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Byron Deveson claims Cowan Conspiracy

Four days ago, Byron Deveson posted a couple of comments on another site but nobody has taken much notice of them, possibly because BD does go into some detail when he goes hunting.

There’s over 2,800 words.

I asked BD a couple of days ago whether he would mind if I picked it up here .. he didn’t say no so here we go. 

(The words are BD’s – the italics, colour and bold are mine.


“What I believe happened is that the rolled up piece of paper was planted to bolster the case for suicide. Planted by Mr Cowan.” Byron Deveson


Question: do the following comments point to a relationship that no-one thought existed?


<start of comment 1>

(a) Every time I read Appendix 10 (DNA – Exhumation) of Gerry’s book I am struck by how jarring I find it, particularly as the rest of the book is a smooth, dispassionate evaluation of the SM case. Gerry started out by wanting SM exhumed, but was then persuaded against it. Strongly persuaded.
I think it is fair to summarize the major points of Gerry’s arguments against exhumation as follows:

(1)  The difficulties associated with identifying SM’s by means of DNA.
(2) The matter of “non paternity events” confounding things.
(3) The lack of any evidence of a crime.
(4) The ethical question of disturbing SM’s remains.

(b) While there would have been difficulties with identifying SM from DNA data at the time Gerry wrote his book (2010), this is not the case today. In the last several years genealogical DNA testing has flourished and there are now combined DNA and genealogical databases that include about two million DNA test results. And many of the DNA tests are tied to family tree data. And each of these tests is capable of identifying genetically related people as far back as about six to eight generations. So, even at the present state of play, all persons carrying some European blood could be identified from the DNA data of distant relates.

(c) As an example, persons of largely European descent (ie. Such as SM who carries the typically European mitochondrial haplotype H) who test with generally get three thousand or more matches (ie. A DNA connection to 3,000+ distant identified living relatives). There is no reason to think that SM’s autosomal DNA would not similarly link him to 3,000 living people. And, judging from personal experience it is highly likely that some of these matches would include some second cousins once or twice removed. It is easy to identify who are the closest relatives because the percentage of shared genome decreases more or less by 50% with each generation and second cousins share about 3% common DNA. At this percentage of shared DNA the possibility of an incorrect match is vanishingly small, much less than one in a million. Once a close match is identified then it would generally be a straightforward genealogical exercise to identify SM.

(d) The figure of one in five quoted by GF for non-paternity events only applies to small, socially dysfunctional groups. The figure for SM’s forbear’s likely milieu is likely to be slightly greater than 1%. For more details Google “non paternity events”. For second cousins the percentage of confounding non-paternity events is small. And, in the event of a non-paternity event or an adoption, the other DNA matches would soon disclose the truth of the matter. ie. There would be potentially several thousand paths that can all be cross-checked to identify errors such as non-paternity events and adoptions, and faulty records.

(e) So the whole system has enormous built in redundancy and very powerful error correcting capability. And, while paternity might be subject to possible doubts, the possible doubt attached to documented maternal ancestors is much smaller. And about 50% of DNA is derived from female forbears, which is much less liable to doubt.

(f) Gerry was told that there was no evidence of foul play. This is not correct and I can only assume that the pathologist who proffered this opinion had not seen all the relevant documents that are available toda. Gerry sought the pathologist’s opinion in July 2001 (page so 201) and I seem to remember that a lot of relevant documents did not become available until after 2010.

(g) Regarding the ethical question of disturbing SM’s remains. I don’t think most people would object as there is evidence of foul play, there is the technology available to identify SM from his DNA, and there are probably close relatives (second cousins once removed) still alive who would like to know why he disappeared from contact and the circumstances surrounding his death.

(h) In addition I note that there seems to have been bad blood between the people from whom Gerry obtained the opinion regarding pathology questions, and the late JM Dwyer and Prof CB Cleland. This seems to have coloured the evaluation of the worth of both Dwyer’s and Cleland’s opinions.

(i) “In 1920 Cleland was appointed first Marks professor of pathology (which then included bacteriology) at the University of Adelaide. Although it ended his experimental studies in epidemiology it allowed him to begin a systematic study of what must be one of the largest series of meticulous autopsy examinations ever conducted by one person—over 7000. Cleland regarded each post-mortem examination as a voyage of discovery and never wearied, continuing to do routine autopsy work into his mid-80s.” Cleland, Sir John Burton (1878–1971) by R. V. Southcott.

(j) Contrast this with the statement (Feltus page 201) made about JB Cleland.
“Prof Cleland was actually a microbiologist with a particular interest in botany but he did go down to West Tce and do a few post mortems. He used to stretch out the removed intestine and go along sniffing for poisons”.

(k) Dwyer is damned with faint praise with the following.
“…. (Dwyer) was not a trained pathologist and knew almost no histology but neverless he was very experienced at post mortems. He was rarely caught short of a cause of death, almost never did any histology and would only do toxicology if he could not avoid it.”
I note that Dwyer was the President of the Australian Medical Association 1963-4 and he was awarded an O.B.E. and an E.D. for overseas service during WW2. He was a medical officer in the field and was promoted to full Colonel.

(l) On the other hand, Deputy Government Analyst Cowan isn’t criticised, although my evaluation (I am qualified to hold this opinion) is that he did a woeful job.
The police are praised while Dwyer, Cleland etc. are vilified.
“The only people to emerge well are the investigating police and it is no fault of theirs that we are no wiser as to the identity or cause of death.” 

Bottom line? I feel that the people at the Forensic Science Centre have mislead Gerry. Why? Well I know that Adelaide is a very incestuous and bitchy place with all sorts of hatreds beneath the apparent smooth surface. A pool of piranhas.

<end of comment 1>

<start of comment 2>

(m) There is evidence of poisoning because SM’s heart stopped in a contracted state, which is to say it was paralysed. Paralysed by some drug or toxin. There is no natural cause, only poison or toxin. And only a very few poisons or toxins paralyse the heart. That’s is why digitalis type alkaloids, curare, botulism and diptheria toxin were all mentioned at the inquest.

(n) Dwyer would have seen many cases of deliberate and accidental poisoning and he and Cleland would have been aware that the Soviets had been staging “suicides” since the 1920s. The forerunner of the KGB had a whole Department researching and enacting “suicides” and there was old KGB adage “Anyone can commit a murder, but it takes an artist to commit a suicide.” The KGB developed digitalis type drugs for assassination purposes and Cleland and Dwyer would have probably been aware of this. The CIA were investigating the use of lead tetraethyl for assassinations in the late 1940s and I note some British scientists were investigating the toxic alkaloid from the Tapas tree in 1950 that would give the same autopsy results.
Because there was other evidence of poisoning and because of the paralysed heart, suspicion fell on the digitalis group of drugs. All the evidence was consistent with digitalis poisoning (or any of the other very small group of drugs and toxins) except for the apparent lack of vomiting.

(o) But people have died from digitalis poisoning without vomiting. In fact, there was a paper published in the early 1980s in the New England Journal of Medicine in which experts in the field estimated that there had been 100,000 or more unrecognised deaths due to digitalis poisoning in the USA alone in previous decades due to faulty formulations of digitalis tablets resulting in wildly variable bioavailability. This was the reason why bioavailability testing of drugs that have poor solubility or a low therapeutic index (such as the digitalis type drugs) was rapidly mandated in the late 1970s (ie. British and US Pharmacopoeias), along with stringent tablet dissolution specifications and tablet uniformity of content specifications.

(p) These regulatory measures were especially necessary for digitalis which has a very low therapeutic index of four. Which is to say that the ratio of a deadly dose to the therapeutic dose can be as low as four. My point is that experts calculated that just in the USA alone 100,000+ people had died from digitalis poisoning, and nobody had ever noticed. The patients were all suffering from heart disease, so when they dropped dead it was unexceptional, even expected. This was potentially a great scandal, but like most cock-ups where the Government has at least some culpability, it was all quietly buried. My further point is that it is unlikely that many of those 100,000+ vomited immediately before death, otherwise the problem of variable bioavailability (I know that’s a cold blooded way of describing the avoidable deaths) would have become obvious long before the mid 1970s when it first surfaced.

(q) Prior to about 1960 it was possible for pharmacists in USA, Britain, Australia etc. to make and sell their own digitalis tablets, and this further added to the problem (non uniform mixing of ingredients, variable manufacture etc.). The wild variability in bioavailability meant that when a patient who was stabilised on a low bioavailability tablet received a new batch, or a different brand of digitalis tablets that had high bioavailability death could result. Dead easy to happen one could say.

(r) All of the medical people involved in the investigation thought that poisoning was the likely cause of death. Mr Cowan didn’t but he does not seem to have had much experience in toxicology apart from testing for poisons and when he received the samples he probably just ordered his staff (Assistant Government Analysts in those days didn’t do the actual testing, they just supervised) to do the standard suite of toxicological tests for a routine suicide investigation. And the samples were probably destroyed before their importance was recognised, and before the deficiencies in the toxicological testing became apparent.

(s) “…. the balance of expert evidence leaned towards the view that the Unknown Man had been poisoned.” Feltus page 199.
“Only one expert, Deputy Government Analyst Robert James Cowan ……. asserted that death was more than likely to have occurred from natural causes than through poison because of failure to detect any poison.” (note, his failure to detect …. so he would say that wouldn’t he? Any poison? But Cowan only tested for a small handful of the most common poisons).

“But, Dr Dwyer backs up his claim of poisoning because he saw signs of asphyxiation and there was “absolutely nothing wrong with the heart.””

So, the only person who discounted poisoning was Cowan, because he had not found any poison! But he would say that, wouldn’t he? (apologies to Mandy Rice-Davies).

say hi to Mandy


(t) There were probably undetected cases of deaths due to barium poisoning in South Australia in 1948-9 (the Bickford scandal) and I note that SM may have had prior GI trouble and so may have received an X-ray with the contaminated contrast media. The symptoms and autopsy findings would have been very similar to that of digitalis poisoning and the heart would have been paralysed. I note that SM had a patch of erosion at the back of his gullet and this could be down to reflux of the contaminated contrast medium.

(u) The very high levels of lead in SM’s hair do not appear to be accompanied by anything other than raised strontium (x3.5 from memory) and possibly raised arsenic. This suggests accidental or deliberate poisoning with a pure lead compound. I have long believed (and I have evidence to support my view) that most of the reported fatal lead poisoning cases were either down to faulty test methods or deliberate poisoning. I further believe that the child deaths supposedly due to ingestion of paint flakes were actually deliberate poisoning of unwanted children. I am not going to explain how this can be easily accomplished but many people in the past would have possessed the knowledge to make the poison without anyone being aware. No poison register, no sales of anything suspicious. Just stuff lying around most houses. And plentiful lead paint to blame as the unwanted children are buried.

(v) Medical people, even medical scientists and toxicologists, still believe that lead paint flakes taste sweet. Obviously none of them have ever tested (tasted) this assumption. It is too often repeated in medical text books. But, medicine is no different in this acceptance of old wives tales than other sciences, and far better in this regard than any other field of learning bar mathematics, physics and chemistry in that order.

(w) Somerton Man was deliberately buried in a dry sandy grave to facilitate exhumation and further testing. So the authorities at the time considered later exhumation could be warranted. What has changed?
There are now very sensitive test methods for organic poisons and mass spectroscopic methods can find things that are not suspected. For example there is an ultra-sensitive immunological test that could probably tell us if SM was taking digitalis for medicinal purposes and had taken an overdose, deliberate or otherwise. His DNA could reveal the diseases to which he was predisposed that could cause sudden death.

(x) Testing would reveal the distribution of lead in his organs and the isotopic ratios of the lead could indicate deliberate poisoning. Testing would also show if SM died as a result of lead or barium poisoning. I could go on, and on, but my point is that (contrary to the advice GF received) that modern methods could quite probably identify any poison in SM’s remains and DNA testing could identify his genetic weak points (such as a genetic predisposition to sudden cardiac death etc.).

(y) Lastly, I don’t buy the standard story that Australia in 1948 was awash with faceless refugees who could just vanish into smoke. That is the Standard Story that is endlessly repeated and endlessly accepted. If you want proof just check the police gazettes for the late 1940s and see how many people that the police were searching for were found. In nearly all cases the people whom the police wanted to find (criminal suspects) were located.Yes, many “missing people” were apparently not located, but this is an artifact. If, nearly always when, a “missing person” was located the police were not allowed to notify relatives if the “missing person” did not permit this. This of course meant that police weren’t particularly interested in “missing persons” and didn’t bother much. You can even see this in the lackadaisical search for SM’s identity.

(z) How many initially unidentified corpses remained unidentified in post WW2 Australia? I have looked and I can’t find a single one. How many unidentified bodies are buried in Australian cemeteries post WW2? None, apart from SM, that I can find.

Unlike most other places in the world people can only arrive in Australia by ship or by air. You can’t slip across a border and walk into Australia, at least not until Mr Rudd facilitated walking on water. The authorities always kept detailed records and the failure to identify SM doesn’t ring true to me. Authorities in Australia have always kept a close eye on people, contrary to the Standard Story. I well remember one night in the mid 1970s trawling through microfilm from the British PRO and finding one of my great great grandmothers in a list of single women, and the men with whom they were living. In 1806, in Sydney. A list created by some nosy, scolding Government official, for no good reason, and still preserved. And Government officials haven’t changed.

Regarding that piece of paper at the heart of the SM mystery. What I believe happened is that the rolled up piece of paper was planted to bolster the case for suicide. Planted by Mr Cowan. Consider the position that Cowan was in. He had bungled the toxicological investigation and I suspect he might have ordered the autopsy samples destroyed before the importance of the case became clear. So, he was desperate for the case to go away. What Cowan could not have foreseen is the “code” on the copy of the ROK piqued Cleland’s suspicion that the case might involve espionage. Cowan had both motive and opportunity.


I will finish by pointing out that much of the speculation above is testable when SM is exhumed. And he will be exhumed when the full mtDNA results become available, because there will be relatives.

PS I will address the question of why an answer to the SM case is important, and important for more than just historical reasons, storytelling, or tying up loose ends.

<end of comment 2>


(l) “Deputy Government Analyst Cowan isn’t criticised (by Feltus), although my (Deveson) evaluation (I am qualified to hold this opinion) is that he did a woeful job.”

(r) “All of the medical people involved in the investigation thought that poisoning was the likely cause of death. Mr Cowan didn’t.”

(s) “Only one expert, Deputy Government Analyst Robert James Cowan ……. asserted that death was more than likely to have occurred from natural causes than through poison because of failure to detect any poison.”

(s)) “.. the only person who discounted poisoning was Cowan,”

(z) “Regarding that piece of paper at the heart of the SM mystery. What I believe happened is that the rolled up piece of paper was planted to bolster the case for suicide. Planted by Mr Cowan.”

“Consider the position that Cowan was in. He had bungled the toxicological investigation and I suspect he might have ordered the autopsy samples destroyed before the importance of the case became clear. So, he was desperate for the case to go away.”

“What Cowan could not have foreseen is the “code” on the copy of the ROK piqued Cleland’s suspicion that the case might involve espionage. Cowan had both motive and opportunity.”

Relevant dates:

(1) Cowan took possession of four glass jars on or about the 2nd or 3rd of December 1948. The jars contained (1) stomach and contents, (2) liver and muscle, (3) urine and (4) blood.

(2) Cowan and Cleland had possession of the body’s clothing about mid-April 1949. It was at this time Cleland found the slip.

(3) The coronial inquest opened on Friday 17 June 1949, and adjourned 29 June 1949.

(4)  The Mail, 23 July 1949  Torn book gives new hope in body case.

“Fresh hope that the Somerton body mystery may be solved come today with the finding of a copy of the ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ with the last page torn.

POLICE have been searching for such a book throughout Australia in the hope it might provide the missing clue to the body’s identity. Last night 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.

The book, the last page of which is torn, has been handed to police. If scientific tests, to be conducted next week, show the scrap of paper found on the dead man’s clothing had been taken from the book, police will have brought off a million to one chance. On December 1, when the body of the mystery man was found on Somerton Beach, police discovered the name tags had been cut from the clothing and all he had in his pockets was a train ticket, a bus ticket, and a neatly trimmed piece of paper with the printed words ‘Tamam Shud.’ Investigators found these words had been used by Omar Khayyam at the end of his verses and meant ‘the end’ or ‘the finish.’

A study of the printing indicated the words might have been torn from a copy of Fitzgerald’s translation of Omar Khayyam. In the belief if the book could be found it might show the movements of the man be-fore his death, police throughout Australia have been looking for it. The finder of the book today handed it to Det.-Sgt. R. L. Leane. On the last page the words ‘Tamam Shud’ had been torn out.

On the back of the book are several telephone numbers and a series of capital letters, written in pencil, the meaning of which have not yet been deciphered. As the scrap of paper found on the dead man had been trimmed, police were unable to identify the book merely by fitting it into the torn page. Proof will now rest with tests on the paper and the print.”


If Robert James Cowan, deputy South Australian government analyst, planted the Tamam Shud slip in the body’s clothing at some stage he must have had possession of the Rubaiyat it was torn from, or had the slip handed to him.

If Cowan had possession of the Rubaiyat – The ‘Francis’ Rubiayat – the phone number written on the back cover in pencil might point to a relationship he had with Jessica Harkness.

If the relationship he had with Jessica Harkness was intimate and resulted in a child then Robert James Cowan was the father of one of her children, or both.


Ellen baby, how do you like the plot so far?

<copy filed @ 8:45 pm 26 April 2016>

header pic is the international symbol for biological hazard

46 Comments Post a comment
  1. mw65 #

    Actually can think of atleast one unknown male buried in Perth 1990s, victim of a train accident.
    Also the Angel of the Forrest went unknown for several years.

    April 26, 2016
  2. (1) 1935 Winton cemetery Qld. (2) 1990 Woronora cemetery NSW, (3) 1930 Liverpool cemetery NSW

    April 26, 2016
  3. mw65 #

    The Angel of the Forrest went unknown for a few years, there is also a man in WA that was killed by a train 1998 that is still not identified, so while rare it is not unknown to have unidentified persons post WW11
    more recent example 2009 death

    April 26, 2016
  4. One down to you mw65 .. that particular statement of BD’s is now ruled OUT!

    April 26, 2016
  5. Clive #

    BD’s comments are quite intriguing, So Cowan bungled his testing and ‘planted’ the Tamam Shud slip in the fob watch pocket, to be found by Cleland-what a surprise! It wouldn’t be Cowan who “accidentally” found the slip of paper, that would be too obvious. The suspicion about Cowan’s actions are deepened by his actions of only testing ‘normal poisons’. Was this just a slap dash test or, did Cowan follow orders, yes, I know, back to a conspiracy but, it just makes one wonder.

    April 26, 2016
  6. There’s a date missing up there, Clive, and I’m wondering whether Byron did it deliberately. There is also the possibility of a relationship nobody thought existed.

    April 26, 2016
  7. pete: the 3000+ words of comments you have cut and pasted here were published on Cipher Mysteries in the last few days.

    If you want to cut and paste that much material from anywhere, you should ask the owner of the site for permission – in this particular case, me.

    Otherwise, please remove it from your site ASAP.

    April 26, 2016
    • Cry me a river, Nick, what’s yours is everyone’s.

      April 26, 2016
  8. petebowes: so let me get this straight – you can’t even bring yourself to name my site, but you do feel as though you can cut and paste whatever you want from it?

    April 26, 2016
    • Yep, that doesn’t concern me at all. Besides, these aren’t your words.

      April 26, 2016
  9. Checkmate.
    Say goodnight, Gracie.

    April 26, 2016
  10. petebowes: if you genuinely believe that Cipher Mysteries is even half as bad as you tell other people at almost every opportunity, then don’t cut and paste stuff from it, whoever wrote that stuff.

    April 26, 2016
  11. petebowes: it’s an odd kind of “checkmate” where you have to delete the other person comments to ‘prove’ your victory.

    And it’s an odd kind of attitude where you abuse me for my commenting policy but then cut and paste whatever other comments are useful for your ends.

    Lots of one-way streets where you live right now.

    April 26, 2016
    • Who deleted what? I’m watching a few fuckups in Fargo right now, sport, you’ll just to have to wait your turn.

      April 26, 2016
  12. Lewiansto #

    Just trying to wrap my head around this. Lets assume for the moment Byron is correct and Cowan did plant the “Tamam Shud” slip. That would mean there is no evidence whatsoever linking the Rubaiyat and therefore the code to SM.The slip could just as easily come from Cowan’s own copy. But if that were so, why would he have allowed it to turn up later on, creating more mystery and drawing more attention to the case?

    If it was from the Wytkin Rubaiyat, how did Cleland get hold of it and how would he have known it had anything to do with SM (if indeed it did)? And again, why have the Rubaiyat turn up later on?

    Another question: if Cowan was trying to plant evidence to suggest suicide, how could he have known Cleland would go ferreting around in SM’s fob pocket? From what I’ve read it was pushed in pretty deep.

    April 27, 2016
  13. ellen #

    Once you posit that the crime scene was staged, which I believe it was, all bets are off. That tiny piece of paper in a watch fob pocket, placed there by another party (Cowan?) turns this mystery into a psy-op. IMO.
    But why would Cowan risk doing that? Merely to cover the embarrassment over his having a different cause of death? DNA might prove me wrong, but I don’t see why he should be the father of Jessica’s child any more than any other male contemporary.
    Newspapers/ courts of the day had no trouble ascribing suicide, as in the case of George Marshall or Gwen Graham. I think that piece of paper had a different purpose, to link it with the Francis Rubaiyat and the Glenelg phone number, and force the conspirators out in the open.
    I think your Mandy Rice Davies picture is eerily pertinent. Her crowd was the nexus of all sorts of blackmail chicanery.
    Here’s my pitch, sweetie pie Pete, the number was also Prosper’s as you’ve pointed out. Jessica in her war work or at the Children’s home had tripped over a big secret and shared it with Prosper and Hellmut who decided they could make some quick money……Only there was an espionage back story. Fargo on!

    April 27, 2016
  14. Lew: good ain’t t? Everything is new. Byron Deveson will get a knighthood out of this.
    But we still have Jessica’s reaction when she saw the bust, which means there is a now a link between the Francis Rubaiyat, SM, Jessica, the code PLUS RJ Cowan.
    Perhaps it wasn’t Cowan who allowed the book to be found, somebody working with him maybe, a colleague? Someone who came across Cowan’s little secret – like finding the Francis Rubaiyat in Cowan’s desk drawer – before handing it in to Det Leane (hush hush).
    Remember, we are dealing with a school of piranha here.
    And I reckon Wytkin is out of the picture.
    Cleland was famous for his professional curiosity – Cowan would have known how thorough the old gentleman would have been in his PM examination. He was also an Untouchable, and rightly so.

    April 27, 2016
  15. Here’s a relevant question: why can’t anyone (so far) find a record of Kate Thomson’s birth?

    April 27, 2016
  16. A question Byron, the PM resulted in the suspicion that it was digitalis that probably killed SM but no proof was found of the presence of digitalis.

    The question is this, if they weren’t able to find digitalis in SM, how was the death of Harry Dexter White just 4 months earlier, attributed to an overdose of digitalis?

    April 27, 2016
  17. Apologies for butting in GC, I thought my response to Lew was a little hasty this morning, we were about to be blacked out for eight hours so I rushed it.

    The police called on Jessica because her phone number was written on the back cover of a Rubaiyat handed to the police by a man given the name Mr Francis.

    Mr Francis gave the Rubaiyat to the police because he thought the hole in the back page corresponded to the ‘Tamam Shud’ slip Prof Cleland found in the fob pocket of the Somerton Body.

    RJ Cowan was with Prof Cleland at the time he found it

    RJ Cowan inserted the ‘Tamam Shud’ slip into the fob pocket to draw attention away from his inadequacies and to promote the suicide theory.

    Was the Rubaiyat used by Cowan his own?

    Was Cowan ‘Mr Francis’?

    April 27, 2016
  18. Xlamb #

    Just as a side note, the identity of the “Angel of the Forest”, an unidentified female found in Belanglo State forest N.S.W. was cleared up last year after DNA tests conducted on the skeletal remains of a small child discovered in an abandoned suitcase left of the roadside in Wynarka South Australia, also led to the identifying the Mother (Angel). They were identified as 2 year old Khandalyce Pearce and her Mother, Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson age 20.
    Though their bodies lay 1200 km’s apart and found in different States, Major Crime Detectives from S.A. and NSW were able to solve the puzzle via DNA matching. Though the child’s bones were said to be extremely degraded with regard testing difficulties, persistence paid off. Two murders, both unidentified and solved with the aid of current DNA testing techniques.
    It’s a very sad story, but at least that part ‘identity’ has been sorted.
    Once the bodies were identified it helped lead Police to the alleged murderer for both victims.

    April 27, 2016
  19. lewiansto #

    Hi Pete! I think that’s kind if where I was heading with my musing, Cowan (or an associate) being “Francis”. If that is the case then I guess it opens up a whole new can of worms – why would Cowan have code (and microcode) in his Rubaiyat?

    April 27, 2016
  20. Cowan was a government analyst who may have been involved with some of the aspects of the Manhattan Project. I can remember Misca hunting through a ship’s log and finding his immigration application when Cowan went to California’s Berkeley University to visit a fellow bio-chemist, (I have his name and the document on file) who was closely involved with the same project.
    Perhaps Mr Francis double-played Cowan when he handed in the Rubaiyat.
    This is beginning to look tasty.

    April 27, 2016
  21. Lewiansto #

    Might have to get started on the sequel, Pete 🙂

    April 27, 2016
  22. I’m going to rewrite the last chapter and have some stone killer be paid by Cowan to wipe everyone out.

    He eases through the kitchen window, lithe and snake-like, soundless, and pauses a moment.

    He doesn’t see Alf Boxall in the darkened kitchen, a glittering knife in his hand, Jessica hiding behind his wide shoulders. The killer approaches, Alf tenses, Jessica screams ….

    ….. ?

    April 27, 2016
  23. Lewiansto #

    I noticed this comment from Byron over on your Pommie mate’s site:

    “(t) There were probably undetected cases of deaths due to barium poisoning in South Australia in 1948-9 (the Bickford scandal) and I note that SM may have had prior GI trouble and so may have received an X-ray with the contaminated contrast media. The symptoms and autopsy findings would have been very similar to that of digitalis poisoning and the heart would have been paralysed. I note that SM had a patch of erosion at the back of his gullet and this could be down to reflux of the contaminated contrast medium.”

    While browsing around on Trove looking for info on Cowan I found this:

    It seems Cowan & Cleland were both involved in the inquest into two barium poisoning deaths, for which Bickfords were found culpable. This was not too long after SM so perhaps there is some link there somehow.

    Curiouser and curiouser!

    April 27, 2016
  24. Byron Deveson #

    re: unidentified bodies. I did say fresh bodies, not skeletal remains or bodies that had been mangled.

    April 28, 2016
  25. Lew, they had the monopoly and the pay checks would have been handy, besides, that’s how the Public Service operates, once you’ve got the job, it’s yours for life.

    April 28, 2016
  26. Byron Deveson #

    I have not seen any details regarding the investigation into Dexter-White’s death, but I know from professional experience that the chemical assay methods of the day would not have been sensitive enough to detect a lethal does of digitalis, unless there were fragments of undigested tablets still present in the stomach contents. And I suspect Cowan had the autopsy samples destroyed before any but the basic screening tests were carried out. In the Dexter White case if fragments of undigested digitalis tablets were found in the stomach contents (as often happens with tablet overdoses) it would clearly be a case of suicide where many tablets were taken with suicidal intent. I suspect that there might have other evidence that supported suicide, such as the autopsy showing the heart was paralysed, that there was an empty digitalis tablet bottle found, and the general circumstances. Dexter White was scheduled for interrogation on the morning after his death, which in itself is suspicious. Harry Dexter White had been sprung by Venona as a Soviet agent, and working on Stalin’s orders he had pushed the Japanese into war with the USA. Stalin, through his spies close to the Japanese Government, knew that the Japanese had decided upon a line in the sand, where Japan would go to war if provoked. Roosevelt gave Dexter White total policy control in dealings with the Japanese, and Dexter White made sure the Japanese were provoked. Stalin wanted the Japanese to go to war with the allies (the USSR remained neutral regarding Japan until the last week of the Pacific war when Stalin belatedly declared war on Japan, knowing from his spies that the atomic bombs were about to be used) so the Soviets could remove their armies from the Mongolian/Chinese border and move them to the fight with the Germans. Stalin even betrayed allied war plans and other intelligence to the Germans later in the war to slow down the British-American advance in the west so Soviet troops could capture as much of Europe as possible.
    Bottom line: Dexter White would probably have suffered the same fate as the Rosenbergs. The electric chair, so suicide was highly likely.

    There is a biological test that uses a frog’s heart that could have been used to prove digitalis poisoning, but the other evidence might have been sufficient. There is a possibility that Soviet assassins might have ensured that Dexter White didn’t blab the names of his co-conspirators and contacts under interrogation by staging his suicide. The KGB later used an almost untraceable poison to simulate death from heart attack. The “gas gun” which is fired into the face of the victim who drops to the ground, dead. The Soviet assassins could then have forced a handfull of digitalis tablets down Dexter White’s throat (like with Shirley Brifman). It is also quite possible that Dexter White might have been given the opportunity to commit suicide and helped on his way after the American intel authorities spelled out the case against him. American intel and the Government figures in the know (some of whom were Soviet agents whom Dexter White might have implicated if his case went to trial, or if he was subject to a hostile interrogation) might have decided that they could not let his case go to trial and either had him murdered, or forced him to suicide.

    The following article indicates that accidental deaths from digitalis poisoning were probably not a rare even in the past. “Digitalis poisoning: Historical and forensic aspects. Howard B. Burchell. Journal of the American College of Cardiologists. Vol.1 Issue 2 Part 1. Feb. 1983 pp 506-516 .”

    “Two pharmaceutical (manufacturing) blunders that occurred in Belgium and Holland with mislabeling are mentioned. These resulted in numerous deaths and the profession seemed rather slow to recognize the nature of these small epidemics of poisoning.
    Instances of psychiatric illness with digitalis seem well documented. The story of digitalis toxicity continues into the present and physicians should be vigilant regarding the drug’s potential for poisoning that can result from prescribing digitalis with ignorance of proper dosage, pharmacodynamics or drug interactions, as well as from accidental overdose as in children and use with self-destructive or homicidal intent.”

    April 28, 2016
  27. Byron Deveson #

    Re: possible connection to the Manhattan Project.
    Three years ago two of DA’s students carried out a mass spectrometric scan of a hair from SM’s head and found that the lead levels were extremely elevated, and the strontium levels were somewhat elevated. I can make a case that the strontium is very unlikely to have come from either food or water (arguments too bulky to present here, based on the levels of Strontium in food and water in Australia), but there were a small number of occupations and activities where dust containing significant strontium could be ingested.
    There was one intriguing source of strontium in 1948, and that was “strontium tablets” that were used as protection against the highly radioactive, and highly dangerous Strontium 90 (Sr90 – a major uranium fission product – ie. radioactive fallout). These tablets were given at the time to anyone who might be exposed to nuclear fallout or reactor waste.

    April 28, 2016
  28. ellen #

    Somerton Man might have been an accidental digitalis poisoning. What points to murder is the lividity. He was propped up on the sea wall and blood would have pooled differently after his death if he had died there. However, Pete describes a witness who saw men carrying a man along the beach that night. These accessories might have placed him there and caused the scene to be suspicious.

    Off the wall idea of mine….I have always been intrigued by the timing of the Japanese bomb drops. It always seemed that the war was over and why the senseless overkill? Here’s a big what if. What if the Manhattan project didn’t come up with the bomb? What if the Germans got there first. Heisenberg was further along than Oppenheimer and he didn’t subscribe to Hitler’s politics….just a thought. I think there was some interaction between the Los Alamos guys and Heisenberg after Hitler’s death and before the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. In August, just as our two lovebirds meet for a quick rendezvous and away.

    April 29, 2016
  29. Ellen, the Americans knew they could only defeat the Japanese by invading their homeland and destroying their cities … so rather than risk losing thousands more soldiers they used two bombs to achieve the same effect.

    April 29, 2016
  30. ellen #

    It’s about timing. The bombs were dropped after the US had access to the Paperclip scientists, like Heisenberg. Also by 1948, collaboration between US and Australian scientists was discouraged. Many of the scientists were ethical people who had second thoughts about developing such a diabolical weapon.

    April 29, 2016
  31. Where is my post?

    April 30, 2016
  32. I’ll just throw a wild card in here for interest sake though I don’t see toomuch to be enthused about. While checking out the lion toothpaste link I noted that in 1948 the Japanese producer introduced a new line with a fluoride content which was probably quite revolutionary at that time. Don’t know whether any problems were detected with it however from subsequent inquiries it seems that reasonably low levels can have dire consequences on certain people. Some systems include throat ulcers organ shut down and abrupt heart failure. I also note that people exposed to fruit sprays that contain certain fluorides are also susceptible to serious health risks. Don’t know that fluoride showed up in the organs of SM but one of you more scientific folk out there might have some theories. Is it just possible that our man gave himself a squirt knowing the game was up or did he just o.d. by accident.

    May 26, 2016
  33. Am I correct in my assumption that good Alf only came to the fore as a result of Jo dobbing him in to the coppers. Pray tell why would she đô that and under what line of questioning would one expect such an outcome. Had it been just a query pertaining to an unidentified stiff having her home number in his possession as would be the proper discreet means to take then her response was unusual to say the least. I say this bearing in mind that the constable would not be likely to tell Jo where her number was found and certainlly not mentioned our little book that ends with Tamam shud. Is it possible that she had been forwarned by our elusive mr. Francis upon finding her number and innocently calling to return the book which I think unlikely seeing that Len and his lads needed a UV lamp to bring up the the feint numerals. Still doesn’t give her reason to give up our old mate irrespective of whether or not she knew about the book or even suspected that it might lead to problems for her. Did the minders contact her to say that certain things were going down soon and that talking about Alf was part of the new operative procedure and that she had nothing to be concerned about. I’m starting to go along with the gumshoe theory somewhat regrettably because I didn’t really want SM to be insolved in spy stuff and looking so serenely at peace on his cold hard slab. At least we don’t really know for sure that he was in the enemy camp and for that matter Jo might well have been one of the good guys too…but I doubt it.

    May 27, 2016
  34. ellen #

    I think she gave Boxall up as a sign of good faith. Boxall worked for the Allies and she was indicating that he was her contact by admitting to the Jestyn Rubaiyatt. Personally, I think she had another allegiance and did not let that be known. That contact tied her to the other tamam shud Rubaiyatt. That contact was revealed when she fainted at the sight of the plaster cast bust.

    May 28, 2016
  35. Quite right Ellen but who was she doubling for. It seems that we have copies of old Omars silly book of sentimental drivel popping up all over. I remember once buying a pair of Yakka Keyman jeans and long afterwards just after they had started fading nicely I found a little company promotion in the fob pocket telling the purchaser to send it in to receive a special gift. No not a copy of the Rubayat but you get my drift perhaps Marco did something along those lines hence the explosion of popularity in medieval Persian polms . I’ll take Rudyard Kipling any time ‘If’.

    May 29, 2016
  36. With regards to the fob pocket, it is referred to as a small and hard to find pocket in the waistband. The standard Marco fob pocket was in fact quite large, there is a photo of one in a document. In that same document a lady who used to make up those trousers at the time did say that sometimes they made custom versions. Pete has a copy and he may share it 🙂

    May 30, 2016
    • knowing pete, he’s lost it .. in more ways than one.

      May 30, 2016
  37. ellen #

    John Sanders, I think Jessica was The Little Drummer Girl with a twist.

    May 30, 2016
  38. OK, here’s the fob pocket information. The pdf link gives a short but well researched history of Marco and the Isaacs factories. On page 27 you will see an image of 2 fob pocket liners. Notice that they are oblong and seemingly, no pun intended, quite large. This ties in with one of the ads that shows quite a large line across the right side near the waistband of a pair of Marco Elastostrap trousers.

    In contrast Clelands comments said that the pocket was hard to find and he had to use tweezers to extract the torn piece/Tamam Shud paper which was rolled up tight. There would be nothing hard to find about the fob pockets as shown in the image on page 27.

    It never ceases to fascinate me that there is always more information to be found in this case. The pdf doc was created in 2012 so it looks like no one has searched for detailed Marco Elastostrap information in that time, myself included.

    May 31, 2016
  39. Xlamb #

    GC…Nice article. Pity it didn’t include measurements for the fob pocket, but looks like you could fit a bucket of coins in these. Do you think it was merely the depth of the pocket that made the piece of paper hard to access, rather than it being hidden. They only needed to turn the pocket inside out really. Having tweezers on hand seems a bit bizarre, like a prop to dramatize the difficulty of access… thus demonstrate a possibility…and to give a reason as to why it was missed first time round. Bet non of these chaps did their own washing either e.g. emptied the pockets beforehand. Their wives would all know about fob pockets. Perhaps they needed some female input, a woman as an ‘expert witness’ rather than the tweezers.

    June 1, 2016

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