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"The police were using it as a sort of perpetual trophy"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 January, 2000, 12:48 GMT
Ned Kelly's skull resurfaces

Ned Kelly Ned Kelly became a folk hero after his death


By Red Harrison in Sydney

An unusual attempt is being made to restore the reputation of Ned Kelly, one of Australia's folk heroes, who was hanged for murder 120 years ago.

Tom Baxter, a farmer in remote Western Australia, says he has Ned Kelly's skull, stolen from a prison museum in Melbourne 22 years ago, and he will hand it back only if the famous outlaw is granted a posthumous pardon.

Mr Baxter says he stole the skull because he believed it was a national treasure that deserved better.

He says he wants Ned Kelly to be reburied in consecrated ground and - perhaps - given a monument.

Folk hero

Ned Kelly led a gang of outlaws that included his younger brother. They roamed the outback for years, stealing horses, robbing banks and killing policemen.

When they were cornered every member of the gang except Ned Kelly was killed. "Such is life!" he is reported to have said as he died on the gallows.

Ned Kelly quickly became a symbol of resistance against repressive authority, an Australian folk hero romanticised again many years later in a film about his life in which the rock singer Mick Jagger played the lead.

Farmer Tom Baxter says he will accept DNA testing to confirm the identity of the skull and he believes Australia is ready to accept what he calls the full resonance of the Ned Kelly legend.

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