Apart from the case of the Somerton Man, has any other police investigation ever revolved around a book left in a complete stranger’s car? Personally, I’d be surprised: this seems to be a unique feature of the whole Somerton Man narrative.

But what, then, of the obvious alternate explanation, i.e. that the Rubaiyat was in the car already? For all the persuasive bulk the dominant explanation has gained from being parroted so heavily for nearly seven decades, I think it’s time to examine this (I think major) alternative and explore its logical consequences…

Gerry Feltus’s Account

To the best of my knowledge, Gerry Feltus is the only person who has actually talked with the (still anonymous) man who handed the Rubaiyat in. So let us first look at Feltus’ account (“The Unknown Man”, p.105) of what happened at the time of the Somerton Man’s first inquest when the police search for the Rubaiyat was mentioned in the press:

Francis [note: this was Feltus’ codename for the man] immediately recalled that his brother-in-law had left a copy of that book in the glove box of his little Hillman Minx [note: not the car’s actual make] which he normally parked in Jetty Road. He could not recall him collecting it, and so it was probably there. He went to the car and looked in the glove box – yes, the book was still there. To his amazement a section had been torn out of the rear page, in the position described by past newspaper reports.

“Ronald Francis” then telephoned his brother-in-law:

Do you recall late last year when we all went for a drive in my car, just after that man was found dead on the beach at Somerton? You were sitting in the back with your wife and we all got out of the car, the book you were reading, you put in the glove box of my car, and you left it there.

To which the brother-in-law replied:

No it wasn’t mine. When I got in the back seat, the book was on the floor; I fanned through some pages and thought it was yours, so when I got out of the car I put it in the glove box for you.

A while back, I pressed Gerry Feltus for more specific details on this: though he wouldn’t say what make of car the “Hillman Minx” actually was, he said that the man told him that the book turned up “a day or two after the body was found on the beach, and during daylight hours“. Gerry added that “Francis” was now very elderly and suffering from severe memory loss. Even so, he said that “I have spoken to Francis, his family and others and I am more than satisfied with what he has told me“.

Finally: when “Francis” handed the Rubaiyat to the police, he “requested that his identity not be disclosed”, for fear that he would be perpetually hounded by the curious. Even today (2017) it seems that only Gerry Feltus knows his identity for sure: though a list of possible names would include Dr Malcolm Glen Sarre and numerous others.

Newspaper Accounts

All the same, when I was trying to put everything into a timeline a while back, I couldn’t help but notice that Gerry’s account didn’t quite match the details that appeared in the newspapers at the time:

[1] 23rd July 1949, Adelaide News, page 1:

[…] an Adelaide businessman read of the search in “The News” and recalled that in November he had found a copy of the book which had been thrown on the back seat of his car while it was parked in Jetty road, Glenelg.

[2] 25th July 1949, Adelaide Advertiser, page 3:

A new lead to the identity of the Somerton body may have been discovered on Saturday when Det.Sgt. R. L. Leane received from a city business man a torn copy of Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam said to have been found in his car at Glenelg about last November, a week or two before the body was found.
  The last few lines of the poem, including the words “Tamam shud” (meaning “the end”) have been torn out of the book.
  When the body was searched some time ago a scrap of paper bearing the words “Tamam shud” was found in a pocket.
  Scrawled in pencilled block letters on the back of the cover of the book are groups of letters which appear to be foreign words and some numbers.
  These, it is hoped, may be of assistance in tracing the dead man’s identity.
  The business man told Det.Sgt. Leane that he found the copy of the Rubaiyat in the rear of his car while it was parked in Jetty road Glenelg, about the time of the RAAF air pageant in November.
  He said he had known nothing about the much-publicised words “Tamam shud” until he saw a reference to them on Friday.

[3] 26th July 1949, Adelaide News, page 1:

The book had been thrown into the back seat of a motor car in Jetty road, Glenelg, shortly before the victim’s body was found on the beach at Somerton on December 1.
[…]
Although the lettering was faint, police managed to read it by using ultra-violet light. In the belief that the lettering might be a code, a copy has been sent to decoding experts at Army Headquarters, Melbourne.

Why Do These Accounts Differ?

The Parafield air pageant mentioned unequivocally in the above newspaper accounts was held on 20th November 1948, ten days or so before the Somerton Man was found dead on Somerton Beach. Yet Gerry Feltus was told by “Ronald Francis” himself that the book turned up “a day or two after the body was found on the beach”. Clearly, these two accounts can’t both be right at the same time.

I of course asked Gerry directly about this last year: by way of reply, he said “Don’t believe everything you read in the media, eg; ‘The business man told Det. Leane…. etc…’.“. Moreover, he suggested that I was beginning “to sound like [Derek] Abbott”, who had “nominated the same things as you”.

This is, of course, polite Feltusese for “with respect, you’re talking out your arse, mate“: but at the same time, all he has to back up this aspect of his account – i.e. that the book turned up after the Somerton Man was found, not ten days before – is “Ronald Francis”‘s word, given half a century after the event.

Hence this is the point where I have to temporarily bid adieu to Gerry Feltus’s account, because something right at the core of it seems to be broken… and when you trace the non-fitting pieces, they all seem to me to lead back to the Rubaiyat and the car.

So… what really happened with the Rubaiyat and the car? Specifically, what would it mean if the Rubaiyat had been in the car all along?

The Rubaiyat Car Theory

If the Rubaiyat was already in the back of the “little Hillman Minx”, it would seem to be the case that:

(*) Ronald Francis had no idea what it was or why it was there
(*) Ronald Francis’ brother-in-law had no idea what it was or why it was there
(*) …and yet the Rubaiyat was connected to that car in some non-random way
(*) …or, rather, it was connected to someone who was connected to the car

Given that one of the phone numbers on its back was that of Prosper McTaggart Thomson – a person who lived a quarter of a mile away from where “Ronald Francis” lived or worked, and who (as the Daphne Page court case from five months earlier demonstrated beyond all doubt) helped people sell cars on the black market by providing fake “pegged-price” documentation – it would seem reasonable at this point to hypothesize that Prosper Thomson may well have been the person who had sold “Ronald Francis” that specific car.

There was also a very good reason why many people might well have been looking to sell their cars in November 1948: the Holden 48-215 – the first properly Australian car – was just then about to be launched. Note that the “little Hillman Minx” could not have been a Holden if it had been driven to the Parafield air pageant, as the very first Holden was not sold until the beginning of December 1948:

If “Ronald Francis” had just bought a car in (say) mid-November 1948, I can quite imagine him proudly taking his wife, his brother-in-law and his wife off to the Parafield air pageant for a nice day out.

If Prosper Thomson’s behaviour in the Daphne Page court case was anything to go by, I can also easily imagine that the person who had sold that car might have wondered if he was being swindled by the middle man. In his summing up, the judge said that “[t]he defendant [Thomson] had not paid the £400 balance, and had never intended to do so“: so who’s to say that Thomson was not above repeating that same trick, perhaps with someone from out of town?

Perhaps, then, the person whose Rubaiyat it was was not Prosper Thomson himself, but the person from whom Prosper Thomson had just bought the car in order to sell it to “Ronald Francis”.

Perhaps it was this person’s distrust of Thomson’s financial attitude had led him to hide the Rubaiyat under the back seat of the car, with the “Tamam Shud” specifically ripped out so that he could prove that it was he who had sold the car to Thomson in the first place.

And so perhaps it was the car’s previous owner who was the Somerton Man, visiting Glenelg to track down the owner of his newly sold car, simply to make sure he hadn’t been ripped off by Prosper Thomson.

The Awkward Silence

I’ve previously written about how social the Somerton Man seemed to have been, and how that jarred with the lack of helpful response the police received. For all its physical size, Australia still had a relatively small population back then.

So perhaps the silence surrounding the Somerton Man cold case will turn out to be nothing more than that of jittery people buying and selling cars not through dealers, people who the Price Commissioners pegged prices had effectively turned into white-collar criminals – for how many professionals were so well-off in post-war Australia that they could afford to be principled about losing £400 or more in the sale of their shiny American car?

Incidentally, it has been reported that on the back of the Rubaiyat were written two phone numbers: one of which was the (now-famous) phone number for the nurse Jo Thomson (which her soon-to-be-husband Prosper Thomson was also using for small ads in the newspapers), while the other was allegedly for a local bank.

These are the two things people selling black market cars need: the number of the middle man who was laundering the transaction, and the number of bank to make sure cheques clear (remember that a dud cheque to pay for a car was ultimately what triggered the Daphne Page court case).

But the other thing such people need is an absence: an absence of discussion about the transaction. And if “Ronald Francis” had only just bought his car on the black market through Prosper Thomson (thanks to Price Commission pegging, only about 10% of car sales back then went through official car dealer channels), he would surely have had a very specific reason not to want the details of his sale explored and made public.

And so I wonder whether this was the real reason why Ronald Francis didn’t want his name revealed: because if the police were to understand the web of dealings that had brought the Somerton Man to Glenelg, that would inevitably make it clear that the two men were the participants in a black market car sale, one which – though widely practised – was still a Price Commission offence with stiff penalties.

Along those same lines, I also wonder whether it was Ronald Francis himself who erased the pencil writing from the Rubaiyat’s back cover, to try to cover at least some of the tracks that might lead police in his direction. Of course, we now know that SAPOL’s photographers were able to use ultra-violet photography to (mostly) reconstruct the letters: but this may well not have been known to him at the time.

Please note that I’m not saying this is the only plausible explanation for everything. However, insofar as it tackles (and indeed resolves) a large number of the trickiest aspects of the case, it’s at least worth considering, right?

A Final Note

To be clear, when I ran this whole Rubaiyat Car suggestion past Gerry Feltus (admittedly in an earlier iteration), he dismissed it out of hand (though without any actual evidence to back up his position):

“I will not go into the possibility that the man purchased his car from Prosper. It is an absolutely rubbish suggestion that has no credibility. Poor old Prosper. He must have been the only ‘black market’ racketeer in Adelaide. From my knowledge of the climate during that relevant period he was a ‘nothing’.”

Well, Gerry was absolutely right insofar as that in 1948 Prosper was a small-time black marketeer, a mere minnow in the Melbourne-dominated black market car pool: but all the same, he was a minnow that lived extremely close by.

I suspect the real problem here is that if the mainstream story is wrong – that is, if Ronald Francis’ car had not long before (like so many others at the time) been bought at a premium on the black market, and if Francis had told white[-collar] lies to try to cover up his part in an illegal transaction once he realized what had happened – then people have been concealing their true involvement with what happened for nearly 70 years, not because of murder but because the price control legislation made criminals of nearly everyone selling their car.

And so it might well be that Gerry Feltus (and indeed just about everyone else) has been viewing the Somerton Man as entirely the wrong kind of mystery: not a police cold case, but a Price Commission cold case. How boringly middle class!

104 thoughts on “The Rubaiyat Car Theory…

  1. Emma May Smith on June 10, 2017 at 11:53 pm said:

    I know little more about Somerton Man than that which I read on your site, Nick, but I own to liking this theory.

  2. Emma May Smith: thanks, I’ve been thinking about this for more than a year, trying to work out what’s wrong with it, but it has survived all my attempts to destroy it. 🙂

  3. Emma May Smith on June 11, 2017 at 2:57 pm said:

    Well, it ties up a lot of mystery with (if you excuse the description) a banal explanation. No big conspiracy, just petty criminals watching their own interests.

    I also like that it has an easy way of being proved or disproved: find the car, identify the previous owners, and track them down. If the previous owner of Ronald Francis’s car disappeared shortly after it was sold, then you have your man.

    So, do such records exist and are they accessible?

  4. That’s a nice piece of research nickpelling, enough to keep the matter alive for some time. This can only be good.
    … a couple of things: we have photographs of the dead man, his clothes, his suitcase and contents, the Tamam Shud slip and the photo( of a photo?) of the code. But no photograph of a phone number(s) said to be written on the back of the book and none of the back cover of the Rubaiyat itself, or none that I can find.

  5. petebowes: in the past, I’ve worked really hard behind the scenes to try to fill these gaps in the Somerton Man’s evidential trail, and I expect that I shall continue trying to do so for some time yet. 🙂

  6. Evidence has shown that the dead man had many serious health issues, and in the absence of conspiratorial poisoning, do you think it likely a man in such a frail condition – he would be dead in 24 hours – would embark on a black market car-sales operation after an overnight train ride from Broken Hill, or Melbourne?

  7. petebowes: I don’t think we know enough about the man’s situation to be able to assess degrees of likelihood just yet, sorry. 🙁

  8. I’m not looking for apologies, nickpelling, and don’t understand why you offer them. In any assessment of a mystery – be it the Voynich Manuscript or the Tamam Shud mystery, there comes a time when informed judgement plays a necessary part.

  9. Petebowes: let me know when your judgment become sufficiently informed to start that process.

  10. This is your blog, and this is where your judgement might become sufficiently informed to start that process, not mine.

  11. Petebowes: assessing likelihood in the absence of even moderate evidence is arguably even worse than speculation, because it pretends to be scientific and rational (despite being neither).

  12. milongal on June 12, 2017 at 10:14 pm said:

    It’s certainly an interesting thought, and while I take Feltus’ point that you can’t always believe the papers the Air Show would seem to be a specific reference to when the book was found – that is “in November” could be dismissed as a media error (especially given they all likely use each other as sources), whereas “…around the time of the RAAF pageant” suggests to me that someone (ie the finder of the book) had had a specific reason to make that reference and that it is repeated through the media (which to me makes it far less likely that the media got it wrong). I’ve always liked the Pruzinski “connection” and I think this version is potentially consistent – although if SM is a concerned (or even ripped off) seller (and if the suitcase is his, which people seem to insist is unquestionable) then it’s a little at odds with his possessions being those of a car thief – although I suppose car thieves sell cars too, and still get ripped off by bigger (or at least other) crooks.

    I also can’t really see how the code ties in in this scenario. While this all links the Rubaiyat in nicely it doesn’t really explain why random (or not random) characters are scribbled into the back – nor why they were thought significant enough to erase (if indeed they were erased rather than a light pencil that had faded). If SM had scribbled the code before leaving the rubaiyat (not necessarily immediately before, of course), what purpose was it supposed to serve, and why would “Francis” be so keen to erase it? If it were “Francis”, I think there’s even more questions….

  13. The autopsy findings are public, he was a very sick man, so much so he was dead soon after arriving in Adelaide. How is this ‘moderate evidence?’

    Let’s clear this matter up before moving onto your theme of a conspiracy of silence regarding Mr Francis’ purchase of a black market car. A conspiracy that could only have involved DS Leane, his superior and the venerable G Feltus. That is the direction you’re heading isn’t it, uncertainties notwithstanding?

  14. milongal on June 12, 2017 at 11:20 pm said:

    Slightly Random Thought. What if….
    Why Francis?
    in 1988 (before Feltus’ involvement) the South Australian Police Headquarters moved to number 60 Wakefield St. This building is at the corner of Gawler Place, directly opposite the Catholic Church Offices (which were I think built in the early 1990s) which sit next to the grounds of St Francis Xavier Cathedral – probably the most prominent building in the skyline in the early 2000s. What if “Francis” is code for “Xavier”? Looking through the Adelaide directory, the only Xavier that leaps out (there may be others that are listed simply as ‘X’) is a ‘Xavier Hann’ in Norwood (the other side of town to Somerton in the inner East). All I can find out about “Xavier Hann” is that he appears to be a “Xavier Rosenhain Schmidt”, Son of “Kate Marie Rosenhain” (who married 3 times, including to a “Hugh Hann”). Xavier married an “Adeline May Topham”. I’m trying to work out whether she links to the “Topham Mall” in Adelaide’s CBD (so far it looks unlikely).
    In recent years, an old Clipper “The City of Adelaide” has been returned to Adelaide resulting in much interest in it, including a site dedicated to it. Most of the information comes from that site, with Xavier being a descendant of the Bateman family who arrived in Adelaide in 1866. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to link them to Glenelg – nor to any particular stature in the community.

    NB1: Of course, the Frankie X link could also just suggest “Francis” is a devout or significant Catholic

    NB2: My original searches for “Xavier” kept coming up with “Xavier Herbert” if we want to get all conspiratorial….

    NB3: There are no doubt a million other reasons to pick “Francis” too….

  15. milongal on June 13, 2017 at 12:20 am said:

    Scrub that – there is a record for him in 1983. Not sure how I missed it (he also seems to have gone by the name “Bill” for some reason – not that it matters). Guess that counts him out.

  16. @nickp: I’ve taken the opportunity to extrapolate your blackmarket theme, would you like to see how it all ends?

    It’s only short. I’ve linked it.

  17. Petebowes: it ends, as always, with a inferential leap to murder, long before we even know who Mr Francis is or was, or what make his car was, or the name of the person from whom he bought it.

  18. @nickp: then why persist? The Forensic File is more fulfilling. Thankfully we have put the black market theory to rest, unless you believe the vendor was murdered by Thomson for the outstanding funds.
    I remember reading a similar proposal years ago, it was shouted down. Remember?

  19. Petebowes: “why persist” in doing what? Trying to uncover evidence, putting forward hypotheses at all, or speculating about things where there is too little evidence?

    My strong belief is that it is often possible – though difficult – to genuinely reason in conditions of uncertainty, and without having to resort to reconstructing a complete narrative as a notional starting point.

  20. Persist with a theory that puts you, the author, in an impossible position.

  21. Petebowes: what I’m putting forward here has many of the same elements, but a new focus on the relationship between Ronald Francis, Prosper Thomson, the Rubaiyat, and the Somerton Man. It’s a very joined up theory, and one that’s built on the facts of the case. The only departure from Gerry Feltus’ account is the notion that the Rubaiyat was already in the car: everything else flows from there.

  22. Not quite. This is what flows from there …

    Mr Francis, dealer in black-market goods with a known villain, walks into a police station and hands over evidence crucial to an open murder case. He says he found the evidence in his car. He probably parked it outside.

    In doing this, Francis linked himself and his car with a murder that took place nine months earlier. The body in that case, coincidentally, was found close to the home of the known villain who sold Francis the car, Prosper Thomson. The murder victim, coincidentally, was the blackmarket vendor.

    Francis asked DS Leane for anonymity.

    DS Leane agreed because he wouldn’t like to see Francis hounded by the press.

    No wonder GF lumped it with DA’s theories – neither of you thought it through.

  23. petebowes: you assume (a) that Mr Francis knew who the man was (there’s no evidence that this is so), (b) that he knew that the Somerton Man had been murdered (there’s no evidence he knew this), and (c) that he knew he was potentially incriminating himself (there’s no evidence of this).

    It’s no less possible that Mr Francis didn’t know who the man was, that he didn’t know what happened to the man, and that he didn’t believe he was incriminating himself. There’s no evidence that Mr Francis even met the Somerton Man. Perhaps he suspected Prosper Thomson and/or the Melbourne car trade – which had a reputation for being cut-throat, sometimes literally so – would be out to get him if he gave any more than the Rubaiyat?

  24. Milongal … over to you.

  25. nickpelling: here’s a fellow (Francis) walking into a police station with evidence in a murder case. The evidence was found in his car not long after he bought it (your theory) – It follows that the police might enquire as to the details of the sale, murder cases do excite the minds of investigators, can we agree on that?
    What does Francis do, lie about the car’s provenance?
    As I said, the black market theory runs out of steam very quickly.

  26. Petebowes: your objections here are based on your assumptions and presuppositions, not on the hypothesis as presented.

  27. Yes, the assumption the police might be interested and presupposition that they might want to question Francis are not on the presented hypothesis.
    So?

  28. milongal on June 15, 2017 at 12:11 am said:

    Daphne took Prosper to court over a black market transaction – and the court seemed to frown upon the fact the sale was bodgy, but nothing more came of it. Putting yourself through a (reasonably public) court case seems more extreme than walking into a police station over a book that you think is linked to a murder (and have no reason to think is linked to your black market car). Naively you might even assume that if the police offer you anonymity they won’t find you again if they realise the car is a bodge….
    (and just because the Fuzz will be interested in the car, doesn’t mean Francis realises it).

    2c (since you asked)

  29. Petebowes: they’re your presuppositions (along with several others), not mine. So why would the argument I put forward need to take them into account?

  30. You’ve provided a partial hypotheses, a slice, which works if taken independent of any consequent reality.
    Admit it, you cannot advance your hypothesis …. and I have the feeling you would rather not.

  31. Petebowes: one does not need to advance a complete novelistic narrative in order to put forward a useful, revealing hypothesis.

  32. This reminds me if the Dance of the Seven Veils. Except in this case I would prefer to be in the bar when the final unveiling takes place on stage. Anti-climaxes being as they are.

  33. Petebowes: impatience with the facts may provide a good reason to write a novel, but it’s a lousy way to be a researcher.

  34. Ok, so a useful, revealing hypothosis need not have a beginning or an ending and is complete in itself, that how you see it?

  35. Petebowes: a useful, revealing hypothesis helps you ask the right questions of the archives, where the results of your search (hopefully) then move you forward. Hypotheses are necessarily incomplete, unless you are somehow Sherlock Holmes.

  36. Well, there you go.

  37. Nickpelling: did you ever ask yourself how the Francis Rubaiyat managed to remain both unfound and untrampled after 6 months in the back footwell of a car?
    Which begs the question: if indeed it was left as proof of original ownership, why wasn’t it hidden?
    Which leads us onto another troubling matter. How do you see the original owner enforcing his black market rights if indeed he was stiffed on the transaction? Prosper was the middleman, Francis a stranger to him. His beef would have been with PT
    It all looks a bit messy from here.

  38. Petebowes: until we can find out when Ronald Francis bought his car, we won’t know whether it was there for a day or a year. “6 months” is nothing I’ve ever said, the book actually spent 6 months safe in the glove box at the front.

    As for whether it was hidden or not, unti we can get Ronald Francis’ brother-in-law’s own account, we won’t know whether or not it was hidden.

    I suspect SM (scrapes on his hands, you always liked that detail, right?) could look after himself, so perhaps he would have sorted things out with PT in a straightforwardly medieval way. But first he would have had to be reasonably sure that he had been stiffed…

  39. Fine with me, if you like a useful, revealing hypothesis that incorporates ‘I suspect’ and perhaps.

  40. Petebowes: do you have a working hypothesis for the scrapes on his hand?

  41. Misca on June 26, 2017 at 2:19 am said:

    All these years protecting a car racket? Really? So much time after the fact and nothing to just set it straight?

  42. Misca: it makes rational actors of everyone involved, and directly explains just about everything. Lies once told and retold a fair few times can achieve a special status…

  43. A businessman walks into a police station and up to the desk, tells the sergeant he has found something in his car that might be of importance in an open case.

    He is introduced to the wily Detective Sergeant Lionel Leane who sits him down in an interview room.

    All smiles, all round.

    Francis hands over the Rubaiyat he found and Leane goes straight to the back page and sees the hole. A good moment. But what of this businessman Leane asks himself, and what of his car? This is a murder case, there are questions, one in particular.

    Was the semi-conscious Somerton Man taken to the beach by car, helped out then half-carried down the steps?

    How long has this gentleman had his car?

    Who did he buy it from?

    ‘May we have a look inside, sir?’ Leane might have asked.

    ……… nickpelling: where would a hypothesis go from here, given that Francis walked out of the station without any record of interview?
    Any views?

  44. petebowes: this is the part you don’t seem to get. In this scenario, Ronald Francis is a whiter-than-white collar professional in a time of deference, of respect (not like today). They bought into his story then, just as Gerry Feltus still buys into it 70 years later. What I’m pointing out is that the Price Commission may, by turning him and thousands of other car-owning professionals into criminals, have given him something to hide.

    I suppose the other question is: why is everyone still so heavily invested in the story that someone threw a book linked to a mysteriously dead man into the back of a stranger’s car? If it was important to get rid of it, why not just throw it in the bin, as just about everyone else in the world would?

  45. Unlike others, I’m not about to quote GF, but you can believe me on this …. Leane did as he was told.

  46. Petebowes: …for which you have no evidence beyond ‘you think that’s what happened’.

  47. No, the gap between us is closer than you think … your Francis is a businessman, mine something else. As an afterthought, do you think Leane made the decision to keep Francis’ name out without telling his superiors?

  48. Petebowes: for Leane, I have not the faintest idea. But I would certainly distrust any scenario that primarily relies on a network of conspirators keeping each other’s secrets hidden.

  49. What do you believe, nickpelling?
    Was Francis his real name?
    Was there a Hillman Minx, a brother-in-law, his wife, a book in the footwell, later placed in the glove box?
    A trip to Somerton a couple of days after the body was found?
    Do you believe GF invented the whole scenario, or just parts of it?

  50. petebowes: I believe that Gerry Feltus’s book tells a lot of what he believes to be true, but that there are obvious inconsistencies between what he wrote and what the papers said at the time that he cannot explain. He insists that he talked a number of times with “Ronald Francis”, his wife, and his family, yet when pressed doesn’t actually seem to be sure about the make of car. It would be strange if he had made all that up in toto, but until we know more it’s extremely hard to tell which bits are fact and which are fiction.

    My opinion – for what it’s worth – is that Feltus may well have fallen victim to a much-repeated lie, and that he has perhaps also shown too much of the same deference that allowed the lie to enter the mainstream account of the events of that day in the first place.

  51. milongal on June 27, 2017 at 10:16 pm said:

    “If it was important to get rid of it, why not just throw it in the bin, as just about everyone else in the world would?”
    Yes indeedy – and everytime it’s brought up it’s dismissed. The Rubaiyat in the car makes little sense in the “traditional” explanation of events. You’re at the beach, you want to destroy something, but rather than chuck it in the sea (or one of the bins that line the beach every 100 or so metres). Instead, you whack it in your pocket, walk 1.5km back to Glenelg and chuck it in the back of a random car that happens to have a window open.

    Now everytime I’ve suggested some things can only be explained by incompetence or stupidity in a theory (eg the spy one) I get yelled down that these must have been very intelligent people. Sure, I can understand that you might not want to leave the Rubaiyat close to the scene, but they would have passed a large number of bins (and many, many drains on the street too) to get to Glenelg. If you chuck it in a bin the police [i]might[/i] find it (if they decide to search every bin within 2KM before they get emptied – which these days is daily). If you chuck it in a car you risk someone going “WTF is this crap??” – and either chucking it in the bin (in which case you’re in much the same position as doing that yourself – except now someone else will remember it) or you risk them rushing somewhere to hand it in as lost property (and therefore bring attention to it).

    If the Rubaiyat is directly connected, its presence in the car suggests:
    1) SM had chucked it there at some stage, perhaps on the day of his demise, or perhaps beforehand (I have a little difficulty with this one in so far as it seems to have been obvious enough to be found so you’re relying on a lot of luck that the finder isn’t going to dice it – so it’s hard to see a purpose for it)
    2) The Owner of the car put it there (I still wonder whether it was a hoax – the pictures certainly look like the tears are different, and the “scientific” proof is by someone who was expecting to confirm a match – and a government official at that. Without being overly cynical, my experience of Government Departments is that instead of “can you get me AN answer for this question” you instead have “Can you find THIS answer to the question” – that is, about the grossest confirmation bias you can get)
    3) Somebody wanted it found and put it there (this to me is very difficult to explain – other than the idea of an official plant)

    Further (and again probably redredging old ground), the code in the rubaiyat still potentially means nothing (as indeed the phone number). How long was the Rub in Francis’ possession (in itself a strange thing to some degree)? Who else accessed it in that time? Could the “code” be the scribblings of children who had found it in his car and defaced it (it’s what kids seem to do)? Could the phone number be Francis (or someone related to him) scribbling down on a “useless” scrap paper?

    The Rubaiyat seems to be one of the most unreliable pieces of evidence in the case – and yet there seems to be a romantic obsession that this is the most fundamental clue that is most likely to explain who SM was and what he was doing. To me, it appears a fairly circumstantial piece of evidence which – even if involved – has very little traceability from the crime to the time it was found and so all bets are off about any scribblings on there.

    Increasingly I lean toward #2 – Francis faked it (ie the Rubaiyat that was handed in is not the one the TS fragment came from) and it spun out of control when the police appeared to confirm a match – at which point it’s a bit hard to back out. Of course, keeping mum on that for 70 years despite repeated efforts by different investigators (professional and otherwise) is pretty impressive….

    NB: How did Feltus find Francis? From official police records? Is it possible the 1978 Doco also found Francis but didn’t think him an overly important (or interesting) player? Might be time to dig the archive again….

  52. There has been a development in the blackmarket theory, Milongal, certain connections have been made, a narrative has been fashioned, a neutral course taken.
    We pursue the Pelling scenario to its logical and very tidy end.

  53. petebowes: I’ve looked at your webpage, and you don’t seem to have quite understood how the black market worked. If you go through the Daphne Page vs Prosper Thomson court case again, you’ll see that they both were (according to the court) dishonest about their dishonesty. That is, both parties had pre-agreed the (black market) price that her car should be dishonestly sold at, yet when Thomson claimed (falsely, said the judge) that his (unnamed and unidentified, but you don’t want to mess with him) buyer’s cheque had bounced and he refused to pass her more than the pegged price of the car, she tried (dishonestly) to pursue the balance from him as a loan, and so took him to court.

    In the end, even though the judge couldn’t hide his distaste for Thomson’s behaviour, he also couldn’t rule in Page’s favour because the version of events her claim relied upon was false.

    In the case of the Somerton Man, I think it far from improbable that [in the Rubaiyat car scenario] the seller of the car agreed terms with Prosper amicably (as had Page), but was then tipped off by someone as to the stunt Thomson had got away with with Daphne Page not long before. And so the seller then constructed the whole Rubaiyat / Tamam Shud thing as a proof-of-ownership trick so that he could try to outsmart Thomson if he were to try some kind of similar the-buyer-scammed-me-so-I-can’t-pay-you scam on him.

  54. and how would the Somerton Man execute his rights, in the absence of a court?

  55. Petebowes: I somehow doubt 1948 Adelaide had a culture of mediation professionals anxious to resolve extra-judicial differences relating to black market car sales. So I suspect his Plan A would be a right hook, and his Plan B a haymaker. But if Thomson’s Plan A response was a Winchester, who knows how this would all play out?

  56. Bumpkin on June 28, 2017 at 1:24 pm said:

    SM knows he is about to die. He is either suicidal or has a fatal illness. Either way, he wants to die at the beach. The Rubaiyat means more than anything to him. He tears out “Tamam Shud” and throws the book into the open window of a random car. He goes to the beach and dies alone. Perhaps the phone no. is JEstyn’s (a lost love/relative). Perhaps it is Prosper’s (a car he wanted to buy/sell). Perhaps “The code” is an anacrostic. Perhaps it is random scribbling. At this late date we can only speculate. Perhaps to dream.

  57. Both PT (buyer) and SM (seller) would have a piece of official paper from the original transaction. Both PT (seller) and Francis (buyer) would have a piece of official paper from the secondary transaction. These you need for MV transfer, MV insurance and MV registration purposes.

    So why would SM play silly buggers and hide a book with a tear in its back page in the car so he could identify it later, if need be?
    All he had to do was pop the hood and read the compliance plate.

  58. milongal on June 29, 2017 at 1:30 am said:

    @Bumpkin – not entirely comfortable with the slip indicating he expected his demise
    – If suicidal, why does he die with the note rolled up in a pocket somewhere – surely if this was the text he wanted to die with it would be clutched in his hand?
    – if fatal illness, how did he know he was going to die then (and if he did the same for the note as for suicide). If he knew his days were numbered but not when it was coming, then the book would likely have occurred some time before?

  59. Petebowes: in that scenario, the point of the Tamam Shud slip was to prove to the new owner that he was the previous owner.

  60. Bumpkin on June 29, 2017 at 8:54 pm said:

    Milongal – The slip said “Tamam Shud” which means “The End.” If that doesn’t indicate expected demise, than what does? He knew he was about to die. You can not apply reason to either a suicide or fatal illness. I also believe he threw the Rubaiyat in the car deliberately so that someone would find it. He let fate decide who that someone would be.

  61. milongal on June 29, 2017 at 10:18 pm said:

    Without being overly facetious, if we can’t apply reason to suicide or fatal illness, then the whole assumption that TS relates to suicide or fatal illness is flawed from the very beginning, isn’t it?

    IMHO the point of a note like “The End” is either contemplation or explanation. That is, it is either something that focuses you to the reality of death – in which case surely it’s purpose would be to hold it, and read it, and meditate on it in your final minutes; OR it is something to explain to other people what happened (like Tibor’s goodbye, if you like). In that case, while there might not be such a need to hold it (particularly on a beach where you might fear it will blow out of your hand or something) but wouldn’t you still want it somewhere obvious? If it was in his (missing) wallet, or in his pocket with the tickets, or whatever else then maybe I’d agree, but folded as small as possible and hidden in an obscure pocket? Doesn’t seem to fit the bill for mine….

  62. Nickpelling: that’s right mate, stick with it … never mind the bleeding obvious, transfer papers are exactly what they say – transfer of ownership.
    But it’s your little theory, and good luck with it.

  63. Bumpkin on June 29, 2017 at 10:49 pm said:

    I doubt SM knew either JEstyn or Prosper. The “phone no.” was a letter and four numbers. Maybe that’s all it was. No code either. Just letters jotted down.

  64. Bumpkin, no mate, the phone number was seen by DS Lionel Leane, written down by Detective Len Brown and given to Detective Errol Canney to chase down. Some facts remain indisputable.
    Milongal: Cleland thought it was suicide before he found the slip, said it made no difference, and he had to dig it out twice.

    .. and it doesn’t fit my bill either.

  65. petebowes: people can think what they like, but there was no doubt at the inquest that SM had been poisoned, the only problem was identifying the toxin wotdunnit.

  66. nickpelling: please examine your posts for accuracy before you hit the send button. There was doubt at the inquest, Cleland’s. Read his deposition.
    Unless you have summarily overruled his opinion.
    If so, on what basis?

  67. petebowes: back in 2015, Byron Deveson correctly pointed out from the inquest record that because the heart was in contraction (systole) at the point of death, the only acceptable inference that could have been drawn at the time was that the SM had been poisoned, and that is indeed what was proposed (digitalis and strophanthin). Byron further pointed out that this same unusual condition could also have resulted from barium carbonate or (similar soluble barium compounds), which was not known in 1948.

    Any 1948 coroner could therefore only have reasonably concluded that SM had been poisoned, because there was no doubt as to the relevant facts of the case (the man died with his heart in systole): the only doubt was in the 1948 limits of the knowledge of substances that could kill someone in that way.

  68. That’s terrific, but I was chatting to Milongal about the doubt about suicide …

  69. petebowes: oh, ok. I wrote “there was no doubt at the inquest that SM had been poisoned”, so perhaps you would prefer that I had written “there was no doubt at the inquest that poison was the cause of SM’s death” just so I don’t seem to (arguably) be prejudging whether or not he had killed himself.

    But note that death by barium carbonate (as per Byron’s comment of “the same stuff that killed the two X-ray patients in 1949”) would hardly have been suicide, more accidental death.

  70. petebowes: incidentally, I don’t know if Byron or anyone else looked through the local newspapers (i.e. near Millicent) for other people with similar sounding deaths in late 1948, i.e. before the coroner recognized the deaths in mid-1949 as having been from barium carbonate misadministered in place of barium sulphate. For what it’s worth, the nearest newspapers to Millicent would seem to be the Border Watch and the Narracoorte Herald, both of which are in Trove.

  71. Here’s a man, expensively dressed, taking hours to die while lying on a public beach on a summer evening, poisoned, probably, and nobody helped him.
    It’s as if he wasn’t there.
    1948, a city of ex-servicemen, a large hotel close by, strollers using the stairs to get down to the beach, others climbing back to the road.
    The first to see him was Lyons, the second, Strapps, then nobody after 7:30 pm.
    It’s as if he wasn’t there.

    The Somerton dragon leads you into a labyrinth of mysteries.

  72. Petebowes: come on, Pete, the lividity was all wrong for death on the beach, only Derek Abbott still believes that this is a possibility. No, the SM died somewhere where the back of his head was lower than his body: and for that you have to construct scenarios such as dying with his head over the edge of a small suburban bed, etc, not laid out on the beach. If it seems as though he wasn’t there, let’s not eliminate the possibility that he wasn’t actually there.

  73. Byron Deveson on June 30, 2017 at 11:34 am said:

    Nick, with barium carbonate it could be a case of murder because barium carbonate was available over the counter in 1948 for use as a rat poison. I would expect that barium carbonate would be tasteless, or nearly tasteless, so it could be hidden in food. Lead acetate was also available and could be slipped into some food (it is sweet tasting). Lead acetate could be made down in the woodshed without anyone being any the wiser and I suspect that some (maybe most? all?) of the cases of lead poisoning of infants, supposedly from peeling paint, was in fact deliberate poisoning.

  74. Byron: but how much barium carbonate would be needed to kill someone?

  75. I’ll take the Pete, and I agree. But who was the first guy, a drunk who later walked away? Because I agree with that as well, Nick.

  76. Byron Deveson on June 30, 2017 at 11:44 am said:

    DA did have SM’s hair Mass Spec analysis data re-examined for one of the (stable) barium isotopes and found the concentration was similar to that of the control samples. However, this does not rule out acute poisoning with barium, particularly if the poisoning only occurred a few hours prior to death because there would not have been enough time for significant amounts of barium to reach the hair. Also, barium may not be efficiently transported to hair in the first place. The literature seems to be silent on this point.

  77. Byron: but what would be a lethal acute dose? For a barium sulphate meal, about 350-450ml is used: so presumably less than that?

  78. Petebowes: so where were all the mosquito bites?

  79. Byron Deveson on June 30, 2017 at 12:13 pm said:

    Nick, barium sulphate is very insoluble in gastric fluid and the Pharmacopoeia specifications include strict limits for soluble barium (essentially none). Barium carbonate is soluble in gastric fluid and the bioavailabilty could be very high depending on various factors. The Merck Index or Martindale would be the best place to look for human LD50 estimates. There are some internet sources that suggest that as little as one gram of barium carbonate could be a fatal dose. I previously described how SM’s probable sub-acute lead poisoning would have potentiated the effects of barium. And if SM also downed some digitalis (it was used as a treatment for alcoholics in 1948 from memory) then all three, barium, lead and digitalis would have pushed in the same direction.

  80. Byron: thanks very much for that. If barium carbonate is that bioactive, presumably the person ingesting only a few grams would be unwell within seconds, and dead within minutes?

  81. Byron Deveson on June 30, 2017 at 2:04 pm said:

    Unwell within a few minutes. Death could occur within 20 minutes under some circumstances.

  82. The semi-conscious fellow Strapps and Neill were observing was also being watched by a man standing on the road. He thought it a fortunate coincidence to see a man in such a situation because not far away he had a body that needed disposal.
    The drunk was woken up after Strapps and Neill left. He too left the beach.

    Later that night a body was taken from a nearby house, loaded into a car and driven to the beach, unloaded and carried to the same spot by the steps the drunk had occupied. The body had abrasions between the knuckles on its right hand, a Tamam Shud slip in its pocket and the book it was torn from had been put back into the bookshelf it was taken from.
    ….. part fiction, part truth.

  83. milongal on July 2, 2017 at 11:03 pm said:

    @Pete – makes a bit of sense that one. TBH I’d always assumed the ID(s) the night before was a deliberate plant or something – but never occurred to me someone may have seized an opportunity seeing an intoxicated gent. Wouldn’t have to be on the street either – easy enough to wander along the beach and see him without neccessarily admitting as much to the authorities afterward. It even helps explain the location a little – something that I haven’t been very comfortable with for a while……

  84. Funny you should think that, Milongal, thanks to a recent post by Gordon C, I’ve thunked up yet another scenario … and the possibility of a staged incident.
    Purely imaginative, of course, though flavoured with reality.
    Chapter one is up, chapter two not quite figured out. Contributions welcome.

  85. milongal on July 3, 2017 at 10:55 pm said:

    I think you’re a Sydneysider Pete, so not sure how well you know that stretch of beach (if you do, feel free to ignore the rest of this) – it is about as narrow as an Adelaide beach would get – and likely often underwater at high tide (get on google street view and go to the corner Bickford St and the Esplanade, Somerton Park [and skip through the various dates too] – although there is some height from the road so it’s not fully clear how narrow it is, it should given an idea – and I reckon if you ‘drive’ along the map, you’ll see the beach actually narrows at that spot…).
    Of course, water lapping around a body could wash away vomit, but it would also leave salt stains on clothes and make the shoe leather funny (and I’d imagine the clothes would’ve still been damp too). While the beachscape might have changed a little since the 1940s, I don’t think the narrowness is all that new (I found an online picture before of the beach from about the Somerton Surf Life Saving club many moons ago, and the beach didn’t look all that different).

    To me the ‘drunk’ on the beach can not be SM (or at least if it was he left/was moved and returned, I suppose). This idea is strengthened by the fact that witnesses saw the man but could not agree it was definitely SM (“Civil Twilight” ended at 7:42pm) – interesting that the witnesses who saw him arounf 7PM (while it must still have been light) couldn’t say the body had the same face, and the couple who saw him later (albeit possibly when darkness was setting in, as the streetlights were on if we believe wiki) saw there were ‘mosquitoes’ (I think more likely flies) around his face that he wasn’t reacting to, but couldn’t agree the face was the same either (It’s interesting I can’t see any street lights in the picture with the ‘X’ anywhere within cooee – but with the angle there may well have been one directly behind them)

    It all suggests the man sighted on Tuesday night as maybe not being the body on Wednesday – and when people say ‘but what are the odds, same location’ etc, I would suggest that next to stairs/walkways to the beach would be a common spot for people to rest.

  86. milongal on July 4, 2017 at 2:16 am said:

    Was Jetty Rd where the Rubaiyat was found? GF says: “…who used to regularly park his car in Jetty Road”, rather than committing to that being the actual place although the Newspaper articles seem more adamant (they consistently talk about a “businessman” finding the book “on the back seat” of his car “parked in Jetty Road” in “November” (I find this interesting, because the implication is the Rubaiyat was actually found before the fact – making it more likely it was SM who got rid of it – but not that day….There’s also an interesting question about how he was certain it was in November – vague recollection something about an air show at Parafield). Their consistency may just indicate fact-sharing (they also all talk about the fragment being “trimmed” and even suggest that although the paper was thought to be the same (ie same texture and colour paper), a conclusive link between the book and the fragment wasn’t actually made.

    What stuck out for me, however, was (closed the article before noting date):
    A photographic reconstruction of the body made by the police is available for inspection at the Detective Office.

    So all the talk about the picture appearing tampered with would seem to be on the money – but it’s worth pointing out the police apparently never tried to hide this fact (that is, so there’s no need to suspect ulterior motive there). That, and the difference between the bus and the “photo” might go a long way to explaining Jestyn’s reaction – that is, that she did indeed know SM, but from the pictures in the paper had convinced herself that it wasn’t him – and was rather startled when she realised it was.

    But that was all totally aside – I was looking for the location of the car because I think people don’t quite realise the distances (in fact I think the original reports are to blame). The papers talked about her living “a quarter mile North” and in modern measure this seems to be echoed in Wiki’s “about 400m North”. By my measure, it’s closer to 500m North AND 400m East. So the actual distance from her house to where SM was found is closer to 900m. Jetty Road (the heart of Glenelg) is about 1.1km North from her house (along the beachfront it would probably be about 1.8km from the body, and close to an even 2km if you swung by her house – although I did dig up an article 20 year before hand complaining about the lack of bins along the beach). While this doesn’t immediately discount any of the events anyone has talked about, it’s worth noting because I think most people assume the distances are much smaller.

  87. Byron Deveson on July 4, 2017 at 7:41 am said:

    The World’s News (Sydney) 22nd October 1921 page 10.
    “Rat poison. …… Experiments have found barium carbonate to be the most effective poison, as it is tasteless, odourless, effective and easily obtained.”

    Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW) 14th August 1929 page 1
    “Notice to canegrowers. Barium carbonate rat poison in biscuit form is now available, free on application at Harwood Mill. Bring your own tins. C. Goddard. Secretary Clarence Sugar Executive.”

    The Armidale Chronicle (NSW) 17th June 1925 page 3.
    “…..The most effective poison bait can be obtained from all chemists. Barium carbonate 8 oz., oatmeal 16 ozs., beef dripping 8 ozs., salt 1/2 oz., …… cut into /2 in. cubes. This is sufficient for 1,000 baits…..”

    Northern Star (Lismore, NSW) 17th July 1909 page 8.
    “Eating poisoned flesh: An old trick exposed. A peculiar poison of gypsies known as drab has just been identified by Mr J. Myers as barium carbonate, known to mineralogists as Witherite. An old practice of gypsies was to poison pigs and then eat the flesh., and Professor Sherrington concludes that if the poison was barium carbonate the flesh would be safe to eat provided all parts coming in contact with the entrails were carefully washed.”

    Hmm. I wonder how many people in 1948 knew that barium carbonate was a tasteless and effective poison? Many, indeed most poisons available in 1948 had a strong taste that would tend to make them generally ineffective for homicidal purposes. I note that the mineral Witherite occurs at two localities in South Australia; at Wheal Watkins at Glen Osmond and at the Commonwealth Mine in the Mt Painter area, Flinders Ranges. It is also found at the Rosebery Mine, Tasmania and at Hoskin’s Mine, Grenfell, NSW. Glen Osmond is a suburb of Adelaide and Wheal Watkins mine is 13 Km (8 miles) east of Somerton Beach. Hmm. There are relatively few places worldwide where the mineral Witherite can be found, 259 to be exact (see Mindat.org). I calculate that there is about a 0.04% chance of an occurrence of Witherite being within 13 Km of Somerton beach (and Moseley Street). If I just consider Australia the odds lengthen to about 1 in 8,000. Hmm.

  88. Byron: surely most pharmacies would have stocked some?

  89. Before we all jump to conclusions, do you think it wise to compare the effects of barium carbonate ingestion to those as detailed in the inquest papers?

    This, for instance, fro toxnet.nim.nih.gov.

    SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS/ Most patients with barium intoxication have gastrointestinal and cardiac involvement with tetraplegia. Barium carbonate is a rare cause of hypokalemic periodic paralysis. Diarrhea and arrhythmias are due to direct stimulatory action of barium ions on smooth and cardiac muscles. Heart failure and hypertension may occur in a few cases. Barium blocks the potassium channels and thus potassium efflux from the muscle is reduced whereas the sodium-potassium pump is intact. This causes increased potassium in the muscle and decreased resting membrane potential. Barium acts mainly at the neuromuscular junction by this mechanism.

  90. Petebowes: gastrointestinal? Check. Cardiac failure (in systole)? Check. Available in SA at the time of death? Check. Not known to coroner? Check.

  91. As an aside, imagine the frightening concept where both the Somerton code and the Voynich Manuscript are proved to be examples of steganography.

  92. Byron Deveson on July 5, 2017 at 12:44 pm said:

    Nick, quite right. And, yes, most pharmacies would have stocked barium carbonate at the time for D.I.Y. rat baits. I was just covering all bases. I expect a cunning poisoner would take care about the purchase of a poison. I would expect that in 1948 it would be necessary to sign the poisons register and the pharmacist would have to know the purchaser. I also had in mind a certain person, a plausible gypsy, who had a deep interest in pharmacology. The poisoner may not have known the chemical identity of the poison, but knew that a mineral with certain physical properties (high density, appearance, crystal form etc.) was poisonous. And maybe the intention was not to kill, but just to make ill. And maybe this person had been told by local gypsies that “drab” could be obtained from the Wheal Watkins mine at Glen Osmond.

  93. Byron: also, the suggestion that a pharmacist might have used barium carbonate is, of course, far too obvious for any highly-skilled conspiracy theorist to put forward. So in the end perhaps that’s all it will come down to. :-/

  94. john sanders on July 5, 2017 at 2:22 pm said:

    So lets try sexing this up a little and talk about the new single serve IV shooters like sodium p. (& dirivitives), warfarin or even LSD which the FBN were playing with in ’48. Good spy v. Spy stuff and still in service because of their effectiveness and quick dispersal properties. Our late Victorian era medical witnesses seemed a little shy on the subject at the inquest, making self serving guestimates about this & that whilst not being too commital and one can’t help but noting, they all relied Cowan’s ability for analytic discovery. Dwyer and Cleland both hinted about masking IV delivery but did not play it up and although Dwyer made mention of the marks between the knuckles, he was not overly concerned that they might have concealed a logical entry site for a hyperdermic syringe; such as the one found on the beach?.

  95. milongal on July 5, 2017 at 10:53 pm said:

    I thought (and could be wrong) the only mention of a syringe was by Leane in the Documentary years later…..and I thought Leane wasn’t one of the attending police in the early days, so the syringe is easily dismissed. How does one administer a syringe between the knuckles without being noticed (I suppose there’s nothing to say it wasn’t noticed).

    What’s to say the poison was bought in SA and not carried interstate? Poisons’ registers are all beaut and fine, but the further away from a crime scene you buy them, the harder they are to track, no?

    Finally, and way off track, but transport buff stuff just because there’s a hint of a coincidence…..
    I can recall Adelaide bus numbering in the 90s having 161 (and later 163, 164, 165, 166, I think) on Glen Osmond road, and 167/168 to Moseley Sq Glenelg. I know when I was driving buses (in the early 0’s) there was a lot of through running and generally the numbers were related (10_ on Magill Road to 11_ on Grange Road, 12_ on the Parade to 13_ on Henley Beach Rd, 14_ on Kensington Road to 15_ on Port Road (and later some to 13_ on Henley Beach Road, 171/172 from inner South through Hutt St to 173-179) North East, and the 182 on Prospect Rd became the 19_s along Unley Rd [The 170-190 routes befuddled my rule that buses starting with a 1 ran primarily East/West and crossed the city through North Tce or Grenfell St, and buses starting with a 2 ran North/South via King William). 203 became 204-209 (and later the 203 became a 200 and a 202 existed on the other side too), 21_ Goodwood Rd became 22_ Main North Rd, 23_ Arndale and Churchill Rd became 24_ Marion, 253 (later 25 anything) Torrens Road became 26_ via Anzac highway. 271/273 North East Rd became 275/278 to Glenelg, 281/282 Paradise became 286/287 Henley beach, 291/292 Marden/Oakden became 296/297 (300s were primarily Western Suburbs, 400s were Northern Suburbs, 500s were OBahn, 600s were Inner South (Marion/Blackwood – but can’t recall whether they existed before Serco lost their contracts, or whether they had different numbers – I know a lot of through running at Marion was swapped for little 600 routes that went to the suburbs (and strangely at Arndale, POrt Adelaide and West Lakes the opposite happened a lot of little 300 series routes became through running off other services)), 700s were outer South, 800s were Adelaide Hills services. (from memory, school routes used a 600 or 800 series on the ticket machine (888 rings a bell??), but displayed a letter) But we digress…
    While I understand the system wasn’t under MTT/STA/TA/PT[BO] and was privately run, and probably looked vastly different to the system in the 90’s, the numbering in the 90s hints that at some stage there was a Glen Osmond to Glenelg (via City) Bus Service – that’s not a bad coincidence either….
    On a side note, I much preferred that than the random letter these days that seems to refer to a road at one end of the route….

  96. milongal on July 6, 2017 at 3:28 am said:

    The newspapers always referred to the man as a “businessman”. This seems to imply one of several things:
    1) Someone who literally owns a business (for some reason for me a publican springs to mind – which is perhaps consistent with the car “normally being parked on Jetty Road” and “parked near the Pier Hotel)
    2) Someone who wears a suit every day and likely works an office job (as opposed to Salesman)
    3) Someone who is described as a businessman to obscure their identity or part of it (other than spy or copper, this might include people in the military or certain types of government employees? Especially in a paranoid Cold War world)

    There’s a niggle with me that Prosper may have been described as a business man, but the fuzz would surely have twigged to that if it were the case (if not at the time, then certainly GF).

    In other news, the papers of the time consistently talk about the TS fragment being “[neatly] trimmed” – this is sort of unusual if its primary purpose was to demonstrate a link between the fragment and the book (whether spy theory, or bodgey car sale theory or other).
    There was a Darwin man R E Davis who was dismissed as a possibility because he was 3 inches too tall (from memory that still makes him 1 inch shorter than the Fed)?
    I think I mentioned it yesterday, but the papers seem to prefer the term “photographic reconstruction” rather than “photograph”
    There was something I wanted to say about Carlin’s suitcase (1950s), but I forgot
    The papers also seem to focus on cause of death being unknown (that is, the implication is the coroner never concluded it was poison, just said poison because nothing else could be explained)
    The papers seem to be careful saying the paper is the same texture and colour on fragment and book, but not that they’re conclusively same.
    A newspaper article about the lady leaving flowers suggest she was an elderly woman (ie not Jestyn)
    There was also a Leonard Berry (owner, not brand) suitcase found in early Dec ’48
    There was a body found on Semaphore beach (ie closer to Largs Bay) 3 days after SM
    The train ticket was “Punched, but not used”. I’d like to knwo what that means. I thought it gets punched when used, but there’s a suggestion in one of the papers that it would have been punched on the platform (or to access the platform) – but in that case I don’t know how you tell it’s not used – unless it gets punched twice

  97. john sanders on July 6, 2017 at 2:29 pm said:

    Well, we did have the Ina Harvey needle, which as I recall, prompted a degree of lively discussion and resulted in a no contest between two lively combatants. In hindsight I think Ina may have added a litte guilding to a story conveyed to her by her brother Tom Loftus, SM’s mortician, perhaps some lengthy period after his involvement. It was suggested that this concerned a possible suspicious possible jection mark on the cadaver, so to speak and if so, Ina may have seen it as her moral duty to make this known. I still believe that her hotel room staffer reported some unusual piece of equipment in the guest’s room, but alas we will never likely find out whether it was a hypo. syringe, a mod. 03 Win. semi auto magazine, or indeed a common everyday flute cleaner sans flute.

  98. It was probably a flute needle old salt, commonly found in a flute case.

  99. john sanders on July 12, 2017 at 3:04 am said:

    Leane’s active involvement in the case only came about after ‘the case’ was found, that is not to say that he wasn’t at the beach on the day, perhaps overseaing a search for evidence. He claims to have found the hypodermic syringe about 100yds from “where he was sitting on the seat”. OK, so who saw him on the seat?; The one seat that I’m aware of was on the other side of the mainly unusable stairway, the one that provided Strapps and Neill with their main vantage point. The other question is how can a dead or dieing man get from that position to the one in which he was found? he may have clambered over the broken stairs or jumped down to the beach and struggled gamely around, but why would he attempt such a tricky maneuvre? after all one spot is as good as the next when you’re on your last legs. Of course he may’ve taken his chances on actually climbing the stairs, seeking help but then lost balance and tumbled off through the broken railing and ending up insitu at X marks the spot. As for the syringe, well ” it’s all down there in the place still; the police have it”. ” Thanks for that Lionel and another Coopers pale if you think you can get one down “.

  100. milongal on July 12, 2017 at 9:39 pm said:

    @JS – agree the syringe bit comes across very unreliable. In more recent times some Adelaide beaches have had a problem with syringes (not ones in that area, I think, but I vaguely remember areas Henley to Semaphore being in the local Messenger – then again, probably a different Messenger for Glenelg (West rather than Portside, or something)). As you point out, the further away the syringe is, the less likely it is to be linked (if it even existed).

    As for the Coopers, for some reason I always assumed Leane wanted Sparkling Ale (but I guess the Sydneysiders might not have realised and bought the Pale instead).

  101. milongal on July 19, 2017 at 11:02 pm said:

    There are 10 “R Francis” listed in the Adelaide directory from 1948. The 2 closest to Glenelg (not that living close to Glenelg is necessarily important) are an R E Francis in Melbourne St, St Leonards (about 1km North of Pier Hotel) and an R S P Francis in Elder Terrace, Glengowrie (aabout 3km East from the the Pier Hotel). Two suburbs further North-East again (past the Morphetville Racecourse) is South Plympton, and in the North Eastern corner of this suburb is Winifred Avenue (where H C Francis lived) – About 7km from Glenelg.

    To be fair to GF, the media accounts don’t appear to agree with themselves on when the book was found:
    “In November”
    “In November some weeks before the body was found”
    “At about the time of the Parafield Air Show”
    “At about the time the body was found”
    etc.

    I think some of this is journalists adding words and inadvertently making the timeframe more specific than it was.
    eg:
    “When did you find the rubaiyat?”
    “Well, I remember we were taking the kids to the Parafield Air Show, so we cleaned the car out then, and the book definitely wasn’t there at the time”
    “Would you have been in the area of Glenelg since then?”
    “Well sure, I work in Colley Tce, so I’m there almost every day – sometimes I’m lucky and I get a park up the top end of Jetty Rd”
    “And could you have found the book much later? Say this year?”
    “Oh no, we definitely found it before we went Christmas Shopping – and that would have been the first weekend in December. We always try to get that out of the way in Early December”.

    So this gets translated by police to:
    “The Rubaiyat was found between the Parafield Air Show and December”
    and then the media further bastardises that into “some time in Novemeber” (or whatever else they came up with).

    TBH, I prefer the Rubaiyat appearing before SM dies anyway, because as I think I’ve said before the nature and location of the TS fragment to me suggests it wasn’t used as a method of identification.
    So when GF says “don’t believe all you read in the media” I think he’s making the point that they don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. Perhaps more to the point, they need to make things sound good, – and if this inadvertently masks actualities then so be it. The specifics (from a media perspective) aren’t really that important, in fact in most cases the specifics aren’t important for ‘most everyone….(It’s also possible he’s alluding to the fact that in some cases the facts released to the media are released a particular way to put a particular spin on things – but I think that’s less likely in this case).

    Incidentally, if the relationshp between Francis and the Car-owner is BiL, then the car-owners surname is not likely to be the same….

  102. milongal on July 19, 2017 at 11:48 pm said:

    If we really care about Ronald Francis (and I’m not sure if we do)….

    It occured to me that either Ronald Francis or his sister must have been married (in fact I originally figured he had kids, but instead I think the ownder of the car had kids…call it speculation based partly on the fact that he went to the Air Show, and partly because I’m sure someone’s account said so – just not sure whose) so (on the odd chance that that is actually his name) I thought I’d trawl the personals between 1920 and 1945 looking for births and engagements (when I started I was working on the kid hypothesis, and so cut off the search at 1945, because even at 3 years old they maybe a little young for an airshow).

    What really struck me was the number of “Ronald Francis” as a first-middle name combination. That is, there must have been hundreds of “Ronald Francis X”s wandering around (even more than Pavel Ivanovich Fedosimoff’s).

    Eventually I found an engagement for a Ronald Francis in 1942:
    MARSHALL—FRANCIS.—The engage-
    ment is announced of Grace Florence,
    youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F. W.
    Marshall, of West Thebarton rd., Thebar-
    ton, to Ronald Howard, elder son of Mr.
    and Mrs. L. F. Francis, of Cawthorne st.,
    Southwark.

    I’d like to be clear that I’m not suggesting anything other than I found a Ronald Francis in Adelaide (West Thebarton Rd, Thebarton is an Adelaide address. I think a part of Thebarton might have once been Southwark (certainly there’s a Cawthorne St in Thebarton, and I’m pretty sure what most people call the “West End Brewery” is actually (or was) the “Southwark Brewery”). In fact Google’s fun fact is that Colonel William Light (you know, the guy who planned Adelaide) lived on Cawthorne St, Southwark. There doesn’t appear to be any RH Francis in the 1948 directory, however there are 3 just plain old ‘R Francis’, and 2 of them are close to Thebarton (Torrensville and West Croydon). (NOTE: I sort of subscribe to the idea that in Adelaide and possibly elsewhere people often stay close to their roots – at least when they first leave home)

  103. john sanders on October 17, 2017 at 2:56 am said:

    If any of Gerry’s people are still tuned in; perhaps he might like to comment as to the possibility that it wasn’t Ron Francis that he spoke with in recent years, he having passed on in ’87, but the ‘ brother in law ‘ who died on 4/7/15.

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