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Greta

Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was a man known to be fond of both drink and women. Sent to Greta to relieve Constable Strahan, Constable Fitzpatrick had just read the Police Gazette and noticed that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of one Daniel (Dan) Kelly, younger brother of Ned. Fitzpatrick decided to ride to the Kelly homestead, without a warrant, to effect an arrest.

According to Fitzpatrick, when he arrived at the Kelly homestead, he found Ellen Kelly at home with her children, including Dan, who asked if he could finish his meal before being taken back to Greta. According to Fitzpatrick, Ned Kelly appeared in the doorway and allegedly fired a shot at him. The Kelly homestead erupted into chaos as Mrs Kelly struck Fitzpatrick with a shovel, leaving an obvious dent in his helmet.

At this point, the Kelly boys’ associate, Brickey Williamson, and their brother-in-law, William Skillion, who were outside, appeared in the house, armed. Ned fired a second shot and Fitzpatrick’s wrist was wounded. He was also disarmed by Dan during the commotion. As Fitzpatrick raised his arm to avoid a second blow from Mrs Kelly, Ned struggled with Fitzpatrick and the gun went off for the third time, the bullet lodging itself in the boards of the hut. Although Ned offered to help Fitzpatrick with his wound, Fitzpatrick declined the offer and removed the bullet himself with a penknife. Ellen then dressed the wound and Fitzpatrick left the Kelly homestead riding to Benalla to report the incident.

Throughout the years Fitzpatrick’s story has been discredited. Captain Standish, the Chief Commissioner of Police, did not believe Fitzpatrick’s account of the incident, and a few years later Fitzpatrick was discharged from the force.

Fitzpatrick’s wound was rather unusual, as it appeared as a flesh wound even though he maintained that a bullet had been lodged. Dr Nicolson, who treated Fitzpatrick, refused to swear that the injury was a result of a bullet wound, which further discredited the Constable’s story. The following day the police went to the Kelly homestead to arrest Ned and Dan, but by this stage they had both disappeared, as had the slabs where the third bullet had been lodged. Mrs Kelly, Skillion and Williamson were arrested and charged with attempted murder.

To further add to the confusion of that afternoon, it would appear that Joe Byrne was present on the day of the shooting and accounts vary as to whether or not Williamson was inside the hut at the time of the shooting. According to the report by Fitzpatrick, Williamson was present. However, Williamson claimed he was outside when the shooting occurred. Williamson’s account of what happened that afternoon was written whilst he was incarcerated and seeking remission on a six-year sentence, which might call into question the validity of his statement. Meanwhile, the Kelly brothers were still at large, and a reward of £100 was posted for the capture of Ned Kelly.

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