The missing skull of Irish-Australian outlaw Ned Kelly has reportedly been found in New Zealand. Kelly was executed in 1880 after a violent confrontation with police. Anthropologists found his skeleton in 2011, but it was missing a skull.
Anna Hoffman, 74, was given the skull nearly 30 years ago. She has "treated it with respect" and hasn't "lit candles in it or drunk red wine out of it or anything bohemian like that. I don't want to let it out of my possession unless it is his skull," she told The New Zealand Herald News.
How she came to own the skull only adds to the mystery surrounding Kelly's life and death. Hoffman met a stranger at a family dinner in Australia and began talking about skulls, of all things.
"The next day he turned up with his skull," Hoffman said. "He said it was Ned Kelly's skull, and he told me to 'put it in the bottom of your bag and wrap it up.'"
Hoffman did so and has taken great care of it ever since. She actually has a unique history of her own, becoming a known witch in New Zealand in the 1960s and 1970s. Kelly's skull was one of many in her personal collection.
Kelly was hanged after killing three policemen in 1880. He was credited with leading the Irish-Australians in a revolt against Australia's ruling class. While many hold him in high esteem and have called him a hero, there are those who see him as nothing more than a trouble-making outlaw.
"Huge folklore surrounds Ned Kelly," Attorney General Rob Hulls told the Herald Sun. "There's been rumor and innuendo about his skull ever since he was hanged here at the Old Melbourne Gaol, and this story of mystery and intrigue continues to this day. Is this Ned's head or just another dull skull?"
Anthropologists located Kelly's skeleton in a mass grave on Melbourne's Pentridge Prison site. After conducting DNA tests, they were able to confidently state that the skeleton was that of Kelly. Now more tests will be done to determine whether or not this latest find is actually Kelly's or not.
"There is a chance that this is his head, although it is a long shot. That would be wonderful if it was. It's either out there somewhere or it has disintegrated into nothing," Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine spokeswoman Deb Withers told the Herald News.