THE EARLY YEARS
Born in the mid 1850s, Ned Kelly seems to many to have been destined to live outside the law - and to die at its hands.
Growing up with the belief that the police targeted his family, Ned was at odds with the authorities from an early age. Charged with assault and theft offences as a teenager, and involved in cattle rustling in the 1870s, Ned's transition from minor criminal to bushranger was sparked by an incident in April 1878. Constable Fitzpatrick claimed that the Kellys attacked him at their home, and that he had been shot in the wrist. The Kellys claimed that no guns were drawn and that Ned was in NSW at the time! To no avail, a reward was offered for the capture of Ned and Dan Kelly for their alleged role in the 'attempted murder', and they took to the bush, where Joe Byrne and Steve Hart joined them.
The charge against Ned would soon be murder, when the gang confronted a police search party at Stringybark Creek, shooting dead Sergeant Kennedy, Constable Lonigan and Constable Scanlon. The reward for the gang, which had been £4,000, was raised to £8,000 following the bank robberies in Euroa Victoria and Jerilderie NSW. The gang then disappeared from view for over a year, only to reappear in June of 1880, when Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly killed one-time friend and alleged police informant, Aaron Sherritt.
A day later, the gang arrived at Glenrowan and took around 70 people hostage in the hotel. It was to be here that the Kellys' last stand would take place, and where the gang's famous suits of armour would make their one-and-only appearance in battle.
Clad in the heavy iron suits, made from stolen or donated pieces of farm ploughs, the four men were besieged by police at the Glenrowan Inn before dawn on 28 June 1880. When bullets simply bounced off Ned's armour - which was effective in stopping bullets fired from further than nine metres - the troopers wondered aloud whether the figure in the mist was even human!
Although effective, the suit did leave parts of the body exposed, and Ned, in his final showdown with police, was ultimately brought down by bullets striking his legs. A police bullet killed Joe Byrne, whilst Steve Hart and Dan Kelly are alleged to have committed suicide. One policeman suffered a minor wrist injury, whilst two hostages were killed in the siege.
Although hit many times, Ned survived and was transported back to Melbourne to stand trial, where he was convicted of the murder of Constable Lonigan and sentenced to death. Although a petition to have the sentence commuted was signed by tens of thousands of people, Ned died on the gallows at Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880. Although dividing opinion both during his life and in the 130 years since his death - to some a symbol of national pride, to others a simple criminal - the Ned Kelly legend is woven deep into the fabric of Australian culture.