The contributions of anthropology and mitochondrial DNA analysis to the identification of the human skeletal remains of the Australian outlaw Edward 'Ned' Kelly

Soren Blau, Laura Catelli, Florencia Garrone, Dadna Hartman, Carola Romanini, Magdalena Romero, Carlos Maria Vullo

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This paper details the anthropological and genetic analyses that contributed to the identification of the notorious Australian outlaw ('bushranger') Edward ('Ned') Kelly. In 1880 at the age of 25, Kelly was hanged and buried at the former Melbourne Gaol in Victoria, Australia. In 1929, the remains of executed prisoners (including those of Kelly) were haphazardly disinterred following the demolition of parts of the Melbourne Gaol and haphazardly reinterred in three distinct "pits" at the Pentridge Prison. In 1999 the Pentridge Prison was sold for commercial development and subsequently in 2008 and 2009 the human remains of prisoners were recovered. A total of 41 cases of unidentified human skeletal remains from Pentridge were examined using traditional anthropological techniques. At least one representative sample from each of the remains (mostly clavicles) from all three pits was selected for DNA analysis. Comparative ante-mortem reference samples were also located. Given the antiquity and condition of remains recovered from Pentridge, and the 130 years that had passed since Kelly's execution, mitochondrial DNA analysis was chosen as a suitable DNA analysis tool to examine the Pentridge cases to assist in the inclusion or exclusion of remains as being those of Ned Kelly. Only one of the Pentridge cases (Pen14) matched the HV1/HV2 mitochondrial DNA haplotype of the reference sample. Additional anthropological analyses indicated a number of pathological features that provided support that the remains of Pen14 are those of Edward ("Ned") Kelly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e11-e21
Number of pages11
JournalForensic Science International
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • Anthropology
  • Australia
  • DNA analysis
  • Human identification
  • Mitochondrial
  • Ned Kelly

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