Anniversary sparks Kelly verdict doubt

SOLICITOR John Suta argues that Ned Kelly – hanged 135 years ago in what is now Old Melbourne Gaol – did not receive a fair trial for the murder of police constable Thomas Lonigan.

A WANGARATTA solicitor has used the 135th anniversary of Ned Kelly’s conviction for murder to advance an argument that a competent barrister and the admission of Kelly’s ‘Jerilderie letter’ in court may have led to a different outcome.

The Greta bushranger was hanged 13 days after Melbourne’s Supreme Court on October 29, 1880, found him guilty of shooting police constable Thomas Lonigan near Mansfield in October 1878.

Two other policemen died with Lonigan in a shoot-out with the Kelly Gang at Stringybark Creek but Ned Kelly was charged only with Lonigan’s murder, although he later admitted in his 1879 ‘Jerilderie letter’ that he had shot all three.

John Suta, the principal of law firm Nevin Lenne Gross – who in 2013 secured the repatriation of the executed bushranger’s remains for reburial in Greta cemetery and last year paid $177,000 for the last of Sidney Nolan’s famed ‘Kelly series’ paintings – has questioned the colonial police mission in the Wombat Ranges to capture the gang.

“The evidence is certainly suggestive that the police party (of four) were taking part in organised murder under the colour of office,” Mr Suta has written in a letter to the Chronicle.

“There was more ammunition and guns than prescribed by regulations and the party were carrying body straps capable of bringing bodies out of the bush which, in itself, was sinister.

“They were not in uniform, nor did they carry arrest warrants.”

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