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He was born at Murrumburrah near Yass, New South Wales. His parents were Michael Dunn and Margaret Kelly. Dunn was only a small youth and worked as a jockey. He had robbed a Chinese gold miner and been in trouble with the police.
Ben Hall's gang
Dunn was a member of the gang when they tried to rob the mail coach near Jugiong on 16 November, 1864. Gilbert shot dead Sergeant Parry during the robbery. The government already had offered reward money for the capture of the Gilbert and Hall; they now offered £500 for John Dunn.
The bushrangers spent Christmas, 1864, with Dunn's parents at Murrumburrah. After visiting Dunn's grandfather, John Kelly, near Binalong they rode to Binda on Boxing Day, 26 December. Gilbert and Dunn spent the night dancing at the Flag Hotel. Hall stood at the door and stopped people from going to get the police.
On 26 January 1865, Hall, Gilbert and Dunn were at Collector, south of Goulburn. While Hall and Gilbert were robbing the hotel, John Dunn stayed outside to watch for the police. Most of the police were out in the bush searching for the bushrangers. Policeman, Constable Samuel Nelson, was told the bushrangers were at the hotel. He told his wife he would "have to do his best". As he walked up to the hotel Dunn shot him in the side of the body, and then fired two shots into his face. Nelson was the father of nine children. One of the children saw the shooting. The bushrangers stole Nelson's gun, and his personal belongings and then left the town. During the next three months, the gang continued to rob from farmhouses and mail coaches.
In May 1865, Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn were made "outlaws"; they could be killed by anyone at anytime. Hall was found by the police in the bush near Forbes, New South Wales and shot dead. A week later, Gilbert was shot by the police at the home of John Kelly, Dunn's grandfather, near Binalong, on 13 May. Dunn was able to escape, although he was shot in the foot. Kelly had told the police where the bushrangers were so that he could get the reward money.
Dunn went into hiding near Quambone Station (a farm) but another friend told the police where he was living. Dunn was shot and badly hurt when the police went to capture him on 26 December 1865. A policeman, McHale, was shot in the groin. Even though he was hurt, he climbed out of the police station window but was soon caught again. He was taken to Sydney to be tried in court. On 19 January 1866, he was found guilty of killing Nelson and sentenced to death. He was hanged on 19 March, 1865 at the Darlinghurst Gaol. He was only 19 years old. He is buried in the old Devonshire Street cemetery in Sydney.
- "John Dunn". Australian bushrangers. Ned Kelly's World: Glen Rowen Cobb & Co Pty Ltd. 2002. http://www.nedkellysworld.com.au/bushrangers/dunn_j.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-05.
- Wannan, Bill (1963). Tell 'em I died game: The Stark Story of Australian Bushranging. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press.
- "The Thin Blue Line". Police Deaths in NSW, 1788 to 1966. http://www.policensw.com/info/policerem/text/index2.html. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
- Wilson, Craig (August 2000). "Ben Hall - Bushranger Part 7". Goldnet Australia Online Magazine. Goldnet Australia. http://www.gold-net.com.au/archivemagazines/aug20/71358502.html#3. Retrieved December 19, 2008.