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DNA 'Skullduggery'

Ned Kelly was an Australian folk hero, says The New York Times' Christine Kenneally. He was born in 1854 to an Irish convict exiled to Australia, and became a bank robber, rebelled against the corrupt British police force, and wrote a famous manifesto, Kenneally says. He was arrested in 1880 during a shootout, wearing metal armor that he'd made himself, and was hanged. His armor, boots, and a sash with some blood on it became state treasures. But his skull is missing. "After decades of investigation, debate, tantalizing leads, stalemates, false starts and what can only be called skullduggery," Ned Kelly's remains have been found and identified through a DNA match, though his head is gone, Kenneally says. After his execution, Kelly was buried in a mass grave, and when the ground was dug up in 1929, people seized bones as souvenirs before officials could move them. Stolen skulls were recovered soon after, but the one that was thought to be Kelly's was stolen again in 1978. The thief, a man named Tom Baxter, said he wouldn't give it back, until Kelly had a Christian burial, and he kept the skull until 2008, Kenneally says. At that point, another excavation uncovered what were thought to be the rest of Kelly's remains, and after the skull was turned over to authorities, researchers went to work to find out if it really was Kelly's. "It appears that after all this time, after being abducted more than once, placed on display for the world to see, hidden for decades, cherished, handled, sought after and tested, the skull is not Ned Kelly’s," Kenneally says. But the researchers did find a match between a relative's DNA and some of the bones found in 2008. So while his head remains missing, the rest of Ned Kelly has been found.

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