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Australian Mystery: Help needed in bizarre case of Ned Kelly's skull

A  skull that could belong to notorious Australian bushranger Ned Kelly

The coroner and Victorian Institute of Forensic
Medicine are still trying to determine whether
it is authentic.

There has been a public appeal to help solve the mystery surrounding the purported skull of Ned Kelly.

Kelly's skull was stolen from Old Melbourne Gaol in 1978 and last November, on the anniversary of Kelly's execution, farmer Tom Baxter handed in a skull which he claimed was the bushranger's.

The coroner and Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine are still trying to determine whether it is authentic.

The skull has now been CT-scanned and examined by pathologists and anthropologists but forensic specialists still need more information.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls is calling for people to hand over any Kelly photos, artefacts or even bones that could be used to solve the mystery.

"It's a tantalising puzzle that needs solving; I'm sure there is stuff out there in photo albums, in sheds, in backyards," he said.

"I'm sure that someone will know someone who knows someone who knows something. So all we are really asking for them to do is come forward.

"There's only so much that scientific expertise can do. Today, I'm calling on the public for help in this very important quest.

"Is this indeed Ned's head? Or is it just another dull skull?"

National Trust spokesman Martin Purslow says it no longer displays human remains, but is interested to know whether the skull that has been handed in is the one that was stolen.

"We've moved on ethically and we would not want Ned Kelly's skull on display here anymore," he said.

"We have Ned Kelly's death mask and we have many, many items related to Ned Kelly.

"But how Ned kelly's skull is treated, along with I suppose the remains of 135 people who were hanged at this site, is a matter that we would want to be part of the ethical debate on."

Mr Baxter, from the remote Western Australian town of Derby, delivered the skull to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine after having it in his possession for years.

It is not clear how Mr Baxter acquired the skull, after it was stolen from a glass cabinet in the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Help is sought in six areas of research, to compare the scan with historical records and artefacts, including:

- Remains of bones and teeth reportedly taken as souvenirs by students from the Working Men's College (now RMIT) lunching near the Old Melbourne Gaol when graves were exhumed in 1929.

- A photograph of Alex Talbot, a former South Melbourne councillor, holding Ned Kelly's skull, which was mentioned in a newspaper report in 1997.

- Any information on grave exhume contractor Mr Lee of Lee and Dunn or his family, who was responsible for delivering Kelly's skull to the governor.

- Information about wax museum owner Maximilian Kreitmeyer who apparently made a death mask of Ned kelly shortly after his execution.

- Information about Sir Colin McKenzie, founder of the Australian Institute of Anatomy in Canberra, who was reportedly given Kelly's skull after exhumation.

- The missing bluestone block that marked Kelly's grave as E Kelly and the date of execution as 11.11.1880.