out!! damned slip.
On December 1st Police Constable John Moss walked down the steps opposite the Children’s Home to see what all the fuss was about. He had just received an urgent call at the station from John Bain Lyons and whaddya know there was a body on the beach and it was stone cold dead. Lyons, a couple of jockeys, their horses and a few bystanders looking on. Gawking. So many billions of living people on the planet and a dead one fascinates us all.
PC Moss did all the right things, everything by the manual: check pulse, check eyeballs, check pockets. Life extinct. ID gone. No wallet. The only problems he had were John Lyons and the cigarette on the corpse’s collar. Lyons was insisting the smoke was virgin, Moss was negative on that, his evidence at the inquest said that the smoke had been smoked.
Prophetic that, here we are nearly seventy years on and still arguing.
PC Moss waited for the ambulance then accompanied it and the dead man to the Adelaide Hospital where he waited for Doc Bennet to show up and do the proper and legal thing.
Now that the deceased was officially dead PC Moss climbed back in and directed the ambulance to the City Morgue where the body was unloaded, taken upstairs, stripped and slid into a cold storage unit.
December 1948 turned into January 1949.
January turned into February.
February turned March.
March turned into April 19th.
April is considered to be derived from the latin aperire ‘to open’ and this was the day the venerable Professor John Burton Cleland LQMP, Emeritus Professor of Pathology at the University of Adelaide, together with Government Analyst James Cowan visited the Metropolitan Police Station. The suitcase had been found a day or so previously and they thought it opportune to see if the duds on the body was the same size as the duds found in the case. Prof Cleland put his hand up for the two coats, tried them on, took them off then had a ferret around in the trouser pockets. He had the reputation of being a naturally curious fellow.
Cleland aperired the fob pocket wide enough to extract the small slip of paper he had felt with his fingers in its deepest recesses. Word had it he needed a pair of tweezers to do the job.
Prof Cleland immediately handed the slip to Detective Sergeant Leane who passed it on to Detective ‘Len’ Brown and asked if he could hop onto his bike and find someone who knew what the two words meant.
April turned into May.
May turned into June.
During the month of June Detective Brown visited Mr Whiting of the Adelaide Public Library who directed him to a distant shelf whereupon rested a little-used copy of a Persian-English dictionary. Some minutes later Whiting was astounded to observe Brown exiting the library at a gallop, waving the dictionary and shouting Eureka !!
And that was that, almost.
When Prof Cleland was asked to give his evidence at the inquest later that month he decided that a show-and-tell would best demonstrate how difficult the slip of paper had been to find. PC Moss was no doubt thankful.
The trouble was Cleland couldn’t find it on his first run through. Everybody sitting in court watching and waiting for the grand appearance and nothing came up trumps until the Prof had a second shot at it. This was not a good look for an Emeritus man.
Note: GF says on page 40, para 5: “It was later established that the following items were with the stranger.
A train ticket.
A bus ticket.
A part packet of Juicy Fruit chewing gum.
A box of Bryant and May matches.
An Army Club Cigarette packet with seven cigarettes of another brand inside.
A pair of underpants.