When I was assembling the Broken Hill + Somerton Beach timeline, one thing stuck out like a non-proverbial prominently-sticking-out-thing: Henley Beach. Why did the Somerton Man…
* …buy a single ticket to Henley Beach (but not use it)
* …instead catch a bus to Somerton Beach (where he later died)?
From this simple starting point, people have constructed all kind of spy-related narratives (usually involving the Somerton Man’s being followed and hence trying to shake off his tail, TV gangster-style). But I just don’t believe them: and Gerry Feltus’ Appendix 2 would seem to rule out almost all of them in a fairly comprehensive and common-sense manner.
Similarly, the suggestion that the unused train ticket was planted in the dead man’s pocket after his death seems just a bit too contrived, a bit too ‘Hollywood’: a somewhat melodramatic thesis, one might say. Hence I also think that this will prove to be well wide of the mark.
Finally, Gerry Feltus also passes along the suggestion that a planned (but never actually built) train extension from Henley Beach station to Glenelg may have been marked up on some of the maps at the station in 1948: and hence that the Somerton Man might possibly have mistakenly bought a ticket to Henley Beach thinking he could continue directly on to Glenelg. But, once again, this seems a bit elaborate and hopeful, and is somehow missing a simple ring of truth.
Gerry, ever keen to keep his text free from the blight of speculation, never offers his own explanation for Henley Beach, but instead asks a long series of hard-to-answer questions, presumably to try to help people proposing their own Henley Beach theory to stay at least a little grounded.
So what did happen? My own chain of speculation is that the Somerton Man…
* Arrived in Adelaide on a train that morning.
* Bought a ticket to Henley Beach, where he was planning to meet someone (and perhaps drop off his suitcase with them) before going on to Glenelg after lunch.
* This was only a single ticket because that person in Henley Beach had their own car (or was there perhaps a bus service running directly between Henley Beach and Glenelg? I don’t know, but please leave a comment below if you do).
* Probably went to the City Baths to get freshened up, have a shave etc.
* Tried again to telephone that person to confirm, but got no answer.
* Hung around at the station for a while, and perhaps tried to call again just before the 10.50am train to Henley Beach departed, but changed plan when that again yielded no response.
* Left the suitcase in Adelaide Railway Station left luggage just after 11am.
* Caught the bus to St Leonards (near Glenelg) at 11.15am.
All of which speculation may not mean much, but the upshot is that I now suspect that someone else knew who the Somerton Man was: a person who I expect lived close to Henley Beach and owned a car.
From my perspective, my belief is that biggest lie about the whole Somerton Man case will turn out to be the notion that nobody (or perhaps only Jessica Thomson) knew who he was.
Rather, I suspect that a fair number of people knew exactly who he was, exactly why he was in Adelaide, and exactly how it all ended up. Not a conspiracy of action as such, but rather a mutual wall of silence. Nobody said a word: for had they done so, surely no good would have come of it.
Everyone in that network had something to lose.