Here's How Many Victims Ned Kelly Really Had

Australian bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly's story is all about perception. Was he a dangerous, cop-killing bank robber, or was he the underdog, unfairly persecuted by corrupt colonial officials who responded with courage to do whatever it took to stay alive and out of jail?

Ned's first interaction with the law was when he was just 14 years old. He was arrested for assaulting a Chinese man in 1869, according to State Library Victoria. A year later, police accused Ned of being an accomplice to escaped convict turned bushranger Harry Power. While none of those charges stuck, Ned was on the police's radar. 

The Herald Sun reported that in 1870, Ned was sentenced to three years in prison at the age of 15 for the possession of a stolen horse and assault of a hawker — someone selling wares in the street. Ned denied he knew the horse he'd borrowed from a friend was stolen. 

After his release from prison, Ned seemed to keep a low profile for the next few years until 1878, when his brother Dan was accused of stealing horses. That's when things got to the point of no return for Ned. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, a police officer, Alexander Fitzpatrick, went to the Kelly home to arrest Dan and ended up being shot in the wrist. Fitzpatrick said it was Ned who shot him. But in his manifesto, Ned denied he was even present for the incident.

Ned Kelly had 3 known victims

According to the Herald Sun, Fitzpatrick lied about what really happened at the Kelly house that April in 1878, and Ned's mother, Ellen, ended up serving three years in prison while her son was on the run. Ned wrote in his manifesto, later called the Jerilderie letter, "[I] knew I would get no justice if I gave myself up."

By October, Ned and his three-member gang were evading police while trying to run a whisky distillery to raise money to help appeal Ellen's sentence, according to State Library Victoria. After they got word that police were on their trail, Ned and the gang figured out where Sergeant Kennedy and Constables Scanlon, Lonigan, and McIntyre were camping out — Stringybark Creek. While Kennedy and Scanlon were patrolling, the Kelly gang went on the offensive, showing up at the police camp ready for battle. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, McIntyre surrendered, but Lonigan drew his gun, so Ned shot him dead. 

When Scanlon and Kennedy returned to the camp, they refused to surrender to the Kelly gang. Ned shot and killed Scanlon but initially only "mortally wounded" Kennedy. As Kennedy lay suffering, Ned shot him in the heart. Per the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Kelly claimed that he killed Kennedy out of mercy. 

The three officers killed near Stringybark Creek were the only people Kelly is known to have killed. It would take nearly two years before the gang was caught and Kelly was tried and sentenced to death by hanging in November 1880.