The infamous Stringybark Creek incident, in which 3 police officers were shot dead on 26th October 1878, sounded the death knell for Ned Kelly and his gang that consisted of his brother Dan, and their two friends Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.
Soon after the murders they were declared outlaws and the entire machinery of the State Of Victoria was turned against them.
At the time “the Kelly Gang” was on the run, hiding out in wild bushland around the Wombat Ranges in northeast Victoria. Two police parties were sent in to capture them but Kelly was well aware of the location of their camp at Stringybark Creek.
On the evening of the 26th Kelly and his gang took the police by surprise and surrounded the camp, taking Constables McIntyre and Lonigan prisoner at gunpoint. Lonigan bolted for cover and was shot dead by Kelly.
Kelly was aware that the two other police in the area would soon return and instructed McIntyre to ask them to surrender. Sergeant Kennedy and Constable Scanlon duly arrived and were asked to put up their hands by McIntyre, but both panicked, resulting in the Kelly gang firing on them. Scanlon was shot dead but both Kennedy and McIntyre made a run for the bush. McIntyre escaped on Kennedy’s horse and raised the alarm but Kennedy was shot dead some distance away.
The triple murder generated tremendous public outrage, particularly as police officers were the victims. Kelly and his gang were declared outlaws meaning they could be shot on sight without arrest being attempted. A reward of £500 was also raised – a very large sum of money at the time.
In addition severe penalties were prescribed for anyone who harboured, gave “any aid, shelter or sustenance” to the gang. This was in response to the well-known local support that was being offered by “Kelly sympathisers” that were numerous across parts of northeast Victoria.
With such overwhelming odds mobilised against them it was only a matter of time before the gang was brought to justice.
Image: In this illustration Kennedy and Scanlon arrive at the Police camp, coming under the rifles of the Kelly gang. Constable McIntyre hails the arrivals, telling them to raise their hands. The body of Constable Lonigan lies in the foreground, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.