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Auction house to probe 'Kelly gun'

Carolyn Webb
16 November 2007


An auction house will launch an inquiry into a gun alleged to have belonged to Ned Kelly's sister, a result of an investigation by The Age.The gun was sold for $70,000 on Tuesday at Mossgreen auction house, South Yarra.

The catalogue stated that it had been found "some years ago" in a house in Forbes, NSW, in which Kate Kelly once lived.

But since the auction, neither the auctioneer, Paul Sumner, nor the vendor's agent, Tom Thompson, has been able to provide documentary proof of the discovery.

Mr Thompson told told The Age in an email that the gun was Kate Kelly's revolver, "as removed from a member of the police in Victoria 1878-9 during the Kelly outbreak, and given to her by the gang to defend herself".

He said it was manufactured by Henckell and Co, and the inscription R*C indicated it was issued by the Royal Constabulary and made in England.

But a firearms expert, Bernie Mack, said Henckell was a retailer, not a manufacturer. He said he had examined the gun in photos Mr Thompson sent him on Tuesday.

He said the gun's R*C insignia was not known to denote the Royal Constabulary. Instead, Mr Mack said, the revolver that Mossgreen sold had a crown over an R, then an asterisk, then a C, all vertically, which was a Belgian proof mark.

"It was a Belgian copy of an English Webley that was not made until after 1884," Mr Mack said. "Without provenance of any sort" the gun could be worth as little as $150.

Mr Sumner, of Mossgreen, said yesterday that in light of questions raised by people who he believed had not physically inspected the gun, Mossgreen "will do its due diligence to protect the buyer, and we would immediately cancel a sale and refund purchase price if the sworn provenance was proven incorrect".

He said Mossgreen provided an "unconditional guarantee" to protect buyers.

Mr Thompson confirmed he had provided Mr Sumner with signed statutory declaration - from the vendor - endorsing the provenance of the revolver.

He was confident of the gun's authenticity, and that the sale would go through.

In further developments, on Tuesday, in backing up his bid to authenticate the gun, Mr Thompson quoted in an email to The Age "a researcher for the Victoria police", named Andrew Stackpool.

But Mr Stackpool, an amateur historian, of Yass, NSW, told The Age yesterday he had never been a researcher for the Victorian police.

This article can be found in Age Online - Friday, 16 November 2007.

© Copyright 2005 The Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria. All rights reserved.