The Fitzpatrick Incident
"Their whole attitude to the police was one of intense hostility. It was only natural that they should try and blame me for causing the trouble that led to the gang defying the law"
- Alexander Fitzpatrick
On April 15 1878, Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick went to the Kelly family home to arrest Dan Kelly for horse stealing. Perhaps a sign of his immaturity, Fitzpatrick made a series of bad choices that day. He went without the official warrant and stopped at a hotel on his way: arriving at the Kelly home three hours later apparently drunk.
During his visit a fight broke out between him and the family. Fitzpatrick's version of what took place at the Kelly homestead was recorded in an official police report. In the report he accused Ellen Kelly of hitting him with a shovel and Ned Kelly of shooting him in the wrist.
There were conflicting accounts from all those involved in the incident. Given Fitzpatrick's dubious behaviour in other matters and the Kelly family's well-known criminal inclinations, both had reason and a predisposition to manipulate the facts.
The outcome of the 'Fitzpatrick incident' was the imprisonment of three people, including Ned's mother Ellen and the beginning of life on the run for the Kelly brothers.
Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick
Often regarded as the catalyst for the Kelly outbreak, Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick's police career lasted little more than three years. His irresponsible and possibly illegal behaviour brought Victoria Police into disrepute, and is often unjustifiably presented as an example of the conduct of all Victorian police officers of the day.
"The ex-Constable's conduct during the time he was a member of the force was generally bad and discreditable to the force."
- Frederick Standish, Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police, May, 10 1880.