Cipher Mysteries commenter ‘Chris’ has put forward an angle on the Somerton Man mystery that is quite different from the narratives that have immured so many of us for such a long time.

Chris was told that the Somerton Man died as “a result of him wanting to confess to his involvement in a murder in SA in 1943 […] he wanted to confess but the others did not want him to. He came back to SA after the war because he could not live with what had happen.”

The murder in question was that of young railwayman Clarence Keith Seckold on 7th October 1943, who was found dead on the grounds of Government House. While he had significant blunt force trauma to his head, his lower body had also been slashed and mutilated in a way that the Brisbane “Truth” (uncharacteristically finding itself short of words) described as “shocking and unusual”.

What Chris was told was that three people were involved in the killing, one of whom was directly connected to Government House. He suspects that this person may well have been Governor Charles Malcolm Barclay-Harvey, who (perhaps coincidentally) was admitted to hospital the following day, postponing all his engagements, at a time when his wife and daughter were (perhaps coincidentally) both away in Canada. Moreover, Barclay-Harvey (a well-known high-ranking Freemason, perhaps coincidentally) resigned from his post in the following April (“for health reasons”, according to Wikipedia) and returned to his 14,000-acre Scottish estate.


I say “perhaps coincidentally” a lot, because there is – as yet – not a shred of publicly available evidence to support this story.

Lady Muriel’s Horses

Malcolm Barclay-Harvey’s wife was Lady Muriel Felicia Vere Barclay-Harvey (née Bertie) (1893-1980), “Nurse and founder of the Lady Muriel Nurses’ Club; former wife of Henry Liddell-Grainger, and later wife of Sir Charles Barclay-Harvey; daughter of 12th Earl of Lindsey”, according to the National Portrait Gallery.

Chris was told that Lady Muriel owned a number of racehorses: and – oddly enough – that it was she who (allegedly) arranged with the South Australian Grandstand Bookmakers’ Association to make sure that the Somerton Man was buried properly.

[Note: it’s certainly true that Lady Muriel did own some racehorses – not only Waxwings (that she bought from Sidney Reid, according to the omniaudient Lady Kitty), and who famously won the Derby in 1940 in a record time), but also a less successful horse called Marble Hill. According to this article, she still had Waxwings in October 1946 (despite her having left Australia in 1944), but was thinking of shipping him back to the UK: and according to this article, she gave Marble Hill to Sidney Reid as a parting gift when she left Australia.]

Chris says he was told all this in 1970 by a soldier working in Army Intelligence (that most famous of oxymorons) in Northern Territory, (1970 was the year following Charles Barclay-Harvey’s death): but that though he didn’t believe it at the time, when he returned to the story nearly fifty years later (!), he was surprised to discover that many of the details did seem to check out.

Army Intelligence?

Naturally, I wondered what the connection with Army Intelligence might have been. But having gone through all the cuttings in Trove, this didn’t emerge until more than a year after Clarence Seckold’s murder, when the police announced they were looking for “a returned soldier in his early thirties”.

Their search (described by the Sydney Truth as an Australia-Wide Hunt For Insane Killer) was for a well-known Sydney criminal, who they believed was involved with four different murders: Clarence Keith Seckold (25), Francis James Davey (22), Phillip John Beattie (22), and [in Sydney] divorcee Mrs Mary Gwendoline Bakewell

The Adelaide Police were convinced that the same “sex pervert” was responsible for the gruesome deaths of Seckold and Davey: Beattie was shot at close range by a man on a bicycle – the cyclist was then seen by a Lieutenant Norman Munro. Beattie died a little while afterwards in a military hospital, before being able to give a more detailed account of his attack.

All in all, then, it is perhaps not surprising that Army Intelligence would take an interest in the case. However, what I do find odd is that the alleged connection to the Somerton Man cold case was – as I recall – never mentioned in Gerry Feltus’ book. If so, it would seem to be something that they have resolutely kept under their hats for fifty years. Perhaps it is time to ask them to take off those hats and let us have a look.

The Conspiracy of Three?

The Seckold conspiracy theory would seem to run along the following lines: (1) that Charles Barclay-Harvey was (supposedly) having some kind of after-hours dalliance or sexual activity in the park behind Government House, which (2) was observed (perhaps accidentally, perhaps not) by Clarence Seckold [there were many lurid accounts of homosexuals, ‘foxers’ and ‘gliders’ in the park from that time], leading (3) to Seckold being savagely beaten up by one/two minders/associates of Barclay-Harvey, leading (4) unfortunately to his death.

The Army Intelligence people might well have reasoned that whereas the police were looking for a single man, the deaths could equally well have been down to two different – but closely linked – people. In which case Army Intelligence almost certainly know the identity of one (if not both) of them, but were unable to prove it or close the file.

If this is even vaguely along the right lines, arguably the right place to start would be some kind of Freedom of Information request to Army Intelligence relating to the files surrounding this case – what the files say is what they say, and I’m not yet in any kind of position to second-guess what they do say. But am I the right person to be making such a request? I’m not sure. Something to think about, anyway. =:-o

11 thoughts on “Clarence Seckold – “Australia-Wide Hunt For Insane Killer” (Truth)

  1. Patagon on October 16, 2016 at 8:23 pm said:


    According to a range of newspaper reports on trove governer Barclay-Harvey appears to have been touring South Australias Eyre peninsula and west coast with his wife at the time of the murder, ie a long way from the scene of the crime. They were in Ceduna (not Canada!) in far western South Australia, when he was taken sick.

  2. Patagon: very well found, thanks! 🙂 – (4th October 1943) “Lady Muriel Barclay-Harvey left Adelaide on Saturday evening for Port Lincoln to join His Excellency the Governor on the tour of the West Coast.” – (8th October 1943) “His Excellency the Governor (Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey) and Lady Muriel will not be visiting Whyalla next week. Sir Malcolm became ill at Ceduna and had to be rushed to Adelaide by plane and enter hospital.”

    Governor Barclay-Harvey was indeed taken ill when in Ceduna. So it looks as though the basic core of the conspiracy theory trying to connect Barclay-Harvey himself to the death of Clarence Seckold doesn’t work. All the same, if it turns out that Army Intelligence does have a file on the Somerton Man that even Gerry Feltus hasn’t yet seen, perhaps we ought to be asking if we can have a look. 🙂

  3. I believe that Harold Percival Stitt was found guilty of wounding Frederick James Davey and although not found guilty of the other two related crimes might well have carried them out as well.

  4. milongal on October 17, 2016 at 10:53 am said:

    Everyone has a gay time in Adelaide….although more seriously, I *think* the land along the Torrens River had a bit of a reputation (these days that reputation seems to have shifted to the Veale Gardens in the Southern parklands – ironically a very popular place for weddings (or at least wedding photographs)). Behind Government House is the Torrens Parade ground, surrounded by a hilly park (ok, it’s jut a hill) and the banks of the Torrens – where these days you still see amorous Uni students relaxing and …err…not relaxing (mainly straight, these days, I think – although it’s hard to notice without being too snoopy….)

  5. jannette on November 12, 2016 at 5:02 am said:

    It was Judge Brays hunting ground.He would have been 31.

  6. john sanders on November 23, 2017 at 10:08 am said:

    Harry Percival Stitt was another who went nuts after a military stint in the tropics and seems to have been at our old 115 Heidelberg, same time as Prosper June ’43. He was discharged in ’44 on Phychiatric grounds and yet was found adeqately sane enough to be tried, convicted and jailed in ’45 for the attempted murder of an alleged homosexual partner Fred Davey. In those dark days of WW2 so called poofter bashing would have been tolerated, even looked upon as somewhat of a sport in Australian society although Adelaide might have had a differing view. So why be so hard on Fred. When Detective Leane arrested him in Mildura two years later he had been living rough on pastys under a number of borrowed names for which he had ID, though Glenelg and Henley beach in Adelaide were his usual hangouts. He was still in prison as of 1966 though it appears that he was seeking parol and he died 1980. Think that’s all clean cut and above board with one more villain getting his come uppance through good honest police dedication. Actually not at all; you see the bloke that he was said to have all but killed back in ’42 recovered rather smartlly it seems and was actually doing a stretch for grand theft auto when asked rather persuasively by Detective Leane jr to pick Harry Stitt out of a lineup in Mildura. The coppers, you see were after Stitt for the two murders; Seckold the railway porter and Beatie the North Force commando on his pre embarkation leave, neither of whom were thought to be into walking on the wild side. At the end of it all crazy ‘Hardy’ Stitt did at least twenty years on a likely bum rapp and Davey got an early release and most probably went back to Broken Hill in time to become Prosper’s country rep…..When Stitt was arrested, a search of his Previous Renmark digs discovered his stash in the sum of four hundred some odd pounds which in to-days dollars would be a tidy little nest egg, I guess around one or two hundred thousand dollars. Actually that’s the same amount mentioned in Thomas Lawrence Keane’s estate and more than most of us could come up with I bet….By the way this deal could still have legs for us in that we have never really given consideration to the possibility that SM may have been a tail gunner; he certainly dressed like one, with patent shoes smooth skin, tanned legs etc and maybe those damned mosquitoes had been attracted to his aqua velva aftershave which might explain their presence in the early evening, its fragrance later to be washed away by the Somerton spring tide.

  7. john sanders: tail gunners and aqua velva? Blimey, the 1970s must have been a good time for you for you to want to stay in them for so long. 😉

  8. john sanders on November 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm said:

    Nick: ya gotta get it all out there or it just dies with the thread. My point being everything thats still got legs must be given a run or even a re-run at this late stage. Sure your accrostic solution may never bare fruit the way you had hoped at the outset, but you may yet have a surprise in store even there. Be patient with your avid last ditch supporter base, if such still exists and don’t discourage us as you are wont to do, even if cold hard facts are seemingly wanting in your own continually negative opinion. I’m happy to give Voynich a race to the finish; then we’ll find out who gets the maze master’s badge at the end of the day, make or break. This business can and will have a positive outcome, be assured of it; and perhaps even in our time, God willing.

  9. john sanders on November 23, 2017 at 1:11 pm said:

    Nick: One thing you can’t get around, both you and I received our respective educations in the twentieth century and I’m almost certain that you have been reminded of that chilling reality. Does not worry me one iota; how about you old man?

  10. john sanders: what, me worry? No, sorry, we don’t buy from strangers here, good day to you, young sir. etc etc

  11. milongal on November 23, 2017 at 9:32 pm said:

    I still maintain they were flies not mozzies…..

    The banks of the Torrens (around the Uni Footbridge – ie further East toward Frome Rd) has a sordid history of such sport (certainly through the 60s-80s) – of bashings, cover ups and killings (sometimes by members of the constabulary). I think Rob Kelvin’s (Channel 9 Adelaide newsreader through the 80s/90s (according to Wikipedia until 2010 :0 )) son was murdered somewhere near there in the early 80s….
    Of course through that later era, South Aussies just blame every unsolved crime on von Einem….

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