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jessica, the bust and a higher level

Gerry Feltus interviewed Jessica in 2002 and wrote that they had a lengthy conversation, although he thought her evasive and unwilling to share anything she might know about the case. She claimed not to remember Alf Boxall and said that none of her family knew anything about the Somerton Body mystery. Jessica said she did not have a copy of The Rubaiyat and questioned Feltus about its significance.

Prosper Thomson died in 1995.

Jessica Thomson died in 2007.

Robin Thomson, who became one of Australia’s most celebrated ballet dancers, died in 2009.

The taxidermist Paul Lawson, who created the bust of the dead man, was interviewed on an Australian ABC TV programme in 1978 and described Jessica’s reaction to seeing the plaster bust when she was brought into Lawson’s laboratory by the police. Below are extracts from his description:

‘Detective Leane brought Mrs Thompson (Jessica) into my lab.’

‘Detective Leane stood over there (gesture) and the other two detectives over there (gesture).’

‘I took the covering off the bust cast, stood back, and Jessica took one look at that bust and then looked down, and she didn’t look up at that (gesture) again, for the whole of the interview.’

‘Detective Leane was asking her questions, but they (the answers) were all no, no. Everything was no.’

Jessica and Prosper’s daughter, Kate Thomson, was interviewed for the Australian television programme 60 minutes in 2013. She recalled her mother saying she was surprised that she could still remember some Russian. Thomson also quoted her mother as saying that she lied to the police and that the Somerton mystery was known only to ‘a level higher than the police force’.


This is Kate … she comes by from time to time to break the spell.


25 Comments Post a comment
  1. I wonder whether her reaction was because, having seen the previously published images in the press, she saw the image of someone she thought had escaped?

    It was and probably still is Police practice to either withhold or send out misleading information for various reasons. In this case, the original image of the man was altered, I think you’ll find Prof Abbott actually agrees with that, it’ll be a matter of to what extent.

    That might also explain why so many people went along to ID the body of someone they thought they knew only to find a different face.

    June 26, 2016
  2. I’ll settle for Lawson altering SM’s face while he was cutting, lifting then replacing and gluing up a long slice of near rotten skin along the corpse’s hairline. The skin was months old, everything would have slipped. Lawson may have used clamps until the glue set.

    June 26, 2016
  3. Googled skin pin.

    June 26, 2016
  4. Just had dinner Pete 🙂

    June 26, 2016
  5. Imagine a gherkin stuck in there, or a maraschino cherry.

    June 26, 2016
  6. Yeah, That’s better..

    June 26, 2016
  7. I worked in a Byron Bay slaughterhouse once, and became used to the way skin used to slough off the bodies of dead pigs as they waited for processing in the waste boilers.

    June 26, 2016
  8. ellen #

    Pete, you had difficulty nailing down Jessica’s birth records. She spoke Russian but couldn’t complete a nursing course when nurses at that time didn’t require degrees (so standards weren’t that high). I was under the impression that she was just a local Glenelg girl with roots in small town culture. What if that wasn’t the case? What if that were just her legend? Or she could have been replaced at school by a Russian double and lived on the fringe. I think she was a mole.

    June 26, 2016
  9. aLa Krogers?

    June 27, 2016
  10. Ellen, I don’t think Jessica occupied a position that would make her valuable as a mole.

    June 27, 2016
  11. ellen #

    Everyone thinks she was a native yet very little is known about her. She is conversant in Russian and attended a Jewish temple….perhaps not a mole but a sleeper. She is not exactly typical. Her friend Hellmut came over from Franco’s Spain after being born in Berlin. No wonder she was uncooperative.

    June 28, 2016
  12. If Jessica was a communist sympathiser at the end of the war and attended the meetings she would have been noticed. The Aus Govt, by means of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, employed an army of sparrows in the cities, Sydney in particular, and I have no doubt they recruited sympathisers from time to time. Disaffection was visible and fierce in some quarters.
    The Russian’s target was the A Bomb.
    The CIS may have inserted their recruits into the Aust. Communist Party to listen to the whispers.
    A little Russian understanding would help.

    June 28, 2016
  13. B Deveson #

    Ellen, Peter Wright claimed that Lionel Murphywas born in Poland and his NSW birth record had been inserted into the official register after the event. A Polish work mate once told me that he had been at the Polish embassy for a film night and had overheard Lionel talking to his Polish wife. My work mate said he must be a Pole as he doesn’t have a trace of an accent. My work mate said that anyone, no mater how good with languages, who learns Polish as a second language has some accent.
    The KGB were still actively “tombstoning” around Sydney in the late 1970s.
    As for official surveilance of communists in NSW during and immediately after WW2, the chap in charge was a KGB agent, Alfred Hughes (Venona’s Ben). The long-time head of ASIO, Charles Spry, is on record as having said that he hoped that it never got out that Hughes had been a Soviet agent. Bottom line: even the good guys hide the evidence and keep us in the dark. That’s how it all works. Files are weeded and the only stuff of interest that gets to the archives arrives there by accident.

    June 28, 2016
  14. B Deveson #

    Pete, Alfred Hughes made sure nothing useful was ever passed on. Yes, CIS did have counter intelligence agents but Hughes (Ben) always hosed things away. This is covered in “Breaking the Codes” by Des Ball and David Horner. Spry was gobsmacked when he first heard that Viktor Sergeivich Zaitsev was a GRU agent until five years after Zaitsev had left Australia. Zaitsev moved to Australia from Japan where he was Richard Sorge’s handler. Sorge was one of the most important Soviet spies and to move his handler to Australia in 1943 implies that something in Australia was of even greater importance to the GRU. ASIO discovered that there was zero information concerning Zaitsev in Australia and Alfred Hughes would have had a lot to do with that.

    June 28, 2016
  15. ellen #

    I don’t think she was a recruit, but a natural born Russian who could pass as an Aussie. Surveillance wasn’t as sophisticated as today but they had doubles and agents all over the place.

    June 29, 2016
  16. Ellen – do you think the code was written by Jessica or for her benefit?

    June 29, 2016
  17. Given the times and the political environment in the early post-war years, I don’t think the Australian’s or the Brits would have wanted a major spying scandal to be splashed across the front pages of the World’s press. Bad enough that the US had restricted Australian access to intelligence information over the Venona revelations.

    The facts are that the body of a man was found on a beach in what was the centre of Australian Secret Weapons development at that time. He is believed to have been poisoned.

    A tightly rolled up piece of paper with the words Tamam Shud was found in a hidden waistband fob pocket and a book, from which that rolled up piece of paper was torn, was later found and on the back of which were indentations only visible under UV light.

    Those indentations were formed into a set of letters and my views on that are well known. The man’s clothes, the jacket in particular, were meticulously taken apart for examination. His photograph was altered prior to publication. Labels and anything that might identify the man, were removed from his person and clothing.

    A photograph was taken and bust was made with the photograph of the man being taken just prior to the casting of the mold for that bust. That photograph bore very little resemblance to the initial published image apart from the ears, this was despite the body having been professionally embalmed. The full face pre-bust image bore absolutely no resemblance to the final plaster bust face. Comments have been made about the deterioration of the body but no one puts forward any proof.

    One of the diaries of the man, Lawson, who created the plaster bust had been altered in numerous places and bore signs of erasures. Other diaries from Mr. Lawson are missing.

    Add to all the above, the discovery of micro written code within the indentations as proven by images of that code and by reference to the fact that the method clearly existed and was taught by SOE in WW2 and what do we have?

    It does seem that some people have difficulty getting to a stage where they understand that everything points to an espionage case being highly probable.

    In my honest view, there is more to come and prime amongst that will be a big question mark over the image of the book that was published in the Advertiser at the time.

    June 29, 2016
  18. Xlamb #

    Why translate the ROK to English, then revert back. What motivated the author to use ‘Tamam Shud’ rather than stick to text e.g. ‘The End’.
    Surely that’s a puzzle in itself. It’s always bothered me, but seemed a dumb question.
    Any ideas?

    June 29, 2016
  19. ellen #

    I have always thought that Jessica’s evasions were a symptom of her guilt. If I were to write a fictional novel about this case, I would have Jessica instrumental in George Marshall’s death. I think he became a threat to “the cause” when he screwed up something or called attention to a tranche of money that was being earmarked. He was supposedly brilliant but he had had a head injury when he was young and he compared matters at the Prices Commission to the Nazis. He was probably somewhat inflexible and unwilling to go along. He died in a staged way with his body on a beach and sitting on poems by Omar Khayyam. He wore a distinctive argyle pullover.
    It was very strange how the Marshall family let the whole thing be written off as a suicide without supposedly an investigation. I think there was a message being sent to Jessica as “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.”. SM had peculiar teeth. In some pictures, Jessica’s teeth look similar as I guess her son’s. The Marshall’s agents may have found out that they were working for the same “cause” and let her go; or, when she didn’t react, let the matter drop. Her dad had given his life and saved hers through his clever spy craft and died with a smile on his face. The bust was of George Marshall.

    June 30, 2016
  20. Clive #

    Ellen, Likely(?) that George Marshall may have been considered as a “loose cannon” by others and, the only way to ensure he didn’t put his foot in his mouth was that he would be found dead, in a lonely place.

    June 30, 2016
  21. ellen #

    One of my favorite characters is the ill fated Gwen. I picture her as a free spirit jazz baby in need of money, targeting rich bachelors, Perhaps George Marshall was being blackmailed (a la Stephen Ward and Christine Keeler). They argued about something at their last meeting and then she was found suicided a week after his inquest.

    June 30, 2016
  22. Clive #

    So do I, but I can’t help feeling sorry for her. Perhaps they argued over the $200.00 that George gave her. Did she, perhaps, later realise that George was a special guy and realised too late how much she missed him? Or, did she know too much about George?

    July 1, 2016
  23. ellen #

    It’s pretty hard to drown in a bathtub with superficial wrist cuts and neatly folded garments set out. George had warned her, according to her mom, about an evil male acquaintance.

    July 2, 2016
  24. Clive #

    Well, the official verdict was “suicide”. How much the authorities suspected it was otherwise, we’ll probably never know. I’m guessing the bottom line was, that she since she was not known in the “right” strata of society, at that time, her death was of no consequence. Wasn’t Helmut lurking in the shadows?

    July 2, 2016
  25. ellen #

    Whole lot of suicide going on…..especially if you are a lazy cop. Gwen was a “little person” and just got a mention in the papers only because she died 8 days after the inquest of a “big person”. The account of George’s demise was full of newspaper column’s of his recent mental breakdown, suicide scene, morbid poetry verses, childhood accident…..a case of protesting way too much.
    Where was Hellmut on Nov 30, 1948?

    July 3, 2016

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