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Thu Oct 23 06:34:07 SAST 2014

Australian outlaw buried in cement 132 years after he was hanged

Sapa-AFP | 20 January, 2013 12:04
An undated police mugshot of Ned Kelly, aged 16, at the Old Melbourne Gaol is seen in this March 13, 2008 file photo. The remains of Australia's most famous outlaw, Ned Kelly, are finally to be laid to rest, 132 years after he was hanged for murder.
Image by: Ho New / Reuters

Australian outlaw Ned Kelly was finally laid to rest in a rural cemetery beside his mother Sunday, with his grave unmarked and sealed beneath layers of concrete to guard against souvenir-taking.

A small group of Kelly family descendants escorted the bushranger's remains to the Greta cemetery where he was buried in a deep and reportedly concrete-sealed pit beside his mother, Ellen.

Kelly's last wish when he was hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol 132 years ago was to be buried in consecrated ground in the family plot at Greta, not far from the town of Glenrowan where he had his final shootout with police.

But after his execution his remains were thrown into a pit and it wasn't until 2011 that DNA testing confirmed the bones -- except his skull which remains missing -- were his.

"We've brought him home, back to his family and back to the area that he loved, we've given him his final wish, so that makes us quite happy," said Joanne Griffiths, great-granddaughter of Kelly's sister Kate.

"We've made a real effort to ensure that he's going to be safe and he's surrounded by family and friends, which is the way he would've wanted it."

Kelly's burial brings an end to a chapter in the story of one of Australia's most famous and enduring legends, with his tale of defiance against land barons and corrupt policemen dividing the nation even today.

Some see him as a callous killer and criminal while others celebrate him as a folk hero and symbol of Irish-Australian rebellion against British colonial authorities. His exploits have been the subject of art, film and literature.

Hundreds gathered to bid farewell to him at a church service Friday ahead of his burial, but Griffiths said the family had also endured decades of judgment for his deeds.

"Regardless of what people might think now... this is not the day for judgment this is just the day for burying a family member," she said.

Developers of the prison site where his bones were found wanted to keep the famous skeleton for a public memorial or display but the Victoria state government forced them to return it to the family for proper burial.

Kelly was the only one of his gang to survive the shootout at Glenrowan due to his iconic homemade suit and helmet of plate metal armour. Three policemen were killed.

"This man Ned Kelly has a certain immortality. Not just in our hearts, but in the hearts of Australia," Monsignor John White told those gathered for Sunday's burial.

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