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the somerton skeleton

His clothes had no labels, his shoes were spit-polished, his feet were curled, he had a smoke stuck under his chin, a slip of paper torn from the Rubaiyat was tucked deep into his fob pocket: the Tamam Shud. The matching book tossed into a car nearby, it was said.

The man poisoned, his luggage booked into a station locker, his false teeth missing, his right hand lacerated, his physique remarkable, his large hands soft, his nails clean, his calves overdeveloped.

No wallet found, no identification, no nationality, no background, no hat, a pastie in his stomach, cargo masters’ tools in his luggage, no spare socks in his luggage, five ties though, and a woman’s hair clip. Three laundry marks that read Keane, or Kean. One on a shirt, one on a white tie, the other on a laundry bag

Two tickets in his pocket. A missed connection to Henley Beach, a bus ticket to Saint Leonards.

His Kensitas smokes were fitted into an Army Club pack, he was suntanned to his groin.

A numeric / alpha code was pencilled onto the tossed rubaiyat, and a telephone number. Faint. The number a local call.

A local woman living with her young son.  Unmarried. She had moved from Sydney before he was born. A nurse.

She couldn’t bear to look at his death mask.

Mystery enough?

Then wider minds took a look at wider times. They looked over at the fields where John Le Carre grazed, the Kim Philby fields. Maclean Burgess and Blunt feeding there. Spies have their ways. They exchange with each other fair value yet they hide their intent under layered tenements of subterfuge.



The lawyer there is possibly a banker, or a journalist – and he travels widely on commercial business through all the borders of Europe in 1937, Hitler rampant. In France he is John, in Lebanon William, back home in England he is Kim. There are days between his changes of identification when he has none.

Kim had a secret trade kept secret from both sides because he served both sides, Russia and England.

The Somerton Man showed signs of this secrecy of intent. No labels on his clothing and no identification in his pockets. A torn slip of the backpage of the rubaiyat in his fob. The book it came from tossed through an open window of a car parked nearby, it was said.

The poison that killed him.

What poison?

Who killed him?

They lie about like the whitened bones of a hundred dead mastodons do these unconnected Somerton facts. People forever wandering about in there picking up one, seeing if it will fit with another, discarding both, finding one more, going back for the first two, finding another three on the way.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. ellen #

    How did they know his false teeth were missing? Maybe, he never got fitted for false teeth. Nowadays, dentists would be consulted forensically. Forty years of age is young for teeth loss, if there is good nutrition and reasonable care.

    January 20, 2017
    • Two things. You don’t get to be as buff as SM when you’re missing eighteen teeth, plus the glass dish found in his case was a pretty good fit for a place to put his clackers in overnight.

      January 20, 2017
  2. Robert Nowak #

    False teeth regularly go missing in hospitals.

    January 20, 2017
  3. We don’t know if he had false teeth or if they were missing. No facts. Just our discussions. 2017 – 40 year-olds with that many missing teeth is very strange; I don’t believe this was the case back then. Pete – check out pics of some of those buff Russian dancers; many of them had missing teeth; gaps in their mouths. They chain smoked too.

    2 cents.

    January 20, 2017
  4. The glass dish could have been a shaving dish. A soap dish. A dish his girl gave him. Most denture dishes have a lid and close up tight. Even back then.

    January 20, 2017
    • Misca .. I’ve posted your comment over at GC’s

      January 20, 2017

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