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what do we really know of jessica harkness?

In short, not much.

We know she met Alf Boxall a couple of times at the Clifton Gardens hotel. We know she gave him a hardcover, inscribed copy of the Rubaiyat at one of those meetings.

We also know when Gerry Feltus interviewed her years later and asked her a few questions about Alf, Jessica said she had no recollection of ever meeting him.

We know that in the 40’s Jessica was a nurse (in training) at the Royal North Shore Hospital at St. Leonards, which is about 10 kilometres distant from the hotel.

We know that on at least one of these meetings with Alf she was accompanied by Heather Musgrave (nee Morris) who was married to Tom Musgrave.

We know that Lieutenant Alf Boxall and Lieutenant Tom Musgrave were colleagues who both worked as Engineers at the Georges Head Army Water base in the 40’s.

We know that in the 40’s Heather Musgrave was a nurse at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at Camperdown, which is about 20 kilometres from the Clifton Gardens hotel.

This meant that for all four of them to meet at the Clifton Gardens, Tom and Alf had to walk up the hill from the Army base, Jess either drove or caught a bus from St. Leonards and Heather would have taken at least an hour to get there after travelling from Camperdown, through the city and over the Harbour Bridge.

That’s a lot of travelling for a few ‘quick snorts and away.’

officers qtrs

The WW2 Middle Head Convalescent Hospital

Then again, maybe not.

The Officers quarters (above) at Middle Head is a Victorian Regency style building that was built on a rough stone base. It was designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet and is considered to be one of the most significant buildings at Middle Head. The site incorporates a defensive ditch or moat and includes a fortification wall. The house looking in the direction of Middle Harbour meant that it could be used for surveillance purposes as well. (Wikipedia)


During World War II this building served as a Red Cross Hospital for the care of soldiers convalescing from their wounds after the fighting in New Guinea. Soldiers who were transported from Sydneys’ major hospitals, including the Royal North Shore and Royal Prince Alfred.

By bus, taxi or ambulance.

With attendant nursing care.

Heather and Jessica.


Now we have everyone working within a kilometre of each other.

Now we can call up Mr Gordon Cramer an ask him what secrets Alf might have learnt whilst working at the Water Base, secrets he wrote in miniature code in a copy of the Rubaiyat before passing it to Jessica.

Then we can look at what the Musgraves might have been doing before they left for Queensland, and whether one of the meetings with Jess and Alf at the Clifton Gardens was a handover.

Fairground rides in photo


Stuart Littlemore to Alf Boxall from the ABC documentary series.

“So she (Jessica) couldn’t have known about your involvement with Intelligence?”

A measured, five second pause from Alf.

“Only if someone else told her.”

jessica and robin

Jessica and Robin – circa 1948

The Bookmaker from Rabaul is a confounding mixture of fact and fiction, so much so that the reader will not be able to tell whether he or she is coming or going.



23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fascinating post Pete!

    April 15, 2016
  2. ellen #

    You have Boxall passing the book to Jessica. Wouldn’t Jessica have to be passing it to him, in order for him to have it in the ’70’s on TV? Jessica’s denying she knew Boxall, who was such a cutie at that time, sounds like sour grapes. Perhaps he dumped her. He was a shy married man after all, turning down a fast number.

    April 16, 2016
  3. You live in Hollywood, Ellen, right? Not that I don’t mind sex, drugs and rock and roll..

    April 16, 2016
  4. One of Jessica’s uncles lived within a 10 minute drive and I remember hearing or reading that she stayed with him for a time. Also, Heather was already married to Musgrave but I am left with the impression that perhaps this wasn’t publicly known??? She had supposedly rented accommodations nearby while her husband was stationed there. I can’t remember where I read that.

    April 16, 2016
  5. Did Jessica have lateral incisors? Could the missing teeth have been inherited through her rather than through Robin’s father? It’s hard to tell from the few pics we have of her…

    April 16, 2016
  6. ellen #

    Why would Jessica deny that she knew Boxall to a researcher like Feltus? They had traced the Rubiyat to her through him.
    She was an unwed mom who married a divorced man. In the ’40’s that was daring.
    Her teeth look like they need work. (From a USA perspective.) That’s why I think T Keane who was a Harkness is the SM.
    Pete: What global event happened a couple of weeks prior to this meeting at Clifton Garden?
    Only the dropping of two A-bombs….not to mention the George Marshall inquest.
    I think you have a prequel here.

    April 17, 2016
  7. Xlamb #

    Misca….Makara from Websleuths / Taman Shud site did a piece on this. I’m sure her research showed the condition was only passed on via the Mother. I’m now blocked (due to Nick / Jazz letters) so maybe you can check. She always seems thorough with research.
    I could never understand why Robin’s children from 2nd. marriage couldn’t sort out the DNA / Robin / SM paternity questions from the outset. And that DNA used to check re- Kate for Robin / Prosper / or SM paternity. Done privately and easier than SM’s exhumation & less fuss. I’m sure DA would have checked his kids teeth also… hoping!

    April 17, 2016
  8. Ditto that on Websleuths – I asked them why and a moderator replied to say that the thread had become a little difficult to maintain – it sounds like the same individuals are doing the same thing in another place.

    April 17, 2016
  9. Xlamb #

    DA also stated that Prosper was sterile to support his Robin / SM paternity claims, and kind of insidious considering the implications to Kate. He was later made to acknowledge ‘baby Elizabeth’ from Prospers previous marriage died (I’ll send to you Pete). That doesn’t necessarily discount DA’s theory, but I think there was an easier way to find out, minus all the publicity that now haunts this family. If SM proves to be Robin’s biological father, would SM want this fallout as his legacy to family.
    DA managed to keep other important factors secret e.g., his marriage and children to Ms. Egan, so he’s was very capable of doing likewise for the family DNA tests, family tree research etc.. He could have done all this privately. I can only think he wanted to make a show of it, enjoyed the spotlight, the public display and notoriety it generated.. He built an empire around a theory.

    April 17, 2016
    • Xlamb, do you know what year Kate Thomson was born, and whether she still lives in Adelaide? I only ask for accuracies sake as I’m attempting to put together a comprehensive afterword at the end of the book. Kind of like an update and summary of GF’s book.

      April 17, 2016
  10. Xlamb #

    Pete…like a ‘where a they now’ reality reference.
    Our ‘said’ very chatty 1/2 brother James Thomson was full of facts and gossip, re- Kate & extended family members, but never sure which was what. As it was none of my business or interest (as this was James ‘said’ family connection & not mine), I pretty much blipped most of it out re- cottage renos interstate, or whether living back in Adelaide etc. That was from over 3 years back anyway, and things change. I know I’ve either seen or was told birth year details, but lack recall or where I’ve seen this info. posted since. Didn’t GF’s book covered it for Jestyn / the nurse section, or maybe find it on DA’s Reditt Q & A thread.

    April 17, 2016
  11. Hi Pete and All. My view on what took place at the Clifton Gardens Hotel, if indeed it did take place there, was that it was a training session. Briitish Intelligence, specifically SOE, under the leadership of Leo Marks, was in the habit of recruiting trainee nurses from the Nursing Yeomanry and training them as code breakers, trainers and sometimes couriers. It was I think more than coincidental that Jessica did not pass her nursing exams in Sydney as was the case of the recruited and trained members of the Nursing Yeomanry in the UK.

    The technique used, Ink H, was an SOE technique. Layer of ink first followed by sharp pencilled microcode and then a layer of ink on top. To develop the message you simply immersed the whole in household bleach which removed the ink and left the pencil. I note that with verse 70, there was no final layer of ink possibly because this was a training session and they wanted to be able to view the results there and then and not destroy the book in the process.

    I do not see that Alf and Jessica were exchanging secret messages at this stage, I believe this was purely a training exercise.

    Were the Musgraves involved and being trained? I really don’t know, it is possible that they weren’t and that if they all met at the Hotel, it may have been part fo the course for Jessica to hand over a clandestine message.

    There is another scenario, whilst we have the book and the verse, or at least the Good Professor does, we can’t really say when the microcode was added, I think it’s fair to say that it could have been added much later by Alf but somehow I think that, given subsequent events and the discovery of microcode on the code page, it was option 1, the training course for Jessica. I find it interesting that Professor Abbott has been unable to see what you will see in the images provided.

    Was Alf involved in Intelligence work? There is nothing to say he was or wasn’t but he was involved in Observation and he may well have been trained in the use of codes and clandestine messaging, his experience may have qualified him as an instructor.

    Just to muddy the waters a little, the Italian Mafia has used micro written codes for many years, they were known as ‘pizzini’ tiny scraps of paper with equally tiny handwritten codes.

    New images of the Verse 70 page are on the blog and I think Pete has copies.

    April 18, 2016
  12. ellen #

    So Jessica denied knowing Boxall to Feltus in 2002. That’s pretty brazen. (Since I am from Hollywood and wink wink look like a movie star) I’ll posit that Jessica was a hypnotized agent like Candy Jones. She had no knowledge of her courier status and could ignore two possibly three Rubaiyats (one of which appeared at George Marshall’s death). Or, she is a liar, liar pants on fire.

    April 19, 2016
  13. Candy … I can dig it.

    But whereabouts in that outfit does she hide her miniature camera?

    April 19, 2016
  14. Clive #

    Misca, Must have been an undercover agent?

    April 21, 2016
  15. Byron Deveson #

    I Jessie was only a casual acquaintance of Alf Boxall, then how could she remember his Sydney address after four years?

    May 7, 2016
  16. ellen #

    Shhh, Byron. You mustn’t offend the descendant relatives of Derek Abbot. Probably just a crush.

    May 8, 2016
  17. ellen #

    Seriously, I think she was alerting the police that Boxall was her handler and that she was involved with higher sources.

    May 8, 2016
  18. Ellen, the police thought the body was Boxall … right up to when they showed her the bust, and after, when she nearly fainted. Their curiosity would have been properly aroused when they found old Alf alive and well in the Randwick Tramshed. The mystery is why they didn’t go back and re-interview her.

    May 8, 2016
  19. ellen #

    The interview took place when they showed her the bust. She wasn’t forthcoming when questioned, even with Gerry Feltus years later. Her fainting told them everything.
    What if Mr Cowan was in cahoots with Mr. Francis?

    May 10, 2016
  20. Is there any record of Jessica working at the Somerton Crippled Children’s Home? It seems likely seeing as how she lived so close.

    August 1, 2016

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