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What would we be talking about ..

What would we be talking about if we took the facts into consideration?


How could he have lit his cigarette without matches?

Was the man seen lying in the same position the previous evening – for just a little over an hour –  part of some subterfuge?

Was the man seen looking down at him also part of the subterfuge?

Was the box of Bryant and May matches deliberately placed with body after it was searched, or was it a case of evidence contamination?


The following paragraph written by Feltus in his book The Unknown Man has always confounded me. (p40)

‘It was later established that the following items were found with the stranger: a handkerchief*, a pair of underpants (jockey type)**, a singlet**, train ticket, a bus ticket, a part packet of chewing gum (Juicy Fruit), two* combs, a box of Bryant and May matches (quarter full)* and an Army Club Cigarette Packet, containing seven cigarettes of another brand (Kensitas).

* not on the list of items found on the body by PC Moss.

** possibly refers to what SM was wearing – but why no mention of his shirt socks coat cardigan and tie?

Gordon might be another who understands the double bluff that might have been played here:

(1) He had to have matches because his cigarette was half smoked.

(2) So they were planted.

(3) And the plant disguised by the addition of further items, later ‘to be found with‘ the stranger.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Let’s say if one thing is doubtful, then everything must be doubted, which of course leads to there being subterfuge involved.
    So on a theory of subterfuge is involved, instead of working from the evidence upwards, we have to work backwards and work out what could hiding his identity be for, and then search for candidates. Which is what I’ve been sleuthing in recent times.

    What physical evidence can be trusted? IMO, the autopsy, i.e. what’s inside him, and time of death, and this leads to the biggest dilemma in the case, stomach contents. If he died at 3am and ate a pastie less than a few hours beforehand, where the he’ll did he get the pastie, where no shops were open, and certainly none that would put a pastie in the pie warmer after the lunch trade. H e simply could not of been on that beach all night. He must’ve revisited that house and was cooked a pastie, which means he was there for some time. Jessica or Prosper or both were lying.
    How much the police were lying about the case is anyone’s guess. But if they were hiding his identity then there must be a reason. A reason if sluethed in reverse might just snag the very secret to which they tried to hide at the time.

    September 30, 2019
    • The man seen carrying a body along the beach that night was probably the same duffer who forgot to leave the matches .. but he did remember to poke a half-smoked cigarette under the dead man’s chin, the one that left no scorch marks either on his skin or clothing.
      Then the matches appeared … but only after DS Leane itemised all the items in the suitcase for the record. Matches were not listed. GFP155/156) – which means everything (except the clothing given to Cleland and Cowan) was in the lockup.
      That’s where the matches were planted.

      Len Brown was the media go to man. The only way to pin down a date the matches were first mentioned is to dive into Trove, or Brown’s notes, which aren’t helpful.


      September 30, 2019
  2. Clive #

    Hi petedavo, There was a café at Glenelg called the ‘All Night Cafe’ at Moseley Square. Not sure of it’s opening hours but, see “The Advertiser” 9 Oct 1948 Page 3 the article would suggest a late closing?

    September 30, 2019
    • If thats where he got the patie form, then he must’ve left Somerton after he was seen that night. Hiked it up to Glenelg the worked back to the same location before 3am. Presumably public transport stopped sometime before midnight, so he must’ve been on good for t the return journey at least, if not both the journey there and back. Personally, I don’t buy it. If the purpose of him being in Adelaide is solely to see Jessica, and child, then I don’t think he left the vicinity

      September 30, 2019
      • Either way you look at it, a man eating a pasty doesn’t sound like he felt he was in any danger.

        September 30, 2019
        • Unless, he bought it the day before and lugged it around it his coat pocket. Then maybe he might’ve been trepidatious of whether it would give him botulism 😉 but other than that no.

          October 1, 2019
  3. I’ve been working backwards from the idea of what could cause the identity to be kept hidden.
    There’s plenty of plausible reasons at the time, but not now.
    The existence of the interception and decipher of Verona has been disclosed.
    Defected agents and infiltration of various groups, organisations and spy rings from that era have all pretty much been disclosed.
    There’s jack all really that is still a secret continuing from that era.
    I even looked for an Australian Roswell type of incident, but nada.
    The only thing left IMO, is that he might’ve been bumped off by Prosper & Jessica and they obfuscated the investigation successfully, and were simply lucky.
    Unless we jag some record of him we might never know who he was. Maybe we might never know why he was bumped off, or if indeed he was bumped off.

    October 2, 2019
    • Pete, Harkness and Boxall socialised a couple of hundred yards away from the submarine barrier that denied unauthorised entry to the inner Sydney Harbour at a time when intelligence about allied shipping was a premium product. There is no doubt Russia coveted this information and Boxall, who was employed for a time at the Georges Head end of the barrier, would have been privy to most of it.
      Harkness and Boxall, to my mind, are two of a party of three in the gathering and distribution of this intelligence.
      Not only that, I believe Boxall, under the instruction of a higher authority, was distributing doctored information unbeknown to Harkness.

      October 2, 2019
  4. Byron Deveson #

    I think your hypothesis is quite plausible. Many socialists in Australia in the 1940s were uncritically supportive of the Soviet Union. The Petrov Affair (the early to mid 1950s) clearly demonstrated that the KGB was so well informed that Petrov (the KGB Resident) was not ordered to seek out any intelligence sources apart from finding journalists who could be suborned by reason of their personal faults. To the best of my knowledge this point has never been made before. In short, Australian leaked to the Soviets so much military, political, scientific etc. intelligence that the KGB didn’t need any more.

    October 2, 2019
  5. Clive #

    One of the simplest ‘things’ that Canney could have done, when he visited Jessica, was to ask her to show him her diary. If she was a practising Sister, surely she would have had a record for 30 nov-1 Dec? Another ‘thing’, how did she manage to persuade the police to keep her name out of the public eye? Perhaps, she showed Canney some other paperwork, which quickly convinced him the local police would never get anywhere with the case?

    October 2, 2019
    • Clive, Canney was hoping to interview the phone subscriber when Harkness opened the door to him, and despite her daughter Kate’s memory of Harkness as being a secretive woman, she spilled out chapter and verse about Boxall, where he lived, where he worked , where he drank, and of course, her gift to him of a Rubaiyat.

      October 3, 2019
      • … further
        These would not likely be the actions of someone knowingly involved in any sort of intelligence affairs.

        October 3, 2019
        • I’d suggest that Harkness indeed had no idea of Somerton Man’s visit. Prosper might’ve met him that day, whilst she was working. Her reaction to seeing the body, just, what have might’ve been genuine shock.

          October 3, 2019
  6. Clive #

    Unless, both Jessie and Boxall had already contacted each other, after 1 Dec 1948 and worked out, in advance, how they would deal with the authorities?

    October 3, 2019
  7. Clive #

    Gerry’s book, Page 65 about “remarkably clean shoes” reinforces the theory that the SM seen, was the second body.

    October 4, 2019

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