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Tommy Keane. Merchant seaman. Black-marketeer

the maiwarra

The merchant seaman.

He is an American who served in the US Merchant Marine after being classified 4F for WW2 active service  – a foot problem. Otherwise superbly fit.

His service record has him sailing regularly to and from Australia and Pacific island ports on vessels loaded with repatriated war material. Timber, iron, coms gear, weapons, ovens, heavy earth-moving equipment, lathes, generators, medical equipment, vehicles. Ammunition. Explosives.

To him, merchandise.

His job on board.

3rd Officer.

His method.

To change the markings on certain cargoes and make arrangements for them to be picked up at the docks by a driver who had been given a particular delivery address. Arrangements such as these could be made in any Australian port.

His reward.

The resale of these second-hand goods, for cash.

His purpose in coming to Adelaide in 1948.

To see a little boy he thinks is his.

The nurse.

A chance introduction to the seaman by a mutual friend in a Sydney hotel in 1946. Then dinner, dancing and a late breakfast. Nine months later a child, after moving to Adelaide where she found solicitous company with a buyer and seller of second-hand goods.

The buyer and seller of second-hand goods.

Adept, smart, knowledgeable, quick. Only one small misstep with an obstinate woman in what was otherwise a stellar career, though small-time.

Tommy Keane

The nurse mentioned the American’s name to her companion, to tell him he had called to say he was visiting Adelaide. Keane had used a phone number given to him by the man who first introduced them, an engineer working out of George’s Head Army Water base in Sydney, and had written it on the back of a small second-hand book he had bought in Singapore.

A Rubaiyat.

For her.

Then the nurse hinted to her companion at the rumours that had surrounded this cashed-up American seaman when she was in Sydney.

The News.

The companion mentioned the news of this imminent visit to a select few of his Adelaidian business colleagues. Men in the know.

The Snatch.

The Adelaide criminal milieu was ruled by the Smith family; ruthless operators who had murderously enriched themselves over the years through the disadvantage of others and the forgiving, paid complicity of people in higher authority.

These were the ones the nurse’s companion sought out as both accomplices and advisers in his plan to rob the American Keane of his cash.

Keane had informed the nurse he would be arriving at Adelaide by ANA aircraft on the morning of November 30th, flying from Sydney. Her companion volunteered to drive to the airport and meet him on the day. She had a child to manage.

Two of the Smith brothers were to lie in wait in a warehouse close to the airport where the companion was to take Keane after offering him a view of various items stored there for sale without their rightful owners’ consent, before continuing their journey to Moseley Street.

The arrival and pickup instructions.

ANA Flight A25 arrives at 9:15 am.

Pick up target at 9:45 am.

Deliver him to the warehouse at 10:00am.

Relieve him of his suitcase and any identification and secure him, a show of force may be required but he is to remain unmarked. He may fight back.

Both brothers carried well maintained Hi-Power 9mm 13 shot Browning automatic pistols.

The False Trail.

10:20 am. The companion travels with the ransacked suitcase to Adelaide train station and buys a train ticket to Henley Beach: with Keane being a visitor it would be surprising if he knew the shortest way to Glenelg. This ticket is to be returned to the brothers.

11:00 am. The companion lodges Keane’s suitcase with the luggage office.

11:15 am. The companion leaves the station and buys a ticket on a city bus to Glenelg. He doesn’t use it but returns to his car. This ticket too is to be returned to the brothers as more evidence of Keane’s indecisiveness.

The Pasty and the Poison.

Nobody who dealt with the companion was unaware of his ongoing physical condition and the medicine he took to quell the coughing spasms. This, of course, did not go unnoticed by the brothers, and through him were able to obtain a fatal dose of digitalis without having to buy it themselves.

10:30 am –  Hours to wait until dark while holding a man under their guns. And Keane not knowing if he was to live or die today.

8:00 pm. All three were hungry so one of the man left his brother with Keane and found a shop selling hot food. He buys three pasties with extra salt for one.

8:30 pm. Keane eats his pasty then asks for a drink of water, which one of the brothers fetches from  a tap in the warehouse lavatory. Unremarkably, it looks and tastes foul.

Nevertheless, he drinks it.

9:00 pm. Keane dies.


The most successful murders are those made to look like suicide.

Keane had his copy of the Rubaiyat in a coat pocket, and using logic the elder and better educated of the brothers concluded that the two foreign words printed in bold font on the last page in all probability meant The End.

He removed that part of the page, folded it then inserted the slip into Keane’s fob pocket.

10:00 pm. The brothers lifted him into their car and drove him to Glenelg where one carried the body from the car and along the beach to the bottom of the steps opposite the Children’s Home. A place where it was not unusual to see men overcome by strong drink taking a breather.

The brother added a touch of his own to reinforce this view by lodging a part-smoked cigarette on Keane’s collar. Then, on his way back to the car, he tossed the Rubaiyat through the part-open back window of a Hillman Minx parked by the roadside.

Keane’s Booty

Twenty-five thousand pounds in high currency notes.

Fifteen in one of his socks, ten in the other.


A note.

The two tickets were put with the body in the hope that by the time the police had exhausted all the leads of Keane having arrived on the 30th by rail, the airport trail will have gone cold.

As it happened, the police didn’t think to check any aircraft arrivals.



2 Comments Post a comment
  1. riptide81 #

    You obviously put some time into it and it’s an interesting idea. It’s just as far as finding solutions go it’s a story created to hit certain factual bullet points rather than the other way around.
    But hey, this is one of those mysteries where actual answers are unlikely so might as well have fun with it.
    Sounds like a good start to a movie script. “Based on true events”

    January 18, 2020
  2. ausernametoremember #

    Ok, this was absurd but boy did I enjoy it.

    January 18, 2020

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