Victoria

Rochester's stolen Ned Kelly letterbox returned to rightful place on Northern Highway

Ned Kelly has finally seen the inside of a divvy van, but not as a result of his own crimes.

The outlaw himself may be long dead, but a near-life-size letterbox of the notorious bushranger was stolen from Max Nelson's property on the side of the Northern Highway near the town of Rochester, north of Melbourne, early on Boxing Day.

Ned Kelly sees the inside of a divvy van.
Ned Kelly sees the inside of a divvy van. Photo: Bendigo Advertiser

It seems some residents of nearby Echuca fancied the letterbox as an ornament for their own backyard.

In the early hours of Boxing Day, the Ned Kelly letterbox was taken from its concrete post and loaded into the back of a ute.

The Ned Kelly letterbox in its rightful place on the side of the Northern Highway.
The Ned Kelly letterbox in its rightful place on the side of the Northern Highway. Photo: Bendigo Advertiser

It was last seen heading towards Bridgewater. 

Motorists noticed the unique statue looking back at them from the ute tray, but little did they know Ned had been taken from his pride of place next to the highway.

A tip-off from the public eventually led police to a property in Echuca, where they found the Ned Kelly letterbox this week, Leading Senior Constable John Atley said.

"Taking out a warrant for Ned Kelly was an interesting thing," he told the Bendigo Advertiser.

In the hands of police: Ned Kelly.
In the hands of police: Ned Kelly. Photo: Bendigo Advertiser

A 28-year-old man from Delacombe, a suburb of Ballarat, has been charged with the theft.

"I believe they've just taken it from the roadway, loaded it into a ute and taken it to an address in Echuca, where they've taken the concrete off and utilised it at that address as a garden ornament in the rear yard," Senior Constable Atley said.

The backyard where the stolen Ned Kelly letterbox was found.
The backyard where the stolen Ned Kelly letterbox was found.  Photo: Bendigo Advertiser

He said it was good to see the police and Ned Kelly on the same side of the law, although that did not deter officers from loading the notorious outlaw into the back of a divvy van in good humour.

"We got Ned back, which was very good. The victims are very, very happy," Senior Constable Atley said.

The letterbox weighs more than 225 kilograms, and it would have taken several people to move it and load it into the ute, the statue's owner Mr Nelson told the Advertiser.

The letterbox - believed to be worth about $4000 - was a gift to Mr Nelson from his engineer son, who built it from quarter plate steel four years ago.

It has since become an icon for people heading from Rochester to Echuca on the Northern Highway.

"You have people stopping every day to take photos of it. It really brought a lot of pleasure to people passing through," Mr Nelson said.

"Even the day before it was stolen there were people stopping to have a look.

"It became an icon for the town. I doubt there would be any other similar letterboxes of its calibre."

Mr Nelson was glad to have the letterbox back, but said people needed to have more respect for the property of others.

"It's disappointing that people think they can just take people's stuff that isn't theirs," he said.