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the dead man at the bottom of the stairs

The next morning

John Bain Lyons had unshakable swimming habits in the warmer months and at about 6:35 on the morning of 1 December 1948 he walked down to the sea from his Whyte Street home, looking forward to the familiar glitter of the ocean as he drew closer to the beach.


After he had completed his swim he dried off and strolled along Somerton Beach towards Glenelg to meet a friend, another regular. While they were talking, Lyons noticed a couple of horses and their jockeys stopped by the sea wall, near to the steps that led down from the road opposite the Crippled Children’s Home. One of the jockeys had dismounted and was standing above a body in the same place John had observed a man lying the previous evening. Realising that his earlier sighting would be important to the police, Lyons returned to his Whyte Street home to call the Brighton Police Station before returning to the beach where a small crowd had gathered.

Police Constable John Moss of the nearby Brighton Police Station arrived at Somerton Beach at about 6:45am on 1 December 1948 after receiving Lyons’ phone call. Moss examined the fully clothed body, which was lying on its back with its head resting against the sea wall. In his deposition at the inquest Moss stated there were no signs of violence on the body and a partly smoked cigarette was resting on the right collar of his coat, wedged in position by his cheek.

Moss stated that he did not check if the partly smoked cigarette on the man’s collar was the same brand as those in the packet. He also stated ‘There was no visible scorching or blistering on the deceased’s cheek.’

Constable Moss’s deposition on oath at the coronial inquest described the items he found in the deceased’s clothing on the morning of 1 December 1948 before the body was taken to the mortuary.

‘I searched the clothing, found a railway ticket to Henley Beach, also a bus ticket, a tramway bus ticket. There were cigarettes on the body, which were in a packet. I did not compare them with the one that was partly smoked. The packet produced (at the inquest) looks like the cigarettes I found. The comb produced (at the inquest) was on the body, also the chewing gum and the metal comb. The bus ticket produced and the railway ticket produced (at the inquest) are similar to the tickets I found on the body. I did not find the slip of paper with the words Tamam Shud.’


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