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14 Eleven inexplicable investigative omissions

(1) No picture of the Francis Rubaiyat was released.

(2) No picture of the torn page in the Francis book was released.

(3) No picture of the pencilled code was released.

(4) No picture of the ultra-violet enhanced code was released.

(5) No picture of the telephone number was released.

(6) No picture of the name on the back cover was released.

(7) There is no account of the police overwriting the code to make it more legible.

(8) There is no account of either army or navy coding personnel overwriting the code to make it more legible.

(9) No member of the Francis family, either in the Hillman or generations since has uttered a public word about the events of the day the book was said to have been found.

(10) There was no report of any of the items in the suitcase being tested for fingerprints.


Gerry Feltus, in his book The Unknown Man tells us that SM’s fingerprints were posted by the police to all English-speaking countries on 21 December 1948, we even have a letter signed by J Edgar Hoover telling them that the prints had no match in US criminal records.


According to the Francis story, his brother-in-law placed the Rubaiyat into the Hillman glovebox where it lay undisturbed for six months before being handed to Detective Sergeant Leane.

Now we can add another score to the total.

(11) There was no report of the  Francis Rubaiyat being tested for fingerprints.


22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Around 2014 if I recall correctly I posted on this issue, the discussion surrounded Jimmy Durham and the fact that he had successfully lifted latent fingerprints from a book which lead to the prosecution of a lady for stealing the said book. What you can derive from that is that the process would have been a simple one, I cannot imagine any SOCO getting into a costly process for such a minor crime.

    One of the issues was that there was doubt about the ability to lift latent prints from a book after a 6 month period, the answer was that it was possible using a process requiring silver nitrate to recover latent fingerprints in 1948. Iodine Vapour was another option but the time delay may have been too long at that time, more recent developments in the use of iodine vapour could have overcome that problem.

    Ninhydrin processing was the best option but that did not become available until 1954. However, given that the book may still have been available in that year, then it would still have been possible, examples are given of latent prints being recovered 10 years after the event.

    In another post, the same question was asked about the torn piece, now that could have been developed with iodine vapour as well as the suitcase, the glass dish and the list goes on.

    One major benefit in using Iodine vapour was that it was non-destructive, you could subsequently use another process at a later date. Ninhydrin, amongst others, was a destructive process. We may never know what fingerprints were taken, even those of the dead man were not certificated (signed off on the form) and there is no record, to my knowledge, on that form of who took those prints.

    A very informative site on all things CIS will be found here:

    February 5, 2018
    • My view would be that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to miss one or even two items but to miss all of them, most especially the items that would have indisputably tied the suitcase to the man, to put it Earnestly, ‘to miss all looks like carelessness’

      I can’t reconcile the super effectiveness of Jimmy Durham in his career with this behaviour. To overlook the prints that would have been on the envelopes or the handkerchief, for example, would in my view be totally out of character for this man.

      There are two options that I can see, pure slackness/laziness but
      more likely he was acting under instructions.

      That’s how I see it.

      February 5, 2018
      • Misca #

        GC – I agree. Without question Durham had learned his procedural lesson many years before:

        February 11, 2018
        • A good find Misca, I hadn’t seen that particular article. Using the appearance of the axe handle as an indicator as to whether or not prints could be lifted would certainly have been a sharp lesson for Jimmy Durham. His later recovering of fingerprints from a book in a petty larceny case supports your statement.

          Compare the axe handle to a smoothly surfaced suitcase, glass dish, or even torn piece and handkerchief let alone the envelopes and paper and it doesn’t make any sense unless taking the prints from those surfaces was deliberately avoided. Bear in mind that any prints would have been available to be recovered even after the finding of the book with its code page.

          February 16, 2018
  2. Clive #

    Well, I think that GC is correct-how could a man like Jimmy Durham, ace police photographer/fingerprinter miss any of the items by not testing them? Surely, one of the most basic needs of any investigation. Either one or both of two things occurred, anything he did fingerprint/tested was never seen again or, he was told to forget this case, along with others in Adelaide, and the boys from Canberra would be running the show.

    February 5, 2018
  3. Byron Deveson #

    I agree with what Gordon has said. Leane was brought onto the case after a couple of weeks and I understand that he was with Special Branch at the time. Some group outside Sapol and more clout than Sapol wanted the case buried. Why? I don’t know but there must have been a compelling reason to interfere in State police business.

    February 5, 2018
  4. lewiansto #

    All this makes me think back to suggestion a while back from Byron, I think, that Cowan may have planted the Tamam Shud slip. I think there may have been speculation that his motive might have been to try to hide his incompetence, hoping suicide would be accepted.

    I also remember the suggestion Cowan may have been acting on orders from someone higher up. But, if the sole purpose was to try to pass the case off as a suicide, why have the Rubaiyat and susequently the code turn up at all? (Assuming the whole Francis scenario was a sham). That only served to ensure the case would not go away quietly.

    Let’s assume for the moment that some agency had SM whacked. Maybe someone involved had disappeared and wasn’t answering their calls. Perhaps this agency wrote the code themselves, as a message to the missing agent. One of their agents then handed the Rubaiyat, along with the Francis cover story over to SAPOL. They might have left enough work for SAPOL to do to find the code so that they could take the credit (or perhaps Leane was more involved). Either way, they could be sure that the newspapers would be all over it, publishing the code nationwide, giving the best possible chance for their man to see it.

    If this was the case, I wonder if there could even be some clues as to the intended recipient in the Francis cover story.

    February 6, 2018
    • Misca #

      lewiansto – I have a theory on similar lines but…

      What if the finder of the book actually was the brother-in-law (or a relative) of a SAPOL guy/an agency guy? (The book was in the SAPOL guy’s car.). What if the finder reported finding the book before the SAPOL guy could intervene? The “finder” disappears off the radar (never mentioned in the news again). The SAPOL guy does his bit to cover up his position; forfeits the book minus a page and Leane and friends respect the need for silence on his identity?

      Would that work?

      February 16, 2018
      • Stop making up fairy stories,Misca, we’re beyond that now.

        February 16, 2018
        • I never make up stories. In fact, I have very rarely posited any possible stories. My opinions, for the most part, have been based on fact. I think that this is one of the very first posts I have ever made on a “theory” in the many years that I have followed this case.

          February 16, 2018
          • Somebody show me the evidence that proves the Rubaiyat ever existed. Anybody. Anywhere.

            February 16, 2018
  5. Francis #

    Personally I think people read too much into what the police didn’t do. Aside from the explanations in GF’s book about older techniques and record keeping meaning things got lost, they were also looking at the case totally different. We are looking at it as a highly suspicious unsolved mystery – the coppers at the time would have been looking at it as a John Doe that they expected to identify, but by the time they realised this was stranger than anything they’d ever encountered, they’d already missed a lot of detail (and potentially lost some too). I suspect people missed evidence and bungled bits and pieces mainly because they weren’t used to suspicious deaths – and probably assumed this one would just explain itself….and by the time they realised, the horse may have bolted.
    So I get the idea that any missed stuff is more down to apathy/ambivalence and poor record-keeping than incompetence, conspiracy or deceit.

    February 6, 2018
    • Then you won’t find much to interest you here, Francis.

      February 16, 2018
  6. Clive #

    It seems to me that it’s beyond belief that a reputable police force would link the SM, or anybody else for that matter, with some common thread found in a suitcase without making sure the suitcase was fingerprinted as the first priority. But, what happened if the suitcase was dusted for fingerprints and the fingerprints found pointed to one of there own being involved? I still can’t understand why none of the newspapers queried lack of fingerprints, some reporter down the track must have asked questions?

    February 6, 2018
    • Clive ….

      A DSMA-Notice — formerly a DA-Notice (Defence Advisory Notice), and before that called a Defence Notice (D-Notice) until 1993—is an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security. (That’s the English definition)

      February 6, 2018
  7. Misca #

    I have been out of the loop for a while but these same questions had me researching both Durham and D C Aebi a while back.


    February 11, 2018
  8. SAPOL started with the set of prints on the man’s own fingers: the idea that forensic examination might have turned up other people’s prints (e.g. on the suitcase) and thereby link him to those other people seems not to have occurred to them at all.

    February 16, 2018
  9. Misca #

    Pete – See my post to lewiansto. If the book belonged to and was found in a SAPOL guys car…would that/could that answer the questions in your post?

    February 16, 2018
    • What book? Nobody has seen it.

      February 16, 2018
      • Ok. I guess the new narrative is that there wasn’t even a book. Go back to the old one. If there was a book…What do you think?

        February 16, 2018
  10. As a completely separate question…If you no longer believe that there was a book, do you also believe that a Tamam Shud slip was never found in a fob?

    February 16, 2018

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