pile they also don’t have a spring or the necessary topographical features, or the vegetation supposed to be at the Camp site. So instead they nominate a site for the Tent 100 yards away, on the far side of the Kelly tree, and pretend that these two sites are ’near’ each other. The reality on the ground is that they are NOT ‘near’ each other, they are unrelated sites and linking them to make a case for the site near the Kelly tree makes no sense; its just an assertion that has nothing to support it.

Their last conclusion is that if they are right, they will have contributed ‘significantly to the extensive body of knowledge and historical literature that has accumulated about these events over the last 131 years”

My response is to say that they are not, and they haven’t.

As I pointed out in the post on Bill Denhelds work, he has identified the site that fits all the topographical requirements, matches the Burman photos, has evidence of huts in the immediate vicinity, does justice to McIntyres memories and doesn’t rely on unproven assumptions about old maps, or a new interpretation of what the word ‘near’ means. 

Whats more, if you go there and look south you can take a Photo that matches the Burman pictures. Its impossible to do that at the CSI site. 
I flogged this from Bill - it shows nicely the match up between the Burman Photos
and how it looks today 

Case dismissed!


  1. Well written and presented Dee.

  2. Thanks Mark. I know I deliberately avoided answering your questions before asking if I had been to SBC but that was to make the point that the arguments don't depend on where I have or haven't been, but on their own internal logic and consistency. But now you all know I have been there - Only an idiot would imagine I took myself on a Tour of Kelly Country last year and NOT visit SBC.(and I'm not referring to you there Mark!) But do you think if you went back to The Two Huts site now, after thinking about what I've written about the two sites, you might 'feel' something there this time? I am pretty sure I would.

  3. If it wasn't for Bill Denheld and his painstaking, unrelenting research on the spot, we would all still be ignorant about where this all happened. His 'Two Huts' website is very informative and brilliant.

    I have been a Bill Denheld supporter for many years. He deserves an OAM. This was superlative, ground-breaking, thought-provoking, detailed research.

    Dee, your withering blog has put the blathering CSI Report into perspective as a flawed, insubstantial document. It should be removed quickly from sale!

  4. 'Pooh Flower' and others won't like this at all.

    So many laughable comments by Drongos over the years.

  5. Very well written and competent stuff Dee. You'll have to publish this all soon!

  6. Great write up for the Crime Scene Investigators Dee!

    At last people can read how SBC history could have become very skewed.
    Once again you have sorted out the wheat from the chaff. Its hard to believe these four gents could agree on it at all.

    Just a couple of things, in your second Para,
    " An alternative site had earlier been identified by a group (with me) was originally a member of, " Readers may think the CSI@SBC location south from the Kelly tree was an earlier site considered and I then came along finding these Two Huts fireplaces 300 metres up the creek. In fact it’s the other way around.

    Two Huts found in 2002, CSI@SBC investigation with me, Linton Briggs, Gary Dean, Kelvyn Gill and Glen Standing was in 2009. Then that same year they decided without me to make a public announcement at the 2009 Siege Dinner Glenrowan, that the shoot site was near the Kelly tree without any substantive proof. Its all just laughable really, and the points Dee wase able to glean from reading their report are just so obvious, but the fact they went to print and handed that report to the authorities is just beyond words. No wonder seven years later the authorities are still scratching their heads. It almost like this CSI group had set out to confuse rather than focus on scientific reality.

    I wonder if any of the csi team will make any comments here or on those Face Book sites, one that does not want to discuss one great hundred year conundrum as being too divisive a subject, while the other Kelly expert says he is not sure where the site is, but its not at the two huts! Then there are those other two or three forums that seem to be no more than chummy clubby gossip message boards harbouring inside knowledge to their privileged few.

    For those who take history seriously, as most readers of this page are, at least they can go to SBC and know they can stand in the correct place and contemplate where two police officers were killed by the Kelly gang. This specific place is particularly important to descendants of Constable Lonigan, Constable Scanlan, Sergeant Kennedy and Constable McIntyre.

    If for those it does not matter, they live in fantasy land.

    1. ... but I thought Linton Briggs, Gary Dean, Kelvyn Gill and Glen Standing were the Kelly experts!

    2. Bill, serious students of the Kelly outbreak owe you a great debt for your terrific research into SBC. To me it seems that the only reason your findings have been disregarded is because of the mystique surrounding Ian Jones. We all know that his work on Kelly is very impressive but simply wrong in many aspects. Seems that various 'authorities' in Victoria take what he says as unchallengeable gospel and not to be questioned. So his support of the CSI findings about SBC have become lore and apparently the official position. The real pity of this is that visitors to this important historic Australian site are lead up the (wrong) garden path as far as the police camp and the 'Kelly tree' are concerned. To me personally, that is a real travesty and needs to be addressed. Not sure how that can be done, perhaps a panel of neutral historians to examine all of the findings and come to a reasoned conclusion. Whatever, Bill you are to be congratulated on your research and competent findings on the locations at SBC.

  7. ....... is Bill an expert?

  8. I encourage everyone NOT to indulge in personal attacks but to discuss the arguments for or against whatever they believe to be the truth about SBC.

    In arguing against their findings and their case for the CSI site I am NOT dismissing them or in any way suggesting they are not genuinely making a case for what they believe to be the true site. They clearly have spent a lot of time up there, they know a lot about the area and the history but in my opinion the case they have put together for the CSI site is weak, it doesn't stand up to careful analysis, it's based on assumptions that I can't accept and contains arguments which are highly debatable.

    I found Bills explanations and analysis much simpler and much more convincing.

    However, I think the CSI team should be respected for their work and their expertise, and for taking the trouble to put their arguments forward in a Report for everyone interested to read and discuss. I can think of two other self appointed Kelly experts who have announced they were going to publish findings and explanations of certain aspects of Kelly history who have failed to do so, so in that regard the CSI Team deserve credit for having the guts to put it up for anyone to have a go at.

    So can we please NOT make this into a contest between one group of experts and another? By all means attack me and my Review of the report but I don't want to have to delete Comments that are just personality attacks. We could have a genuine debate instead perhaps.?

  9. That was a forceful, potent, expose of the worthless SBC report, Dee.

    You have powerfully undermined the porous Kelly legend and brought it undone.

    Poor old 'Anonymous' can't stand Bill, while posing as a family friend. He isn't.

    They live in the same suburb but are worlds apart.

    You should ban anonymous comments from fools.

    Bill IS the only SBC expert. He spent years in the bush His research is self-evidently genuine. No one else has done this.


1. Moderation is back on. I haven’t got time to be constantly monitoring what comments are made and deleting the mindless rubbish that Kelly sympathisers have been posting lately. Please post polite sensible comments, avoid personal abuse and please use the same name whenever you Post, even if its a made-up name.