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4 Correspondence with Derek Abbott

Five years ago when I first broadcast my intention to write a book about the Tamam Shud mystery DA kindly answered my email.

This is what Derek gave me.


27 July 2012


Before I forget here are some more subtle details about the case, people
often miss that could be fun* to work into your fictional account:

1) When the case suitcase was found in the train station it was unlocked.

2) The man was uncircumcised.

3) He had no parting. His hair was brushed back.

4) Very well developed high calf muscles, yet straight arms (ie.
his arms were not bulging with muscles, though he had powerful
shoulders). Very athletic body with a very narrow waist for a man of his age.
He had enormous hands yet size 8 feet.

5) One of the socks he was wearing was darned at the heel.

6) He had a standard ladies hairclip in his suitcase.

7) In his suitcase he had a spare clothes, including spare
vests and jocks….but NO spare socks!! The only socks
he had were the ones he was wearing. Now that really bugs me.
Love to see you put that in your story.

8) It does seem the evidence points to him being right handed,
and those scratches between his knuckles were only on his right hand.

9) The laundry marks on his spare trousers in his case were 5 digits
long. (I wonder if there was any laundry in Australia that needed that many
digits? I would have thought only a really big city would need that many digits).

10) He had a cigarette lighter in his case, yet a box of matches on his person.
(One assumes his lighter fluid ran out).

(PC Moss, the first police officer on the scene, did not find any matches on the body and made no mention of them in his Coronial Deposition!)

11) His spleen was 3 times larger than normal, and there was something
wrong with his liver (but they were not certain what). A spleen cannot presumably
enlarge by three times from an overnight poisoning… seems there was
a pre-existing condition to consider.

12) His shoes were spit polished yet he was on a beach. And yet there were about
20 steps leading down to the beach where he lay. (Carrying dead body
in broad daylight down those stairs would not seem likely).

13) His shoes were brand new and his suitcase were brand new. So
it appears he had money to spend.

14) His shoes were bespoke. They had no manufacturer’s name….but
had “204B” stamped on the inside. Presumably that means something like
clobber “B” in the shop, and customer number “204”?

15) Although most of his clothing labels were gone, it is not true they
were all gone. On of his packed shirts was the “Pelaco” brand.
His packed trousers were “Strapps.”

16) His razor strop had “Kent Street, Sydney” stamped on it.
We don’t know if that is the the manufacturer or the shop,
location. And why no name?

17) Three items had “Keane” on them: a tie, a laundry
bag, and a vest. The vest appeared to say “Kean” without
the “e” but it looked like the “e” had possibly faded. So
in all likelihood they all said Keane.

18) He wore a tie, and had 4 ties in his suitcase. That’s 5 ties
in total.

19) Three ties were striped. Two in the case were striped
the British way “From heart to sword.” The tie he actually
wore had the stripes running in the opposite direction
which is the American way.

20) The jacket he was wearing was definitely American.
The aluminum comb in his pocket was said to be of American
origin. His brand of ciggies were British. The Army Club packet
and the Kensitas ciggies are both British brands.

21) Kensitas cost 2s 10d and Army Club was 2s 6d. So he
had more expensive cigarettes in a cheaper packet. Both
those prices are in the middle of the price range of
ciggarettes for the time. Same for all his possessions, nothing
was cheap or expensive…all in the middle.

22) He died 5mins walk from the house of the girl whose number he had.

23) The stencil brush in his suitcase was found to have a black
substance on it. But at they time they were unable to determine what it was.
Seems he used it to blacken something.

24) All his back teeth were missing. This is not unusual in those days.
It was fashionable to try to lose all your teeth and replace them with

25) But in order to chew he’d need a dental plate with false back teeth.
But he had no dental plate! He’d need to chew his food properly in
order to have a great physique! So what happened to his dental plate?

26) There was liver mortis on his ears and neck, even though he
was found dead with his head propped up.

27) His Omar Khayyam was a pocket size book. The edges were worn
as if he really had been carrying it around in a jacket pocket.

28) Constable Moss who found the body recorded all the contents of his pockets
except the box of matches. His missed those! They were found later when
the body was undressed. (So it is interesting the man lit up a cigarette,
was well enough to put away his ciggies and matches neatly away that the cop
misses his matches, and then the next minute he is dead).

29) The police lost all the contents of his pockets and the Omar
very early on in the case. Incompetence or conspiracy?

30) They didn’t lose his “Tamam Shud” that was in his pocket. That
still exists today. So maybe losing the other stuff was incompetence.

31) He was at the train station in the morning and dead by night
worth spit polished shoes. So what was he doing in the intervening
hours? If he was walking around Adelaide, he’d need to have polished his
shoes just before he died, as there were no scuff marks. But where
could a stranger polish his shoes in Glenelg in those days? Or maybe
he wasn’t walking around all day…maybe he visited someone. But who?

32) One pair of undies in his case were worn, the others clean. So he
had done one change of undies on his journey….or maybe had them recently

33) The chap who found the Omar in his car, seems to remember exactly where his
car was parked earlier. Odd? No one appears to have established how he
remembered. Could be innocent…..might be that something else happened to
him that day that made him remember. Or maybe it isn’t innocent. But
then why would he hand in the book if it was not innocent? He also had
his name suppressed. Odd or innocent? Could be innocent if he was somewhere
where he didn’t want his wife to find about 🙂

34) There were strands of tobacco in a right hand pocket. So seems
he may have rolled his own as well. He had badly stained fingers…..this
is possible consistent with roll your owns.

35) He had *extremely* soft hands with no signs of manual labour.
No callouses on hands or feet. Clean nails neatly trimmed on hands and feet.

36) Only his legs were suntanned right upto his crotch. It had the appearance of an old tan that was fading. Wasn’t recent. But the tan line was visible near his crotch.

37) He had grey eyes and mousey coloured hair, with flecks of red hair. He was greying at the sides. He looked about 40-45yrs old. He weighted about 80 Kg and was 5’11” tall.

Hope you find this useful!



3 Comments Post a comment
  1. The strop was probably made by Riordan? they had a 4th-floor factory of sorts in Kent street I believe, I agree that the torn piece still exists and it is likely that the book does also, it could even have turned up in someone’s letterbox by now. The back page, however, may have been despatched via a bonfire held by a widow of a certain detective from those days who had a habit of souveniring items of interest from interesting cases.

    July 30, 2017
  2. Bob #

    What was the lie she told? Or perhaps more to the point, what is the lie the police instantly knew she told. That she didn’t know SM?
    I want to know why Jessica became the focus rather than Prosper. Even if she became interesting because she lied, that doesn’t count Prosper out – if anything it counts him in, because this is just his floozy covering for him. Surely the sexist attitudes of the day would assume the wife is just making excuses for the husband.

    What is it that made Jessica, not Prosper the most interesting person at 90A Moseley?

    August 8, 2017
    • She lied about her name and marital status.

      August 8, 2017

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