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Brought to Justice

After a night spent in the Benalla lock-up, Ned travelled to Melbourne in the company of Dr Ryan. Thousands of people gathered at Spencer Street station, hoping to catch a glimpse of the infamous outlaw. The police had anticipated the crowds and Ned was taken off at North Melbourne station and then driven to the Melbourne Gaol.

Back in Benalla, the euphoria of the last stand now gave way to feelings of tension as rumours started to circulate about trouble in the district. Threats against police officers and witnesses such as Thomas Curnow were taken seriously, and provisions were made for them to move.

Questions were now starting to emerge over the conduct of the police and their indiscriminate firing at the Glenrowan Inn, which had been filled with women and children. Superintendent Sadleir took this opportunity to write a report on the death of Martin Cherry. Chief Commissioner Standish wrote a letter to the Chief Secretary pushing for a police inquiry into the conduct, management and proceedings of the Kelly pursuit from the start of the outbreak.

During Ned’s incarceration, both police and detectives tried to locate any information regarding the provenance of the Kelly gang’s armour. Their investigations uncovered two possible suspects, Charles Culph and Pat Delaney. However, as the detective report states, nothing eventuated from these investigations.

Isolated from family and friends, Ned was appointed a lawyer. Early in August, requests by family members to see the prisoner were consistently denied. Under the care of Dr Shields, the gaol’s doctor, Ned’s health was starting to improve and the second day of August was selected for his committal hearing in Beechworth. Unhappy with the lawyer that was appointed to Ned, Maggie and Tom Lloyd arranged for David Gaunson to take over Ned’s defence. Gaunson was later succeeded by Henry Bindon.

At his committal hearing, Ned was formally charged with the murders of Constables Lonigan and Scanlon. The case was set to be heard on 14 October at the Beechworth Court of Assize. In the following days, witnesses from the Euroa and Jerilderie hold-ups also took the stand and gave their accounts. After the hearing, the prisoner boarded a train back to Melbourne and a summons for a change of venue was granted, as it was felt that the present climate at Beechworth was becoming more dangerous.

Sir Redmond Barry presided over the case, which was heard on 28 and 29 October. The depositions of all those who witnessed the outrages from Stringybark Creek to Glenrowan, who were present to tell their story in court, revealed the damaging course of the Kelly outbreak. Witnesses included Constable Richards and Bank Manager Tarleton from the Jerilderie hold up. Constable Kelly, who was present at the ‘Last Stand’, was able to produce the armour used by the gang while telling his account of Glenrowan. The next day, at about 5pm, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty for the murder of Thomas Lonigan, the second case of the murder of Michael Scanlon was never tried. After exchanging words with Sir Redmond Barry, Ned was taken to cell 38, also referred to as the condemned cell. From the moment his sentence was announced, he was allowed to receive visitors.

A meeting near the gaol was set for 5 December and a campaign to save Ned’s life emerged. The execution date had been set for 11 November and petition forms for the prisoner’s pardon started to circulate. Over the next couple of days, over 32,000 signatures appeared on the petition for reprieve. Inside the gaol, with only a few days remaining before he was to be hanged, Ned dictated a few letters to Warden Buck, and signed the letters with a cross. He also requested that Charles Nettleton, the gaol photographer, take a couple of photos for his family. Later that afternoon, Ned’s mother, Ellen, came to see her son for the final time. On 11 November 1880, Ned Kelly was hanged. Over twenty officials witnessed his death, while outside the Old Melbourne Gaol, a crowd of over 4,000 had gathered in silence.

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