It happened on April 15, 1878. There was a new constable in the neighborhood. His name was Alexander Fitzpatrick, a man who's own reputation would later be called very much into question. By most accounts, Fitzpatrick, perhaps hoping to make a name for himself, had decided not long after his arrival in the area to bring in young Dan Kelly on charges of stock theft. And so, by his own account, he rode out to the Kelly homestead just before suppertime. In the years since, there have been many versions of the events of that day. According to some accounts, Fitzpatrick had been drinking before he headed out to the Kelly place, and may even have been abusive toward Kelly's younger sister. There is, of course, no proof of that.
The way Fitzpatrick told the story in a statement presented to the court at the time, he found Ellen Kelly at home with three of her children, and questioned her briefly. She was, obviously, unwilling to offer many details regarding her young son, and after about an hour, Fitzpatrick, he left, riding up a small hill where he found Kelly's brother in law, Will Skillion and Brickey Williamson, a friend of the Kelly clan chopping wood. He questioned them, just as briefly and just as fruitlessly.
Still, he lingered and when he later saw Skillion return, bringing them with them a rider less horse, he again approached the compound. This time, he found Dan Kelly inside. "I...told him I wanted to arrest him," Fitzpatrick wrote in his sworn statement. "He said, "My hell — wait a little while — I suppose you'll let me have something to eat."
According to Fitzpatrick's account, Dan Kelly sat down to supper and a moment later, Ned Kelly appeared at the door brandishing a pistol and fired a shot at the constable. The first shot missed, but sent Ellen Kelly into action. According to the constable's statement, the older woman grabbed a shovel and whacked Fitzpatrick on the head with it so hard that it dented his metal helmet. Ned Kelly, he claimed, then fired a second shot. This time the bullet clipped the constable in the wrist.
It is perhaps a measure of the sometimes ambivalent relationship between the outlaws of the time and the men who were charged with bringing them to justice, but there is general agreement among historians, based on both Fitzpatrick's statement and on Ned Kelly's, that in the moments after the constable was injured, Ellen, or Ned, or both, offered to bind his wound.
As Fitzpatrick himself put it, "Ned Kelly began to examine my wrist. He said, "Here's the bullet...we must have it out of him. (H)e got a rusty razor (and) I wanted him to let me go home to a medical man. He said, "You can't go away with that in your hand."
According to Fitzpatrick's account, he cut the bullet out himself using a small penknife, and then allowed Ellen Kelly to bandage the wound.
The Kellys who would later be depicted by the authorities as bloodthirsty murderers, then let Fitzpatrick go. Before they did, they exacted a promise from him that he would not report that he had been shot by Ned Kelly, or attacked by Ellen Kelly.
It is doubtful of course, that the Kelly's expected him to keep his word. And before Fitzpatrick's trail was even cold, Ned and his brother lit off for the bush, where they would use the survival skills Ned Kelly had learned during his apprenticeship to Harry Powers.
They would need them.
Article taken from the Crime Library
The following article is taken from Iron Outlaw
Fitzpatrick described finally how he came to and found
he had a ball in his wrist, and how Ned insisted on prising it out with
a penknife despite his preference for seeking treatment in Benalla.
After agreeing to say nothing about the matter, he left the house about
11 pm. Ned poured ridicule on Fitzpatrick’s story. The trouble
began, he said, when Fitzpatrick produced a telegram instead of a warrant
and Mrs Kelly ordered him off the premises. The trooper had drawn his
revolver, which prompted her to say, “It’s just as well
Ned is not home or he would ram that down your throat!” This had
given Dan the cue to cry, “Ned is coming now!” He had clapped
a wrestling hold on Fitzpatrick.
In the late afternoon of Monday April 15, 1878 Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, an Irishman in his early twenties, visited the Kelly homestead at Greta. The next morning he rode into Benalla with a lacerated wrist. Whatever the circumstances surrounding his wound, this incident above all others was the catalyst for the Kelly outbreak.
Fitzpatrick was a lazy, weak willed man, who, against orders, he had gone to the Kelly homestead alone to arrest Dan Kelly.
At Beechworth on October 9 1878, before the trial judge Sir Redmond Barry, the charge of “aiding and abetting Ned Kelly with shooting with intent to murder Constable Fitzpatrick” was leveled at the three defendants Ellen Kelly, William Skillion and William Williamson. Fitzpatrick was the only witness for the prosecution and despite numerous witnesses countering his claims all three were found guilty and sentenced to hard labour. After Stringybark Creek, Fitzpatrick was transferred to Lancefield. He was there only nine months before his superior, Senior Constable Mayes, accused him of "not being fit to be in the police force; that he associated with the lowest persons in Lancefield; that he could not be trusted out of sight; and that he never did his duty".
Needless to say these charges lead to Fitzpatrick's
dismissal from the police force but by this stage it was too late for
Ned Kelly and his clan. The 1881 Police Royal Commission heard evidence
from Fitzpatrick that during his three years in the police force he
had pleaded guilty to numerous other charges of neglect of duty and
misconduct. After the Royal Commission William Williamson was pardoned,
suggesting the court was wrong on one important fact. Evidence does
show Ned was present at the homestead on that fateful day but as the
doctor who tended Fitzpatricks wounds stated in court “of the
two wounds present one definitely could not have been made by a bullet
and both were only skin wounds yet the constable had the smell of brandy
on him”. The question still remains today, did the Kelly outbreak
arise due to one constable's battle with the bottle and his countless
lies and half truths?
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