Regd. # 2423
Shot – Murdered
Died 26 October 1878
Kelly victims will not be forgotten, say descendents
Mounted constable Thomas Lonigan was just 34 when he died in October 1878 and, on Thursday at Mansfield cemetery, there was no doubting the cause – he was “murdered by armed criminals”. It says so on his tombstone and at a service to mark the restoration of the graves of Lonigan, Sergeant Michael Kennedy and Constable Michael Scanlan, the sentiment was clear. This was no place for fans of Ned Kelly.”A murderer and a bully,” said Leo Kennedy, great grandson of Sergeant Kennedy. “The effect of his murders still linger because of those who use his murders as an icon.”
Deborah Tunstall, great-great-granddaughter of Lonigan, said the service – attended by more than 100 police, descendants and locals – finally “brought justice” for the three men killed at Stringybark Creek so many years ago.
Kelly was executed in 1880 after being found guilty of murdering Constable Lonigan.
The three graves – in different locations due to the religious considerations of the time – were badly damaged along with other graves by vandals in the 1960s.
Police Minister Kim Wells told the service that the state government had allocated funds to restore the graves of Victorian police officer throughout the state.
The Mansfield service was a stirring sight, under a cloudy sky with the police pipe band, uniformed members of the Shrine guard and many locals in period costume. Police Commissioner Ken Lay said that, to some, the three policemen had become pawns in history, remembered as “mere footnotes to the lives and excesses of those murderous people”.
“Today, let’s do them the honour of stripping away some of the clutter. The simple truth is that they were asked to do something difficult, something very dangerous, simply because it was their job to do it.”
Commissioner Lay said Constable Scanlan had known there was a good chance he would not return. “Before he left Mooroopna on his horse he told a mate he could have his dog should he die while chasing the Kelly gang. As we all know, he did. These three men hold a sacred place in Victoria police history, as do 154 other Victorian member killed in the line of of duty.”
Over the next two years the Kelly gang, as they became known, remained at large, only coming out of hiding to make two much publicised raids, one on the township of Euroa, and the other at Jerilderie. Finally, in June, 1880 they received information that an associate, Aaron Sherritt, had betrayed them, and a large contingent of police were travelling to Euroa by train to arrest them. The gang moved swiftly. They murdered Sherritt, took over the township of Glenrowan and imprisoned the residents, and wrecked the railway line in the near vicinity. They then settled down to wait, planning to set upon the police party after their train ran off the rails at the point of sabotage. A local resident managed to allow the gang to release him, and he warned the approaching police and averted a disaster. Soon after the gang were cornered in a local hotel. A siege developed and Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne were killed. Ned Kelly managed to escape, and returned later in his famous “suit of armour”, and attempted to shoot it out with police. Soon overpowered, he faced trial at Melbourne for killing Lonigan, and was hanged at 10.00 a.m. on 11th November, 1880.