VIFM Media Release

Further information and media enquiries, please contact:

Deb Withers  – 0417 398 448 -

MEDIA RELEASE: Tuesday 8th November, 2011

Ned Kelly’s remains to be returned to his family

The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine has concluded the consultation process regarding the final resting place of the remains of Ned Kelly.

The descendants of the Kelly family have decided they would like to give effect to Ned Kelly’s last wish and that he now be buried in consecrated ground.

The Attorney-General, Robert Clark has today agreed to the Kelly family’s wishes that the remains be returned to his family for a Christian burial.

The remains of Australia’s most notorious son, bushranger Ned Kelly were identified earlier this year and have been in the custody of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine awaiting a decision regarding his final resting place.

One of Ned Kelly’s last wishes was that his body be returned to his loved ones and that he be given a Christian burial.

In his third letter to the Governor on 10 November 1880, the day before his execution, Kelly wrote: “there is one wish in conclusion I would like you to grant me, that is the release of my mother before my execution as detaining her in prison could not make any difference to the Government now for the day will come when all men will be judged by their mercy and deeds and also if you would grant permission for my friends to have my body that they might bury it in consecrated ground.”

Kelly dictated the letter to Warden Buck and it bears his X.  It is believed that he could not write the letter himself due to the gunshot wound in his right hand.

As was the custom with executed prisoners, Kelly was buried at the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880. His body was transferred to Pentridge Prison in 1929 with other executed prisoners, then finally exhumed and brought to the VIFM in 2009.

It is now up to Ned Kelly’s descendants to decide where his final resting place will be.

The decision was welcomed by the Kelly family whose members are happy they can fulfil their ancestor’s wishes.

“The Attorney General’s decision means the family can now complete their plans to enact Ned’s final wishes,” Kelly’s great grand nephew Anthony Griffiths said.

“Our initial plans include consideration of holding a public memorial service as we recognise many Australians have a regard for Ned and may like to share in his final farewell. The family will then hold a private family funeral service,” Mr Griffiths said.

Media enquiries: Deb Withers 0417 398 448.

MEDIA RELEASE: Thursday September 1st 2011 – DOWNLOAD PDF

Forensic Experts Identify Ned Kelly Remains

Scientists at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine have identified the body of Ned Kelly, the Attorney General Robert Clark announced today.

A DNA sample taken from Melbourne school teacher Leigh Olver, who is Ned’s sister Ellen’s great grandson has confirmed the body is that of Australia’s most famous son.

An exhaustive historical and forensic science exercise, employing the expertise of historians, pathologists, anthropologists, odontologists, radiologists, and ballistics and DNA experts, has identified the iconic bushranger’s remains among those transferred from the Old Melbourne Gaol to Pentridge Prison in 1929 and then exhumed again in 2009.

They were among the remains of 33 other individuals, many of which were co-mingled and incomplete, making the result even more extraordinary. Ned’s is an almost complete skeleton found buried in a wooden axe box; however most of the skull is missing.

The project involved collaboration with the ancient DNA laboratory EAAF in Argentina, members of which have worked with the VIFM on human rights projects.

Mr Clark said he was enormously impressed with the efforts of the forensic team.

“This is an extraordinary result from our forensic team here in Victoria,” he said.

“To think a group of scientists could identify the body of a man who was executed more than 130 years ago, moved and buried in a haphazard fashion among 33 other prisoners, most of whom are not identified, is amazing.”

“We are so fortunate to have this calibre of expertise, all under the one roof, here in Victoria,” Mr Clark said.

The investigation began when a skull believed to belong to Ned Kelly was handed into the VIFM on November 11, 2009 by Mr Tom Baxter.  The skull had been stolen from the Old Melbourne Gaol in December 1978 where it had been on display next to the death mask of Ned Kelly. The ink inscription “E. Kelly” was written on the side.

The State Coroner ruled the skull to be out of the coronial jurisdiction because death had occurred more than 100 years previously.  The Victorian state government asked Professor Stephen Cordner and his team of forensic experts to try and identify the skull.

Through a series of craniofacial super-imposition, CT Scanning, anthropology and DNA tests, the team concluded it was not Ned.

Although the identity of the skull is still unknown, the team is continuing testing and is hopeful of a positive result in the near future.

While the skull investigation was underway, the team turned its expertise to trying to find Ned.

It looked to the Pentridge remains which were exhumed in 2009 and are currently being held at the Institute on behalf of Heritage Victoria.

Through a series of CT scanning, X rays, pathology, odontology, and anthropology expertise plus extensive historical research, the team could confirm that this skeleton belonged to Ned Kelly.

A DNA sample taken from Mr Olver was compared to the remains and the identification was complete.

The 20 month investigation has involved several Victorian Government agencies including Heritage Victoria, the Coroners Court of Victoria and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, as well as the assistance of the National Trust and the Old Melbourne Gaol, the University of Melbourne, the EAAF Laboratory in Argentina, the Argentine Ambassador, the Benalla Pioneer and Costume Museum, the Police Museum, the Victorian State Library, the Public Records Office and many others.  It was specifically funded by the Attorney General.

“Ned’s Head” a documentary which outlines this investigation, goes to air on SBS One this Sunday September 4th at 7.30pm.


Further information: Deb Withers  – 0417 398 448 -