Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ned Kelly's bones found

Australian archaeologists believe they have found the grave of the country's legendary outlaw, Ned Kelly, on the site of an abandoned prison.

Kelly, immortalized for using home-made amour in a final shoot-out with police, became a folk hero of Australia's colonial past with his gang's daring bank robberies and escapes.

The son of an Irish convict, Kelly was hanged for his crimes in 1880 and buried in a mass grave at a prison in the southern city of Melbourne in Victoria state. The whereabouts of his body had remained as elusive as Kelly was in real life.

Archaeologists who have been digging at the site of the former Pentridge prison unearthed a mass grave where historical records suggested the remains of Kelly and other executed prisoners were buried after being removed from the old Melbourne Gaol when it closed in 1929.

"We believe we have conclusively found the burial site, but that is very different from finding the remains," Jeremy Smith, senior archaeologist with Heritage Victoria, told Reuters on Sunday.

"If the remains exist, then we will have found them."

He said the grave contained 32 bodies in rows of coffins in various states of decomposition. The bodies are incomplete and will now be subject to forensic tests.

Smith said it would be a struggle to prove conclusively that any of the remains were Kelly's, particularly from single bones. He said the bones had been roughly treated in the 1929 move and some may have been taken for souvenirs.

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