Doubt on bones find

A NOTED Ned Kelly historian has poured cold water on claims that archeologists had found the bushranger’s bones.

Beechworth’s Ian Jones believes Kelly’s remains are more likely under Melbourne’s RMIT buildings.

He said the grave site and bones found at the former Pentridge Prison were those of two other prisoners with similar initials, one possibly a woman.

Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden said on Sunday archaeological digs at the former prison site in Coburg had unearthed unmarked coffins containing the remains of 32 prisoners executed at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

They were removed from their original internment in 1929 when the jail was closed.

Mr Jones said archeologists could not mistake Kelly’s coffin — it would be full of lead.

“If his body has been undisturbed the coffin would be full of pellets,” he said.

“They certainly wouldn’t need DNA; he suffered horrendous gunshot wounds and many of the bullets were still in him when he was hanged.

“The extent of the injuries to his left arm, right foot, hand and side would be quite obvious to anyone that uncovered the body.

“I’d be very surprised if they were Ned’s bones.”

Mr Jones said debate on the whereabouts of Kelly’s remains had raged for years.

“His grave was marked E.K. but they are also the initials of another man executed at the prison 13 years later — Ernest Knox,” he said.

“His skull was taken and displayed as Ned’s for many years until disproved.

“The grave site of Frances Knorr was also removed in 1929 and there is some thought her initials had been vandalised to look like E.K.”

But Mr Jones said there was some merit in the dig.

“If the bones can’t be found in the grave site at Pentridge then we can say that his body wasn’t moved in 1929,” he said.

“It would almost certainly confirm, as many suspect, that he is buried beneath RMIT.”

The university built over the former grave site after the Old Melbourne jail closed.

Kelly was hanged there on November 11, 1880.

He was one of 135 hanged in the jail’s 87-year history.

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