Australian Crimes
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True Australian crime stories
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Tuesday 29th June 1880:
Kelly Captured, Gang Killed
    Ned Kelly was seriously wounded last night and the rest of his gang killed after a dramatic three day long siege during which the ringleader protected himself with steel armour. It began when the police received news of another murder by the Kelly Gang of police informer and former associate Aaron Sherritt on Saturday night. The Kellys 'executed' him outside his home in Sebastapol for giving information to the police to obtain part of the £2,000 reward on each of their heads.
    A special train with full complement of police left Melbourne on Sunday night and headed for Glenrowan station where informants told them the gang were waiting for them at the Jones' public house.
    The police surrounded the hotel and began shooting, bringing a volley of return fire from the darkness of the hotel.
    For 15 minutes the bullets whizzed into the building and back at the police, the sound only punctuated by the shrieks of the female hostages inside the hotel. The hotel's owner Mrs Jones screamed at 5.00am when her son was shot in the back. He was sent to Wangaratta for treatment.
    Soon afterwards, more police reinforcements arrived, bringing the number surrounding the hotel to 30. As daylight broke, the women and children who had been held hostage were allowed to leave one by one, each being challenged by police in case of attempted escape by a disguised gang member.
    Police waited for some movement by the gang. To their surprise only one man attacked them from the rear in a long overcoat and iron mask. He was armed with a revolver and police soon discovered him to be the gang's leader. He walked from tree to tree, undeterred by the constant police fire which had no effect on him. Police realised that he wore some sort of armour plate under the coat and when they began to shoot at his legs, he was soon toppled, yelling 'I am done, I am done.'
   He howled like an animal when police rushed to capture him. He has been taken into police custody with six wounds to the legs, arms and groin. Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne were found dead in the hotel.
Friday 12th November 1880:
Kelly Era Ends
    The Kelly era came to an end yesterday when the notorious criminal was hanged at Melbourne Gaol. His final words were 'Such is life,' before the hangman fulfilled his task. It was a quiet end to a trial marked by an audacious argument with the judge, Sir Redmond Barry The judge was constantly appalled at the prisoner's lack of remorse for his crimes, which have included four murders.
    When the guilty verdict was pronounced and Ned Kelly declared his mind was clear, Judge Barry said such a declaration amounted to blasphemy. 'Your statement involves wicked and criminal reflection of untruth upon the witnesses who have given evidence,' the judge said.
    'I dare say the day will come when we shall all have to go to a bigger court than this. Then we will see who is right and who is wrong ...' said Ned Kelly.
    The judge also remarked on the worship of the gang. 'Unfortunately in a new community, where society was not bound together so closely as it should be, there was a class which looked upon the perpetrators of those crimes as heroes ... It is remarkable that although New South Wales had joined Victoria in offering a large reward for the detection of the gang, no person was found to discover it. There seemed to be a spell cast over the people of this particular district, which I can only attribute either to sympathy with crime or dread of the consequences of doing their duty,' he said.
    The judge finally passed the sentence of death and concluded: 'May the Lord have mercy on your soul,' to which Kelly's reply was 'Yes; I will meet you there.'
   Yesterday he woke at 5.00 a.m. and prayed for 20 minutes before laying down again to sleep until 8.00 a.m. Just before 9.00 a.m., a blacksmith was called to remove the leg irons and Kelly was taken from his cell to the gallows, past the handcart which would take his body to the morgue. As Father Donaghy administered the last rites, a large crowd gathered outside the gaol and those who had admission cards gathered in the yard. Those allowed in were police, journalists, doctors and justices of the peace.
   Kelly stood at two minutes to 10.00 a.m. on the left hand side of the gallows. The hangman, an elderly man called Upjohn, proceeded to tie Kelly with a strap above the elbows. Although Kelly told him, 'There is no need for tying me,' it was the regulation.
   He was led to the drop with a white cap on, his face livid with a frightened look in his eyes as he stared down at the spectators. Although he was going to make a speech, he simply said 'Ah well, I suppose it has come to this,' as the rope was placed around his neck and finally 'Such is life.'
   As the priests continued chanting their prayers, the hangman drew the bolt and Kelly fell a drop of 8 feet, about 4 feet above the basement floor on which the spectators stood. Doctors said he died immediately when his neck was dislocated.
   The crowd of around 4,000 outside waited for some sign that the execution had been performed but there was no black flag raised. One woman fell to her knees to pray for the condemned man as the clock struck ten. At five minutes past ten it was all over, one of the speediest executions in the history of Melbourne Gaol.
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