Ned Kelly
Letter from Donald Gray Sutherland about Ned Kelly's capture (State Library of Victoria)

A letter recounting the capture and death of Ned Kelly has revealed the bloody details of the Australian outlaw's final stand.

Donald Gray Sutherland's letter from the 1880 siege at Glenrowan reads: "The Kellys are annihilated. The Gang is completely destroyed."

The letter has been donated to the State Library of Victoria by the author's family and provides details of Kelly's injuries and famous armour he wore during the battle.

"He was lying on a stretcher quite calm and collected notwithstanding the great pain he must have been suffering from his wounds. He was wounded in five or six places, only in the arms and legs.

"His body and head being encased in armour made from the moule (sic) boards of a lot of ploughs. Now the farmers about here, have been getting their moule boards taken off their ploughs at night for a long time but who ever dreamed it was the Kellys and that they would be used for such a purpose.

"Ned's armour alone weighed 97 pounds. The police thought he was a fiend seeing their rifle bullets mere sliding off him like hail. They were firing into him at about 10 yards in the grim light of the morning without the slightest effect.

Ned Kelly
Sutherland said he felt sorry for Kelly lying injured on a stretcher (wiki commons)

"The force of the rifle bullets made him stagger when hit but it was only when they got him in the legs and arms that he reluctantly fell exclaiming as he did so I am done I am done."

Kelly was captured by police and survived the injuries he sustained during the battle, but was executed by hanging in Melbourne on 11 November 1880. The Argus reported that when the noose was placed around his neck, he said: "Ah, well, I suppose it has come to this."

Sutherland had sailed to Australia in 1876 when he was 24 and worked at the Bank of Victoria, eight miles from Glenrowan. He died at the age of 36 shortly after getting married in New South Wales.

He wrote how Kelly did not look like the villain the police made him out to be: "Ned does not at all look like a murderer and Bushranger. He is a very powerful man aged about 27 black hair and beard with a soft mild looking face and eyes. His mouth being the only wicked portion of the face."

Kelly was the only one to survive the shootout and Sunderland wrote about his injuries and the charred remains of his gang members Steve and Dan Hart.

Kelly was hung in Melbourne a few months after his capture (wiki commons)

"Poor Ned I was really sorry for him. To see him lying pierced by bullets and still showing no signs of pain. His three sisters were there also, Mrs Skillion Kate Kelly and a younger one. Kate was sitting at his head with her arms round his neck while the others were crying in a mournful strain at the state of one who but the night before was the terror of the whole Colony.

"[Steve and Dan] presented a horrible appearance being roasted to a skeleton. Black and grim reminding me of old Knick himself. Thousands of people thronged to Glenrowan on receipt of the news and not one of the crowd there had the courage to lift the white sheet off the charred remains until I came up and struck a match - it being dark - pulling down the sheet and exposed all that remained of the two daring & murderous Bushrangers."

Sutherland had also enclosed a lock of hair from Kelly's horse in the letter, noting how fond the outlaw had been of the animals.

Sue Roberts, chief executive officer and State Librarian said the donation of the letter was very generous: "This letter is a very personal account of events that have become part of Australia's folklore ... It will join Ned's armour, Jerilderie Letter and other important items in our Kelly collection - one of the largest and most significant in the world."