THE headless remains of the Ned Kelly are to be returned to his descendants for a family burial 132 years after the infamous Australian outlaw and folk hero was executed.
Australia's Victoria state government on Wednesday said it had issued a new exhumation licence for Kelly's remains, meaning a property developer behind the Pentridge Prison site where he was buried will be forced to hand over the skeleton.
The developer of the site in Melbourne wanted to use Kelly's remains for a museum or memorial.
"The Kelly family will now make arrangements for Ned's final burial," said Ellen Hollow, the great grand-daughter of Kelly's sister Kate Kelly.
Considered by some to be a cold-blooded killer, Kelly was also seen as a folk hero and symbol of Irish-Australian defiance against the British authorities.
After murdering three policemen, he was captured in Victoria state in 1880 and hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in November of the same year. But his body went missing after it was thrown into a mass grave.
The bodies in the grave were transferred from the jail to Pentridge Prison in 1929 and then exhumed again in 2009. His remains were formally identified last year, minus the skull which remains missing.
"We appeal to the person who has the skull in their possession to return it," said Ms Hollow in a family statement.
Believed to have been born in 1854 or 1855, Kelly became an outlaw two years before he was hanged, taking on corrupt police and greedy land barons.
He survived a shootout with police in 1878 that saw him, his brother Dan, and friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart slapped with a bounty of 8,000 pounds - the largest reward ever offered in the British Empire at the time - for anyone who found them.
Over the next 18 months the Kelly Gang held up country towns and robbed their banks, becoming folk heroes to the masses.
In a final gun battle at Glenrowan, three gang members died and Kelly, dressed in home-made plate metal armour and helmet, was wounded and arrested.
The Kelly gang exploits have been the subject of numerous films and television series.
Kelly has also been the inspiration for many books, most notably Peter Carey's novel "True History of the Kelly Gang", which won the 2001 Booker Prize.