Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Could this be outlaw Ned Kelly's head?


The skull of notorious Australian outlaw Ned Kelly is in Hawke's Bay, claims a Napier woman who says she was given the sought-after relic at a party.

Anna Hoffman, 74, said the human skull, that sits atop her piano, was given to her in Melbourne in the late 1970s after telling a man she collected skulls.

"I had been at a party and I just happened to mention that I collected skulls to this guy who was in a uniform. He came back the next day and said 'I have got this skull for you, it's Ned's head, Ned Kelly.

"I didn't really believe it I just thought it was a bit of a gag, but I brought it back to New Zealand and have had it ever since."

Last week Ms Hoffman, who gained notoriety in the 1960s and 1970s as a witch, read an appeal from the bushranger's family seeking the skull. Kelly was hanged in 1880 for killing three policemen, but the location of his remains was only solved last year by DNA testing of two dozen skeletons exhumed from Melbourne's Pentridge Prison.

Descendants will bury his remains in private, but appealed for the skull that was stolen from an Old Melbourne Gaol display case in 1978.

"That got me thinking, so I contacted my friend in Melbourne and next thing you know I have three pages of media people to call back," said Ms Hoffman.

"It's mainly by the news media in Australia, they wanted to fly me over to bring it back for it to be tested," Ms Hoffman said.

She turned down the offer to watch her grandson play rugby, but was looking for a New Zealand expert to help solve the mystery.

"I'm going to see an archeologist and get a few clues about it and then I would give it back to the family, but no one else. I am just going to keep him safe until I find out anything more. He sits on the piano, but I might have to hide him after this."

Ms Hoffman has hundreds of skulls, but only two human ones, including Ned.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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