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four (or possibly more) reasons why the suitcase belonged to the Somerton Man

Gordon Cramer was kind enough to email me the link to a site called ‘‘ today.

The common belief is that the connection between that card of umber / tan thread and SM was a singular a repair made to his trousers. That and nothing else. A couple of roughly inserted stitches somewhere.

The Facts

“Professor Cleland’s evidence at the inquest stated that the coat collar worn by the deceased, together with a trouser pocket and several buttons in the trousers found in the suitcase had been mended by a thread similar in colour and size to that on the thread card found in the suitcase. He stated that the warm, sepia colour of the thread was an unusual colour.”

The venerable Professor John Cleland LQMP, Emeritus Professor of Pathology at the University of Adelaide even used a microscope to verify his findings.

The coat collar, a trouser pocket and several buttons. He found at least four solid connections.

Imagine SM stooped over his bunk, repairing his going ashore clobber under the poor light of one flickering globe. A lovely girl waiting in the next port.





15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Worth looking a little closer at the thread Pete. It was waxed and looking St the image of the actual card, it word appear to be around 5 grade which is 5 lengths of waxed linen.

    If you now look at the sewing needle needed for that thread and then compare it with the one found in the suitcase, a very different size. I always wondered why the needle didn’t have thread running through it.

    Back to the thread. This kind of waxed thread can be and was used to repair waterproof garments and, with the right needle, leather shoes. It was and is extensively used in bookbinding with the style used in the paperback version of the ROK being an example. There is one other use for that kind of waxed thread and that is in the building of a dury rig radio antenna which might be constructed using a couple of metal coathangers for example. Did you notice that the thread looked to have been rewound onto the card?

    I am not discounting what you have put forward because it’s possible and a valid option. What I am saying is there is a question about the needle and another issue regarding alternative uses.

    The lack of socks and an address book add to the puzzle. Could it be that the thread was planted because if that’s the case, the other reasons suggested for the case being his dissipate.

    February 28, 2016
    • It’s not a ‘valid option.’ Cleland was more than clear on the stand, and he handled the thread and saw the alterations.

      February 28, 2016
  2. Yes he did but he makes no mention of the guage nor the needle required. We agree to differ:)

    February 28, 2016
    • Gordon, I don’t see there is an argument. Sworn Coronial evidence by an Emeritus Professor of Pathology, a man who spent some hours examining the thread and repairs has to be believed, otherwise we will get nowhere.

      February 28, 2016
  3. Misunderstanding here maybe Pete. I don’t disagree with what the professor found, I am saying that it doesn’t conclusively prove that the suitcase and belongings were SM’s. It proves that the threads were similar. Way back when. I found that sepia coloured wax thread was used extensively in military issue ‘housewife’ kits. PIC somewhere on the blog of Canadian kit. Barbour’s were the main manufacturers for UK an had factories in the US. They have a museum still in Ireland.

    February 28, 2016
    • The prof got four good hits, GC, in any squad room that box would be ticked. It doesn’t mean SM wasn’t up to some nonsense though, what is suspicious is what was missing from the case, not what was in it.

      February 28, 2016
  4. A misunderstanding here maybe Pete. I am not disagreeing with what the Professor found, I am saying that he said that what he found proved was that the threads were ‘similar’ I think those were the words. No issue with that. However, it did not prove conclusively that the suitcase was SMs.
    Imagine if we had the good professor on the stand today and asked two questions of him:
    1. Professor Cleland you have given your evidence clearly stating that the thread in the repairs was similar to the thread on the card in the suitcase. Can you categorically say that the card and thread were put there by SM?

    2. Given that you cannot say that, are you able to categorically state that this was the man’s suitcase?

    Some years ago I researched the suitcase and contents including the thread. It transpired that Barbour’s Via it fact or is on Ireland and the US was a major supplier to theolitary of wax thread on cards, much of which was in sepia colour and was for inclusion in military ‘housewife’ kits
    There’s a PIC somewhere on the blog of a Canadian kit from ww2. The cards were the same shape as the suitcase one but did not always have the Barbour’s brand finish.

    February 28, 2016
  5. A correction to the last comment:
    “Some years ago I researched the suitcase and contents including the thread. It transpired that Barbour’s Via it’s factories in Ireland and the US was a major supplier to the military of wax thread on cards, much of which was in sepia colour and was for inclusion in military ‘housewife’ kits
    There’s a PIC somewhere on the blog of a Canadian kit from ww2. The cards were the same shape as the suitcase one but did not always have the Barbour’s brand finish.”

    March 1, 2016
  6. Socks found, well at least an image of his socks.
    You’ll need to scroll down a fair bit but there is a group of items including a pair of what look to be quite thick socks. The question is going to be are these the socks he was wearing or socks from the suitcase. They appear to be clean socks, you’ll see what I mean when you look at them.

    March 17, 2016
  7. Looking back at this post, something troubled me so I reviewed it start to finish and then cast myind back quite a few years to a time when I used to sit in squad rooms and attended various courses.

    One course, it was on timelines, had us focus on example timelines and at each node we were told to ask one question that question was , ‘what questions could I ask here?’

    So, with the venerable Professor’s finding of four hits, what questions could you possibly ask? Assuming that we all agree that most questions start with who, what, where and why I started with ‘who?’.

    In this case the professor found a cost repair, a trouser pocket repair and some buttons that had been repaired with thread that matched that found in the suitcase. No arguing with that. But here are the questions:

    1. Who did the repairs? We assume SM but we have no proof.

    2. When we’re the repairs done? What a question because the answer to that is the repairs were done some time before the Professor carried out his examination. That fact should tell you that anyone could have done those repairs at any time between when the suitcase was recovered and the time of the examination.

    In a squad room situation, you would be told in fairly earthy terms to organise your transfer back to uniform if you made the assumption that there was a clean and uninterrupted timeline between the two events.

    It’s not just the questionable evidence of the matching thread, there is other information that corroberates the notion that the suitcase is at the least unreliable and at worst a case of litter. In fact you might say a stitch up.

    April 30, 2016
  8. Lewiansto #

    So Gordon, if we are to accept that someone else might possibly have done the repairs that then leads to a bunch of new questions, doesn’t it?

    Why? To link SM to the suitcase, would be the obvious answer. That again begs the question: why? Why would someone want him connected to the suitcase?

    Who? Who had access? Who had motive?

    April 30, 2016
  9. Lewisanto,
    Correct, when you fire off one question and it results in an answer like the first question did, then you dig deeper.
    I agree that the idea was to link SM to the case.
    Your next question ‘why’ is best answered with another question, ‘What?’ As in What happened as a result of linking SM to the suitcase? And just as importantly, what didn’t happen?
    Here’s a couple of things that happened:
    1. We got a name, Keane. Significant time, effort and resources were devoted to tracking down the elusive Mr. Keane without success. But the powers that be were seen to be doing something at least. And just maybe that was the point.
    2. We got a whole caseful of belongings which, mixed and varied as they were, also kicked off a storm of theories on things like why weren’t the slippers the same size as the shoes or the tools in the case which were thought to be a stencillers kit. Byron has recently suggested they were used by metallurgists as part of a field kit in a search for uranium. A guess but one founded on experience. Does that make it conclusive? With great respect to Byron, I don’t think it does.

    However we did get something of value that gets very close to being conclusive. We got the prepaid letter cards. What’s special about them? They weren’t fingerprinted.
    They could have been and Jimmy Durham certainly had the experience having already lifted prints from a book earlier that year and secured a prosecution for a petty theft.
    How could prints have been lifted after 44 days? There were a number of methods available at that time including iodine vapour with steaming which may have done the job and cod have been tried. Normal dusting would only be effective for around 22 days in an open environment but as long as 33 days in a closed one such as a suitcase which would not have been good enough. That would leave one tried, tested and proven method used to recover prints from paper and some kinds of fabric, silver nitrate. In 1948 it had been around for 50 years.
    So why weren’t fingerprints taken from the letter cards? I asked Professor Abbott about that and his thoughts were that at the time, the police thought it was just a routine suicide and so no particular care was taken and the lettercards could have been contaminated due to to lots of people handling them. Whilst that is a possibility I don’t think it probable but for the same reasons, if it was just thought to be routine, no one would be bothered to look at the cards or the other contents.
    The question remains, why weren’t prints taken? Could it be related to the fact that SM’s fingerprints weren’t certificated/signed off by the person who took them? Could it be related to the fact that the book when found wasn’t fingerprinted even though, in theory at least, it could also have been treated with silver nitrate?

    One last question for this comment, my understanding is that Adelaide railway station had a time and date stamping machine at the left luggage office and indeed, the evidence talks of the time the suitcase was deposited. However, the image of the left luggage ticket shown in Gerry Feltus’s book shows only the date and not the time. It could be that the image was not of the original but until that’s confirmed we have another seriously questioned item.

    It strikes me that the only thing that could be called consistent about this case are the inconsistencies. And that in itself should tell us something about the real nature of the case.

    May 2, 2016
  10. Gordon, if the contents of the suitcase were indeed litter (remember those conversations?), would you accept that the set of tools might have been sourced from the one place? Possibly from an individual with a profession that required them? And after a quiet word from above.
    Car thief?
    Bio chemist?
    I know who I like.

    May 2, 2016
  11. Pete –

    How about we take a few items out of the picture? The clothes, gone. Now what are we left with? Next from the balance remove anything that could be described as an everyday item. What’s left could be a group of items that you could describe as special purpose.

    If you put yourself in the position of the literer, you wouldn’t want to be chasing around getting stuff from here, there and everywhere. I think you would grab all of the everyday bits from whereverand then grab that core group of SP items from one location.
    The questions would be, where would you expect to find a group of items like that? What sort of person would own them?

    May 2, 2016
  12. Stenciller?
    Car thief?
    Bio chemist?

    May 2, 2016

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