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39 For the code-gazers

“Through a large magnifying glass he (DS Leane) also saw capital letters written in faint pencil on the back of the book.”

Pen-stutter is argued as the reason for the ragged overlays; likely if the pen was applied to the rough paper-weave of the book, but unlikely if the ink was applied to the smooth surface of a photograph.

boxall's code

So, what are we looking at?


The police, or whoever was responsible for the ink overlay would not have permanently obscured Leane’s faint letters, evidence being what it is, so they can only have photographed the back of the book as it was then overlaid the letters with pen and ink on the subsequent print.

Then they photographed that.

That’s what we’re looking at.

It can be immediately noticed that there are several different styles of overlay, some are evenly drawn (A), others ragged (R N).

Pen-stutter is argued as the reason for the ragged overlays; likely if the pen was applied to the rough paper-weave of the book, but unlikely if the ink was applied to the smooth surface of a photograph.

So, if pen-stutter isn’t responsible for the appearance of the ink overlay there must be another reason.


24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Byron Deveson #

    I am in the mulga and away from my records but I previously conducted a number of experiments with 1940s materials (india ink, photographic prints and clear plastic from an old shirt packaging box) and india ink doesn’t wet photo prints very well and “pulls up” in a way that leaves ragged edges etc just like what we see with the “code”. and it is much worse with the clear plastic.In technical terms the ink is much more hydrophilic than the prints or the plastic. And, these problems are why post war drafting inks were formulated to “bite” into plastic drafting paper(=poorly hydrophilic).

    June 25, 2018
  2. Thanks, Byron, appreciated.

    June 25, 2018
  3. There were a few most interesting ‘ball point pens’ around from the ’30s, but the appearance of the code page suggests a free flowing ink of some kind and applied by an unusual ‘nib’. It was very fine and it would have taken a skilled writer to follow precisely the outlines of the letters or, in the case of the R and later the M, to precisely ‘dot’ each individual of the micro code.

    June 25, 2018
  4. Is it unusual to have a range of ‘pulls up’ effects on the same surface ?

    June 25, 2018
  5. Looking closely at the surface of the code page you can see that it is not a normal flat paper surface, in my view, it has been chemically treated. I am not certain whether Iodine Vapour was the agent but whatever was used it was done to lift the indentations/pencil marks so that they were more visible. Talking with GF he made it clear that part of the process they used was to turn the image negative, I think that the code page pre-mark up, was in fact a negative image.

    What that means is that whatever they used to lift the details, it turned them white in colour and the background would be darkened, turning the page negative now turned details of each letter black and the other markings on the page were turned into various shades of grey which I think depended on the age of the individual markings. You can see numerous examples of darker markings beneath the mark up, those are the micro letters; the same kind of letters that sit beneath the letter R. The stippling effect was the result of someone trying to individually cover the letters/numbers. You can see similar effects on other larger letters which run down the left hand side of the page as you view it. I think that indicates that the person started on the left working down and then, probably under instructions as you suggest, stopped the individual ‘stippling’ and moved across the page with his work.

    Whether the fluid used to mark up was in fact an ink, I couldn’t say, I can see that it was free flowing in parts, notably the top right corner staining. In other areas and in the markups they appear to have been applied with a narrow brush and not a nib, that work was done with some precision. An example would be the first letter P, you can see the outline of letters in the curve without much difficulty and the fluid marks are very closely aligned with the outlines of the letters. You can also see a very thin inner curve in the upper part of the P, it also covers letters which I estimate to be around .25 mm in height. That level of accuracy takes experience and fine motor skills.

    Hope this helps.

    June 26, 2018
  6. Thanks, Gordon, all that technique used on identifying the code and yet the contents of the suitcase weren’t fingerprinted.

    June 26, 2018
  7. Clive #

    Is it possible that the contents of the suitcase were not fingerprinted, simply because the ‘powers that be’, knew at that time that the suitcase and its contents had nothing to do with the SM, and were simply a diversion?

    June 26, 2018
  8. I agree with you Clive, there is something very odd about the suitcase. Many years back on the old Adelaide Uni FB page, we went through the exercise quite thoroughly, one contributor questioned the slipper size being a 7 and yet SM’s shoes were apparently a custom made size 8. Most of us would know the almost impossible task of putting on a pair of shoes that was one size too small. That shoe size would indicate that the owner was a smaller person.

    Now consider the fact that there was no time stamped on the left luggage ticket or at least I haven’t seen one and yet an attendant swore that it was 11.30 am. It could be that the ticket that GF shows in his book was a mock up but all the other details are correct. Working through this aspect, it would be relatively easy to change a date on a machine but to alter the time stamp would mean that you would have to physically be present at that particular time, maybe that’s where a slip up occurred.

    Thus far we have a mismatch with slippers and a questionable left luggage ticket. Now move on to the big issue, why no fingerprints? The only thing that tied SM to the case was the thread, a commonly available thread at that. It wouldn’t pass muster today but back then it was a different matter altogether.

    The loose ends are coming together and at the moment we have managed to tenuously connect TK to the code page, that should be strengthened in the coming weeks. Was this one of TK’s suitcases? If so what about the other trousers in the case? Is it possible that one of Tibor’s 2 suitcases was actually that of a travelling companion? All conjecture for now but, as I say, loose ends are gradually being tied up.

    June 27, 2018
  9. GC, they matched underdaks and a button as well as the thread.

    June 27, 2018
  10. How did they match under daks and a button? A button was found and so were under daks but buttons is buttons and under daks is under daks. Similar yes but no labels or identifying markings.

    June 28, 2018
  11. That being the case, where would the matching pair of jockeys have come from ?

    June 28, 2018
  12. A good question. I suggest it was an assumption. The thread was commonly available, buttons and under daks were commonly available. To tie them in with any degree of certainty is a big step to take.

    June 29, 2018
  13. Clive #

    Just found a note about my meeting with Paul Lawson on 17 October 2017, I asked him if the suitcase belonged to the SM-he was definite in his answer-No.

    July 11, 2018
    • Clive, with greatest respect and increasing fervour .. please ask him why.

      July 11, 2018
  14. Clive #

    Hi Pete, Ok, will ask him.

    July 11, 2018
  15. Could Mr. Tom Keane have travelled from Hamilton to Adelaide to repair a bus engine? Good time to look at the bust and train timetables from Hamilton to Adelaide? Will ask the question at this end.

    July 15, 2018
    • Every mechanic I know has lines in his hands deep enough to plant tomatoes and fingernails like chipped brick ….

      July 15, 2018
  16. I was wondering whether he had lost a suitcase.

    July 15, 2018
  17. That would upset the applecart ….

    July 15, 2018
  18. Wasn’t there an ad in the local press for a lost suitcase at the time?

    July 15, 2018
  19. Misca #

    A very long time ago…I found two Suitcase Lost adverts (one 16 September 1948, the other 30 November 1948). Both appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald. Barry T (I think it was him) did an incredible job tagging anything he found on Trove that related to Prosper. You can see the list here:

    July 16, 2018
  20. Misca #

    Here’s a list of “Suitcase lost” in The Advertiser Adelaide:

    July 16, 2018
  21. Many thanks, Misca, appreciated.

    July 16, 2018

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