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one. mr francis: the manipulator

continued from here –


An double-oak door, closed.

Gordon knocks. We wait five seconds.


Clive opens the door and we enter.

He smiles as we approach, stands at his desk, leans over and shakes our hands in turn.


‘No, thanks.’

Everybody sits.

Gordon leans forward.

‘May I ask a question?’


‘Who are you?’


Mr Francis.

April 1949

Francis had one body in the morgue, another in the ground, a police murder investigation into the circumstances of one of them, an upcoming inquest and a failure of procedure.

And in a locked drawer of his desk, Tibor Kaldor’s copy of the Rubaiyat, a hole in its back page. It was found by the police amongst Kaldor’s possessions, and when Francis put his hand out for it he was told they wanted it back, at some later date.

A gentleman’s agreement.

Adelaide was that kind of town.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Does it strike you as unusual that on December 1st a man is found dead in ‘unusual’ circumstances but which, in reality would have been a normal sudden death discovery? Why all the attention by the end of that week?

    Does it also strike you as different that just two weeks later another man is found dead in ‘unusual’ circumstances and yet hardly an eyebrow is raised?

    Perhaps the first incident was a lesson for the way win which second was handled.

    May 3, 2017
  2. …. unusual, meaning we don’t know enough about what really happened.

    May 3, 2017
  3. If I recall correctly, the terminology was, ‘Violent, sudden or unexpected death’ it was always treated as if it were a murder in the first instance The first officer on the scene had to inspect the body and make the assessment quickly followed by a Sergeant who assisted in the writing of the report. I attended quite a number of such events, always distressing for the families, friends or witnesses and something you never forget.

    Attending the scene, liaising with the SOCO, having someone identify the body to you if it were possible, the trip to the morgue, carefully removing the clothing and possessions and laying out the body if that was possible, identifying the deceased to the coroners officer and the surgeon, witnessing the autopsy, the body wash following the PM and then the identification by relatives if not done at the scene. Always that much harder when the body was that of a child. You won’t read about these things in detail, you have to experience them. For me it’s like it was yesterday but it was more than 30 years ago. Most coppers have been through it and only they would fully understand.

    Back to your question. A sudden death was always taken seriously and was something to be investigated not glossed over. More than one murder was ‘disguised’ as an accident in the first instance and sometimes the truth was missed but in the vast majority of cases the first officers on the scene picked it. If we look at SM’s demise and the attention it received, I think it highly unlikely that the discovery of Tibor’s death would have been a ‘gloss’ job, far from it, they would have been on their toes. These were not the ‘bumbling coppers’ that are characterised in today’s TV drama series, these were smart and highly intelligent people who generally had much higher than average IQ and extraordinary powers of observation because they were trained that way.

    Consider the working environment for a Police officer in Adelaide at that time, many of them had just come through the war, some in the armed services and some in the Police service. What do you think their experience would have been in South Australia through those war years? Gerry Feltus knows, he and I have discussed that aspect, indeed, he has expressed his thoughts in more than one TV interview, wall to wall spies and espionage around every corner. These officers, especially those in the CIB, spent a good deal of their time training and working alongside the intelligence services through the war and afterwards. Whether that was investigating and monitoring Nazi sympathisers or watching Wally Clayton’s followers.

    Unlike some of the self appointed ‘gurus’ and ‘commenters’ in the blogosphere who, unhampered by knowledge, skill or experience, spout forward their ‘considered opinions’ and ‘recommendations’ (but based on what?), these Police officers were skilled, trained, very smart and highly professional.

    Here endeth today’s lesson 🙂

    May 3, 2017
    • Gordon: here starteth another one: internee camps operated under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, and their investigative gates were closed to state police.

      May 5, 2017
  4. ellen #

    SM’s death was more noticed because he was unidentified. The cause was less explicit too. Tabor might have used a false identity but that was not known when the body was found.A mystery is always more intriguing.
    I wonder if SM could have died from an embolism from a syringe. Somewhere it was reported that a syringe was found on the beach and up the stairs was a Children’s hospital. Also, the two packs of cigs. SM seemed to be an athletic sort and the cigs seem out of place. Since he had no money, perhaps he was using them for barter and was really living by his wits.
    Thanks Gordon for all your hard work. The police had to follow orders and then could be countermanded by higher authority. I think the press was involved to lay a snare and this complicated the police investigation.
    (Just saw Doctor Blake’s Mysteries on Netflix, They had an episode related to the Somerton Man….Foreign Fields. I recommend it.) This case is overdue to be solved.

    May 5, 2017
  5. Pete, not quite closed. The camps were under military control and as such it was the Army who administered breaches of any laws within the camps boundaries. However, in 1941, two detectives from Sydney went out to Hay internment camp and confiscated all of the plates and paraphernalia associated with the printing of the Hay bank notes on the pretext that there was concern that these, quite obvious, Internment notes may have gone into general circulation outside the camps. The reality is that it was thought by the ‘authorities’ that the Hay bank notes may have been used to pass coded messages.

    So, I agree to an extent but there were occasions when State police did get involved but probably at the behest of the military.

    May 6, 2017
  6. Gordon, can I ask you the same question as Misca: what part of GF’s ‘Mr Francis’ fiction do you believe to be true?

    May 6, 2017
  7. Good question. That the book was handed to the Police investigators would be true. The code name Mr.Francis, if other examples in the case are to be followed, would have some relationship to the name of the person, or perhaps organisation, responsible for the find. Maybe worth following up if the term ‘Mr.Francis’ referred to a known source or informant type.

    May 6, 2017
  8. In 1946 the book ‘Francis’ about a talking mule made it’s debut. It was based on a series of three articles published in Esquire magazine during WW 2. It was about a mule that talked to its handler, Peter Stirling and helped him catch a spy plus a few other plots. The film wasn’t released until 1950 and starred Donald O’Connor as the US army Lieutenant handler. Who knows 🙂

    May 6, 2017
  9. I think Feltus’ reason for withholding Francis’ real name was more compelling than was giving Prosper, Jessica and Heather their pseudonyms. We both have had private emails from GF, Pelling as well. He has said GF met Francis and his family.
    The problem with such a statement is that it implies inside information, and after many years of intermittent correspondence with GF, I know he was always loathe to give anything away.
    But then again, who’s to say they didn’t meet at a funeral, or a wedding. An annual dinner attended by representatives of different services.

    May 6, 2017
  10. Why not indeed We used to give code names out to various informants and sometimes it would be related to the nature of the offence. For example a Mr. White followed by a number would relate to a drug crime as in ‘Mr White from number 17’. in this case it is just Mr. Francis, which for me would suggest a Department.

    May 6, 2017
  11. bdid1dr #

    So, who dragged the soggy, sorry, fully dressed “Somerton ” man up the
    Than then very rickety steps.? Was there not an ambulance (with fat wheels or slider)that could have approached the
    the man and load him onto a stretcher and take him to the morgue or laboratury — for an immediate forensic work up? With police standing by to observe and record the medical examiner’s write up ?

    Seems to me, that someone/ or some persons who live and work in Somerton recognized him immediately as being the missing bombmaking scientist who was scheduled to meet with
    Einstein and several other developers of the bombs at Alamagordo, New Mexico, USA. So, who took notes at that seminar, and then returned to their ‘home labs’?

    BTW: One more question: What was the time lapse between the bombmakers conference and the appearance of a dead man on the beach just below the conference center?

    Thanks, Pete, for letting me join the discussion (there is a discussion?)…….
    bd eyed 1 dr

    May 8, 2017
  12. Opposite the Children’s Hospital and around 20 metres to the left of the steps when you look at them from the beachside, there is a pathway down to the beach within the treed area. My understanding is that this was in use by the Hospital in order to take wheelchair bound children down to the beach. So, no rickety steps to worry about.

    May 8, 2017
  13. Bids, I’m more interested in who accompanied Mark Oliphant to Mt Painter in 1947. Someone with ‘redmud’ on their boots.

    May 8, 2017
  14. Ellen #

    BD….Why do you think he was an Einstein man? Perhaps he was a friend of Heisenberg with secrets.

    May 9, 2017

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