MOUNTED Constable Thomas Lonigan was just 34 when he died in October 1878 and, at Mansfield cemetery yesterday, there was no doubting the cause of death.
He was “murdered by armed criminals”.
It says so on his tombstone and, at a service to mark the restoration of the graves of Lonigan, Sergeant Michael Kennedy and Constable Michael Scanlan, the sentiment was clear. It was no place for fans of Ned Kelly.
“A murderer and a bully,” said Leo Kennedy, great grandson of Sergeant Kennedy.
“The effect of his murder still lingers because of those who use his murderer as an icon.”
Deborah Tunstall, great-great-granddaughter of Lonigan, said the service — attended by more than 100 police, descendants and locals — finally “brought justice” to the three men killed at Stringybark Creek so many years ago.
The three graves — in different locations due to the denominational considerations at the time — were badly damaged, along with other graves, by vandals in the 1960s.
Police Minister Kim Wells told the service that the government had allocated funds for restoring the graves of Victorian police officers.
The Mansfield service was held under a cloudy sky with the police pipe band, uniformed members of the Shrine guard and many locals in period costume.
Police Commissioner Ken Lay said Constable Scanlan had known there was a good chance he would not return.
“Before he left Mooroopna on his horse he told a mate he could have his dog should he die while chasing the Kelly gang,” he said.
“These three men hold a sacred place in Victoria Police history as do 154 other Victorian members killed in the line of duty.”