On the 25th October, 1878 Sergeant Michael Kennedy and Constables Lonigan, Michael Scanlan and Thomas McIntyre rode into the Wombat Ranges searching for Ned and Dan Kelly, who were wanted for the attempted murder of Constable Alex Fitzpatrick at Eleven Mile Creek, near Benalla, on 15th April, 1878.
That evening the policemen established a camp near Stringbark Creek, and the following day Kennedy and Scanlan set off to patrol the area whilst McIntyre and Lonigan remained behind. Late in the afternoon the camp site was attacked by the Kellys, together with their associates Steve Hart and Joe Byrne. Constable Lonigan was shot dead whilst Constable McIntyre was captured and held hostage. The outlaws then hid themselves around the camp, and left McIntyre on view as a decoy. When Kennedy and Scanlan returned Ned Kelly called on them to “bail up”, then almost immediately the outlaws began firing and Scanlan was cut down. In the confusion McIntyre was able to escape and raise the alarm the next day. Kennedy remained outnumbered and alone. He was hunted by the Kellys for over a kilometre. He was captured and later murdered.
Over the next 18 months the Kelly gang, as they became known, remained at large, only coming out of hiding to make two much publicised raids in which they took hostages and committed robberies. First; a combined raid on Faithfull Station and the township of Euroa; and later, a raid upon Jerilderie.
Finally, in June, 1880 they tried to execute a ‘grand stratagem.’ After they received information that an associate, Aaron Sherritt had betrayed them, they murdered him to lure a large contingent of police to travel by train to arrest them. The gang took over the township of Glenrowan and imprisoned the residents, and wrecked the railway line in the near vicinity. They then settled down to wait; planning to set upon the police party after their train ran off the rails at the point of sabotage. A local resident managed to allow the gang to release him, and he warned the approaching police and averted a disaster. Soon after the gang were cornered in a local hotel with 60 hostages. A siege developed. Ned Kelly managed to escape, and returned later in his famous “suit of armour”, and attempted to shoot it out with police. He was soon overpowered. Next Joe Byrne was killed; and then much later Dan Kelly and Steve Hart took their own lives. Ned faced trial at Melbourne for murdering Lonigan, and was hanged at 10.00 a.m. on 11th November, 1880.
Constable Lonigan was posthumously awarded the Victoria Police Star on 29th September, 2014