Skip to content

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 was well before everything went pear shaped ( and our relationship suffered.

This is what Derek gave me in 2012  …. even more relevant now when we add it to the information gained from the Paul Lawson conversations.


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).

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!




*”There is also a lengthy afterword which sets out what is known about the actual body on the beach and which shows just how baffling was the evidence. It’s quite fun to look back at Peter Bowes’ story to see the use he has made of the many bewildering clues.”
The Bookmaker from Rabaul: from a  review by John Looker.

33 Comments Post a comment
  1. Very timely Pete, Some good and some questions raised. For example, was there a street shoe shine service in Adelaide or Glenelg? Could have been, there were in Melbourne and Sydney they tell me.

    July 30, 2017
  2. 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
  3. Schultz, right?

    July 30, 2017
  4. Byron Deveson #

    Gordon, was Schultz the crypto com?

    July 31, 2017
  5. I believe he was Byron but I also think he wasn’t the only one.

    July 31, 2017
  6. 2 March 1949: Geoffrey Reed (South Australian lawyer) appointed for a 12 month term as Commonwealth director-general of security.

    Reed’s appointment for a twelve-month term as Commonwealth director-general of security was announced on 2 March 1949. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization came into existence a fortnight later when Reed received a charter from Prime Minister J. B. Chifley setting out his authority and responsibilities. The principal reasons behind the decision to establish A.S.I.O. lay in a serious but unsolved Soviet espionage case, and increasing allied (especially British) pressure for Australia to address its security shortcomings ……

    How long did Schultz survive Reed’s anti-commie purge?

    July 31, 2017
  7. Had a good look at that issue last year. He survived through that time, in fact they both did.

    July 31, 2017
  8. Four SAPOL ‘factions’ involved in the SM case: communists, anti-communists, Jestyn protectors and Jestyn prosecutors.
    Where do you think Schultz fitted, GC?

    July 31, 2017
  9. I think there are only really two factions Pete, for and against. I suspect, without any real proof, that Sgt. Schultz may have been betwixt and between but deliberately so. In hindsight, he appears to me to have been anti-communist and protective of Jestyn who was, apparently, a communist. There is a perverse logic in that statement. I have an upcoming post that maybe we should discuss?

    August 1, 2017
    • Who wrote the phone number that implicated Jestyn? That’s where I’d like to go.

      August 4, 2017
      • Bob #

        More to the point, WHY did it implicate Jestyn. WHY did they straight away assume it was her not Prosper that was interesting? Sure the number was registered in her name, but due diligence and all that…..

        August 5, 2017
        • How sure are you the number was registered to a Mrs Thomson, Bob?

          August 5, 2017
          • Bob #

            I’m not sure about anything. But the mainstream story is always that “MRS” Thomson was of interest because it was her number. It seems to be implied that the number was hers, not Prospers. If the number was in Prosper’s name then it is even more peculiar that they focus on her, no?
            Also kind of interesting that we have this large scrap of paper with the code, but not the actual phone number(s). Is part of the page missing, or is Gordon onto something and the phone numbers were in Micro? Or maybe what we have here isn’t the page at all, but a replica.

            August 7, 2017
  10. Good question, it wouldn’t have been Jestyn but would have been someone who knew her and where she lived, what was the state of directory enquiries at that time? A bit hard to check when she was going under the name of Thomson. The phone number would seem to have come only from Jestyn herself. Next question would be, ‘And who would she have felt comfortable with giving her number to?’

    August 4, 2017
  11. Bob. You want to know why the police thought Jessica was interesting? Because when a detective came knocking on the door of 90a Moseley street on a murder enquiry she opened the door and lied to him. Straight off.
    Ever tried lying to a plainclothes detective, Bob? It’s tough enough trying to bullshit a constable about how many schooners you’ve drunk in the past couple of hours when he stops you for a RBT.
    Nothing she said could be believed.

    August 7, 2017
    • 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
        • James #

          I think the point being made is that those lies weren’t realised until later, so why was it instantly her rather than Prosper that was the focus?

          Sure telling porkies to the fuzz makes you a suspicious character, but only once the fuzz twig to the fact that there’s something amiss….

          August 8, 2017
          • James, let me ask you. Have you ever been questioned by a detective who is investigating a murder? Yes? Well then you would know what it’s like.

            August 8, 2017
            • James #

              Well either at least one of us has been questioned in that circumstance or both of us are equally unqualified on the point – or I suppose one of us might have been an interviewing copper too which might lend some credence to our opinion. TBH I can’t really see why being the questionee rather than the questioner would help here.

              August 9, 2017
  12. Ellen #

    I was under the impression that the beach house was connected to Jestyn’s parents. Her uncle lived across the street. She wasn’t married to Prosper.

    August 8, 2017
    • That’s not what she told detective Canney.

      August 8, 2017
      • James #

        What beach house?

        August 8, 2017
  13. After nearly 80 years a bloke would expect some of you to know what you’re talking about …. do the homework. It isn’t that hard.

    August 8, 2017
    • James #

      If you’re talking Moseley St, I wouldn’t call that a beach house.

      August 9, 2017
    • James #

      And your comments a bit funny given after nearly 80 years and nobody still really seems to know what they’re talking about.

      August 9, 2017
      • What don’t you believe James? Boxall passing allied shipping information to Jessica? The SA police divided into those who wished to pursue Jessica and those who didn’t? The authority wielded by ‘Mr Francis’? The uncovered coding within the Rubaiyat coding? The ambiguity in Boxall’s responses to Littlemore? Lawson’s discomfort when interviewed by Littlemore?
        That’s part of the homework, then there is the detail in the inquest files and the book written by Feltus.
        Some of us have more than just a passing knowledge of these things.
        And of course, Jessica’s lies.
        Where do you stand on all this, James?

        August 9, 2017
        • James #

          Largely unconvinced by most theories, and even most of what is proposed as fact.
          Boxall passing shipping information? Unconvinced.
          Police divided? Probably normal in any investigation. In fact even most of the amateurs today are divided on different aspects/
          Authority wielded by ‘Francis’? Very unconvinced.
          Uncovered Coding? When you can read words in there and tell me what they mean, I’ll be convinced.
          Boxall? Yes, he’s a cagey bugger. But potentially that’s merely because people are prying into his past.
          Lawson’s discomfort? Not sure interviews are much fund ever – especially when the interviewer wants to ask about stuff you’re not sure you’re allowed to talk about. But even that doesn’t immediately scream “major conspiracy” to me.
          While you, your friend Nick and GC all talk about Feltus’ book being the authoritative starting point, I think all of you have started to question the accuracy of different ideas in it.

          Regarding Jessica? People have skeletons in closets. That doesn’t always mean they’re hiding military secrets.

          Just because I don’t have a blog doesn’t mean I only have a passing knowledge; Nor does it mean that I’ve only been looking at it since 2012 when all of you guys decided it was a cool thing to do.

          As for Littlemore’s doco, it raises some interesting questions, but ultimately brings very little to the table other than some Sydney postman thought some dead guy in Adelaide 30 years earlier was a spy.

          So basically I think most of the theories that have been proposed are full of assumption. I think many of the researchers I’ve seen readily dismiss any fact contrary to their idea, but quickly defend circumstantial evidence as fact when it suits them. As someone elsewhere said, I think there’s a big effort to turn incompetence into malice. Because all of you romantic (del)seem to think there’s some exciting backdrop to all of this. Nobody seems prepared to accept the fact that it’s possible, probable, perhaps, that the death on the beach was just something mundane. Sure’s there’s a world of inconsistency around the details as we know them – but a shedload of inconsistency doesn’t immediately turn this stiff into a spy, or a car thief, or a jilted lover, or whatever.

          There’s a bit of a catch-22 with this stuff. We won’t believe the mundane, but any interesting story lines basically prove improvable – a little because of the passage of time and the destruction of evidence, and a little because if there’s been a big ASIO cover up, then they’re hiding things today just as they were then. While it’s believable to some degree that there could have been a big conspiracy afoot, it’s quite naive to think that we can uncover that simply because these days we’re smarter than everyone else for the last 80 years. If there are big powers that be secreting things from us then we haven’t any chance of solving it – so either one day they’ll make it public, or there really is some big conspiracy.

          But Pete, I’d like to ask the big question. Does it bother you and Gordon that ASIO reads all your posts but never bothers to comment on them?

          August 10, 2017
          • James; and your qualifications to make the comments you have are what exactly?

            August 10, 2017
            • john sanders #

              James: 68 years 255 days according to my rough calculations and thats a little short of 80 years and a little longer than we would have desired; just like you seem to be a little short on charm and a little long on self righteousness . Try starting over again and as long as you can remain respectful, your seemingly vast experience in this sort of thing might well treated with all seriousness and consideration (I think). js

              August 15, 2017
          • ASIO #

            How do you know ASIO reads the comments or hasn’t commented?

            August 15, 2017
            • I know their ISP numbers; tunnel relays and proxy servers are breakfast and lunch over here.

              August 15, 2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s