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Who was lawson’s original body?

There were two suicides in Adelaide in December 1948.

We know that two middle-aged male bodies occupied shelves in the same refrigeration unit at the Adelaide mortuary from the 15th of December to the 23rd of February, both had been poisoned, both had similar autopsy incisions. One man had left only his name in a hotel register, the other body had no identification when found.

During this period there were many visitors to the mortuary, all claiming to know the man whose face and profile had been published by the local press. These photographs were of the body discovered on the 1st of December and were taken by Police Photographer PJ Durham on the 3rd.

No photographs of the body discovered on the 15th of December were released to the press.

Laurie Elliott, a skilled embalmer, returned to Adelaide from England in early January and was invited by the police to visit the morgue where he was asked if he could embalm one of the two male bodies stored in the refrigeration unit. Elliott obliged and commenced work on the 10th of January assisted by Const Sutherland, who observed the body had three small scars inside the left wrist, one inside the left elbow and a scar or boil mark on the upper left forearm.

One body was buried on February 23rd. The other remained in the mortuary and under Elliott’s maintenance until June, when taxidermist Paul Lawson made one plaster cast of its head and shoulders and one each of its ears. The flesh of the head, by all accounts, was in an advanced state of rot despite the embalming.

Prior to casting the ears and removing the hardened plaster covering the body’s head and shoulders and piecing it together Lawson was visited by the police. Then he received a call from Police Photographer PJ Durham.


Lawson and Durham talked about the disposal of the original body. Some think they were talking about the first body found, in particular its ears as Lawson had yet to commence making his ear casts. They think the shape, size and structure of the ears Lawson attached to the bust were the result of the conversation he had with Durham, and were not those of the body he was working on.


Durham’s altered* pre-burial photo of the Somerton body.

*the hair, the back of the head, the elimination of any signs of deterioration of the flesh.

sm pic

Durham’s unaltered pre-autopsy photo of the Somerton body.

Was the Somerton Man replaced by Tibor Kaldor?

The Somerton body – 5’11”, eyes hazel, hair gingery turning grey, well-built, slight scar on the upper left arm*, about 45 years.

Tibor Kaldor’s body – 5’6″, eyes grey, hair brown turning grey, build medium, 45 years.


*GF p93.

Laurie Elliott embalmed a body with five scars, Dwyer LQMP examined a body with one.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. More, good logic, timelines are wonderful for exposing what may be hidden or at least raising questions that need to be asked. My question is, which body were the visitors to the morgue shown? Maybe some of their comments would shed some light?

    September 4, 2016
  2. lewiansto #

    In the two supposed pics of SM it looks like he is wearing a different tie. One looks striped, the other looks like plaid. Would it be normal to change his clothes at that stage? Or perhaps more signs leading to two different bodies?

    September 4, 2016
    • I’d like to think it came out of Tibor’s suitcase.

      September 4, 2016
  3. The boil like mark could have been from a recent smallpox jab. The wrist was where they used to do a test by scratching the surface of the skin ahead of the smallpox jab.

    September 5, 2016
    • We’ve all got smallpox craters on the upper arms in my family, but no scars on the wrist from the superficial reaction scratches. Kaldor’s smallpox jab would have been a few years old in 1948, he arrived in the country in 1940.

      September 5, 2016
  4. B Deveson #

    Gordon, the Mantoux test for TB was often given on the wrist. I don’t recall ever hearing that it could leave a scar.

    September 5, 2016
    • It’s not likely Dwyer would have missed the scars if a police constable could find them.

      September 5, 2016
  5. Byron, I actually had that test and it did leave a scar for maybe a week or two, small but there.

    September 5, 2016
  6. Pete, Between the first autopsy images and the pre-burial images, his hair appears to have grown around the sideburns and had been neatly trimmed at the back of his neck. You should be able to see the extensive changes that have been made.

    September 5, 2016
    • He’s had more artwork laid on than the Mona Lisa.

      September 5, 2016
      • But they got the ears right, probably glued them on.

        September 5, 2016
  7. If the bodies don’t seem to match but the faces more or less do, then “original body” raises the question of original body as the body to which the head was originally attached but is now upon another body. The case is so strange and marked by so many anomalies and omissions, it seems anything’s possible.

    September 6, 2016
  8. ellen #

    The body found on the beach (with the ginger hair and overbite) was someone Jessica claimed to know, according to her daughter. The body represented by the bust (with sparse hair, underbite and crooked nose) was someone whose death shocked her, according to Lawson. I’m thinking stolen identity.

    September 6, 2016
    • No, the body Jessica knew was the one presented to her, she wasn’t asked if she knew the man in the pre-autopsy photograph.

      September 6, 2016

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