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two hypotheses

The latest proposition put up about this mystery was written by Nick Pelling over at Cipher mysteries. He seemed pretty happy with it, says it took him quite some time to put together.

It goes like this:

November 1948: Adelaide. Mr Francis buys a vehicle from Prosper Thomson at the blackmarket price of say, £850.

The car was initially sold to Thomson by a vendor at the control price of say, £400 with the balance to come after Thomson sold it on. One of those split the difference deals.

However the vendor (SM) distrusted Thomson to such a degree he left a marked Rubaiyat in the car to prove that it was once his in case Thomson thought to stiff him out of the balance once the car was sold on.


(1) How did the Rubaiyat remain unfound and untrampled after a period in the footwell of a passenger car?*

(2) Surely it could have been better hidden, given its purpose.

(3) The vendor didn’t know the middleman’s customer, in other words,  the Somerton Man didn’t know Francis.

(4) Which means The Somerton Man couldn’t know where Francis’ car was.

(5) So how could he collect?

.. next


This is what should have happened at the station.

A businessman walks into a police station and up to the desk, tells the sergeant he has found something in his car that might be of importance in an open case.

He is introduced to the wily Detective Sergeant Lionel Leane who sits him down in an interview room.

All smiles, all round.

Francis hands over the Rubaiyat he found and Leane goes straight to the back page and sees the hole. A good moment. But what of this businessman Leane asks himself, and what of his car? This is a murder case, there are questions, one in particular.

Was the semi-conscious Somerton Man taken to the beach by car, helped out then half-carried down the steps?

How long has this gentleman had his car?

Who did he buy it from?

‘May we have a look inside, sir?’ Leane might have asked.

These are the sorts of questions wily coppers might ask. Particularly the extremely inquisitive ones, like the venerable Feltus. He probably likes the Francis fiction as little as we do.

  • *my error, this was not the case
11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Perhaps all he knew was that the car was somewhere in Glenelg, and so walked the streets for a day to try to find it? But even so, these are secondary questions: the primary questions are about Ronald Francis and the car.

    June 26, 2017
  2. DS Leane allowed everything through and Francis was protected – GF did not get that wrong.

    You say Leane allowed it because Francis was a whiter than white professional in a time of deference.
    Whiter than white.
    An untouchable.

    Can we talk about untouchables in Adelaide in 1948, in a time of deference?

    June 26, 2017
  3. Incidentally, you wrote: “[Gerry Feltus] probably likes the Francis fiction as little as we do.”

    Actually, I think it would be fair to say that he gave me the impression that he’d never seriously questioned this particular story, and didn’t particularly want to start now. And yet it is somewhat improbable, is it not?

    June 27, 2017
  4. Well, there’s a strange thing, we agree on something.

    Of course Feltus didn’t want to question the story … that’s not what a policeman does when asked by an outsider about a police cover-up, and Francis’ identity was covered up. This is undisputed. There was a conspiracy of official silence.

    We agree on this too, there was a conspiracy.

    You say Adelaide in 1948 was a time of deference to successful businessmen – I can’t take this claim seriously.

    The war was three years over and Australian cities and towns were full of returned servicemen, men and women hardly likely to be tugging their forelock every time a banker, doctor, chemist, accountant or businessman passed by in the street.
    This is an English trait, enforced by your class system.

    I’m reminded of a WW1 story told to me by my grandfather. A platoon of Australian infantrymen was making its way from the trenches to the rear for some rest and recuperation in a French village when an open vehicle passing in the opposite direction and carrying a complement of highly ranked British officers stopped. One of the British officers stood up in his seat and demanded the Australians salute him. He was ignored, he made the same demand again, louder. One of the Australians, a sergeant, stopped, turned and told him to fuck off.

    June 27, 2017
  5. So where does your interest lie now? You have your black-market theory, what more is there for you?

    June 27, 2017
  6. Testing the hypothesis, of course. Finding out who Ronald Francis actually is. Finding out who in his family is still alive. Finding out what make his car was and when he bought it.

    Much more fun than speculating about conspiracies etc.

    June 27, 2017
    • Not a lot of fun in alienating Feltus though, he’s the most valuable source you’ve got, or had.
      You’re not even certain Francis exists. If the whole of the Francis story is fiction where would you start?

      June 28, 2017
      • petebowes: it would be a pretty thin (and probably non-Australian) skin that couldn’t tolerate a departure from a single measly fact out of a 211-page book, so I’m not too worried about Gerry. I’ve represented his position (and objections) as clearly and as fairly as I can, and will continue to do so.

        If Ronald Francis didn’t exist in the first place, then Feltus would have been lying on a fairly grand scale, which doesn’t square with anything I know about him. All I’m pointing is that if (a) Ronald Francis had bought the car from Prosper Thomson on the black market and (b) had no reason to think he himself might have been implicated in the Somerton Man’s death, he had more than enough reason to come forward with the mysterious book (albeit anonymously).

        June 29, 2017
        • I can understand Francis not thinking he was implicated, but cannot accept the police’s ambivalence. For all they know the body may have been transported in Francis’ car, the book falling out of its pocket. There may have been fingerprints inside the vehicle .. you know the procedure, we’ve all seen the movies

          June 29, 2017
  7. ellen #

    Interesting that you consider that the Francis car was connected to Prosper. Perhaps it had been tied to spy ops….further tightening the net to trap Jestyn.

    June 28, 2017

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