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Dogging Prosper’s footsteps

One way of finding out how Prosper McTaggart Thomson reacted to the knowledge of the death of the Somerton Man is to follow the only trail he left – the classified ads he placed between early 1948 and 1950 / 51 and the newspaper articles that recorded his misfortunes.

Then overlay them onto that other trail, the one that began on November 30th 1948.


Between 26 February 1948 and 27 March 1948, Thomson X3239 bought a run of eight classifieds for hire cars in the Advertiser:

Then another for three seats for hire on a Mt Gambier trip on the 28th of May and 1st of June:

Then on 31 July and 7th of August 1948 an ad for a new gas taxi radio-equipped sedan available weddings. Phone X3239

On the 14th of August an ad for a NEW Olds, sedan taxi, radio-equipped etc .. X3239

On September 15th an ad for three seats for hire  in a NEW sedan leaving for Broken Hill.

On the 25th of Sept 1948 a Vauxhall 12hp sedan, new, 1948 model, equipped radio and seat covers for exch suitable GM or Chrysler product. Phone Thomson, 90A Moseley St Glenelg X3239

Then a hire-car ad driven by a careful ex-AIF driver on the 6th 12th and 13th of November 1948. Phone Thomson X3239.

On the 13th of November an ad for a HOUSE, any district, suit couple, pay cash, can give maisonette with mod cons. Glenelg. Very low rental. Phone Thomson x3239

On the 27th of November 1948 a want ad for a BUNGALOW, pay cash £1500. Can give tenancy maisonette, rent 22/6, Glenelg. Phone Thomson X3239

1 December 1948.

The body of an unknown man was found on Somerton Beach a couple of hundred yards from the home of Thomson X3239.

A gap until the 19th of December then an ad for a lost gold Tudor watch – nearly new. Good reward. Phone Thomson X3239.

Swiss made.

On the 1st of January 1949 an ad for a BUNGALOW, suit small family. Pay cash. Can give tenancy maisonette. Glenelg. Low rent. Thomson X3239.

Then six more ads placed for MV hire or sale between the 5th of January and the 5th of May 1949.

Another HOUSE ad on 11 June 1949 to suit a small family, eastern suburbs preferred, cash £1,500 to £2,000: can give tenancy of maisonette Glenelg, rental 25/- weekly if required. Thomson X3239

15th of June a hire car ad. Latest black sedan, radio equipped and air conditioned. Careful ex-AIF driver. Lowest rates. Thomson X3239

17th June 1949:

The Inquest into the death of a man found on Somerton Beach commenced.

… and this ad was placed by Prosper Thomson for the following day:

RIFLE, automatic Winchester, model 63 or similar, for cash. Thomson 90A Moseley St Glenelg. X3239

23rd July 1949

A Rubaiyat with the telephone number X3239 written on the back cover was handed in to the police.

Soon after the 23rd

Detective Errol Canney knocked on the door of 90A Moseley Street and had it opened by one Miss Jessica Harkness, a small boy hiding behind her skirts.

Prosper Thomson was never interviewed, despite the wealth of evidence shown here that he used the number X3239 regularly.


I can find no further activities until 14 July 1950, when ads resume for car hire and sales.

It’s noted that on the 7th of  November and 2nd of December 1953 two ads were run for a single room required by young businessman. Preferably with garage, south east suburbs. X3239 week-end or evening.

I’m happy to make any alterations or additions .. 

and dude  .. there’s your coverup.

49 Comments Post a comment
  1. thedude747 #

    Interesting array of character with whom Prosper would have come into contact with those adds.

    Fascinating to say the least that Proper was so short of cash in the middle of 1948 that we was resorting to hiring out the extra car seats on his country road trips to cover for extra cash yet in not so long after in the weeks prior to SM winding up dead 500 meters from his front door he has up to 2000 pounds (a fortune) to splash on a new pad in the posh “Eastern suburbs ” of Adelaide.

    February 6, 2020
    • Harkness was taken to see the bust because the police thought it may have been Boxall … and she was mortally surprised to see it was a likeness of one of Prosper’s acquaintances. That’s how I see it.

      February 6, 2020
  2. thedude747 #

    Precisely explains her reaction which was described as genuine shock and horror !

    February 6, 2020
    • This is where it gets tricky .. because it puts Prosper as a Person of Interest.

      February 6, 2020
  3. dusty #

    Into each life some rain must fall Peteb..It only gets tricky for those who still swear by Gerry Feltus and his own fanciful version of the Somerton man story which is based for most part on hearsay; Hearsay modified and sexed up by fellow travellers to enhance the assertions and deliberate fabrications offered as undeniable truth in ‘The Unknown Man’.

    February 7, 2020
  4. In 1948 Thomson had the benefit of a lot of motor cars: A NEW black sedan in Feb ’48, a NEW gas sedan-taxi in July 1948, a NEW Oldsmobile sedan-taxi in August ’48, a NEW Vauxhall 12 hp sedan in September ’48.

    February 7, 2020
  5. thedude747 #

    Mrs Thomson answered the door and played along despite the fact that she was NOT Mrs Thomson at the time and the phone was in her name. Most dodgy guys put things in their wives or girlfriends names. Threw out the red herring about Boxal and the case never got on track since that day. Imagine if George answered the door and those useless pods actually did a bit of research on him. But alas he was NEVER INTERVIEWED !!

    Wouldn’t it have been great to hear “Mr Thomson where are you financing all these expensive cars and fancy watches , what is your connection with the Melbourne car trade/underworld as referenced in the Daphne Page case. Oh Mr Thomson I see you have previous form for car fraud… can you explain this man having your phone number ?”

    February 7, 2020
    • I don’t remember seeing anything that proved she was the phone subscriber ..

      February 7, 2020
    • dusty #

      If you go to the last podcast visuals, we have our man there thumbing through his ’47 phone book (based on ’46 subscriber detail) and there’s our Jo listed just as reported. Seems OK but with his record for misrepresenting facts, nothing can be taken for granted.

      February 7, 2020
  6. Clive #

    Seems a bit odd(?) or is it me? That Prosper advertised in local newspapers with the same telephone number that was under Jessie’s name in the local telephone book? Clive

    February 7, 2020
    • She’d have been his answering service. Prosper was a busy man, out and about, not sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.

      February 7, 2020
  7. Byron Deveson #

    Something is in error. Jessie wasn’t in Adelaide in 1947, let alone 1946.

    February 7, 2020
    • My recollection is that she left for Victoria after becoming pregnant in 1946, then continued to Adelaide in 1947 to have the baby.

      February 7, 2020
  8. Clive #

    See “The Advertiser” 18 May 1946 Page 1-re: Queenie Elizabeth Thomson, living in Hampton, Vic-if she is ‘the’ Queenie why was she visiting Adelaide?

    February 7, 2020
    • Prosper and Queenie de-camped for Perth in 1937 where Prosper was doing well until confronted with the illegality of trading a Chevrolet he bought on the HP in Vic when using the forged title of his pre-owned Willys .

      Queenie fled their WA nest soon after with, it was alleged, an amount of monies.
      What I’m putting forward Clive old mate, is that villains tend to cluster.

      February 7, 2020
  9. dusty #

    Prosper Thomson died in his eighties as a cleanskin, to put that into perspective he had no criminal record to speak of, not even on the one charge of forgery and one of attempted utterance of a false document in 1938. For his cooperative plea he was given a bond to be of good behaviour at Perth Magistrates Court before SM Moseley (ironic). As for the really petty traffic violations in Adelaide from 1941 through ’51? they wern’t contested so didn’t count and the Page sting didn’t stick so there you have it.

    February 7, 2020
    • He apparently lost an expensive Swiss made Tudor watch not long after a body (not wearing a watch) was found and then advertised for an automatic rifle during the inquest … both ads completely out of character.

      February 8, 2020
  10. dusty #

    Absolutely suspicious, both items and especially the timing. It’s certainly on the cards that a blunt message was implied with the mod 63 Winchester rifle, perhaps even the almost new Tudor time keeper could have been a threat.

    February 8, 2020
  11. A blunt message. A threat. The only folks who would qualify to be threatened by our man would be one of the lower order witnesses.

    February 8, 2020
  12. dusty #

    Second thoughts; the Thomson boys were a little on the light side up top going by their respective records, dad included. It’s possible that Prosper’s assumed Adelaide ads were taken out as precaution against any subsequent police RSG raps, a standard drill for any small time fencer. I guess he might also have convinced Strapps that striped duds were in for gentleman’s evening beach attire, if push came to shove.

    February 8, 2020
    • He could have monstered Lyons, Strapps or Moss, each had conflicting recollections. And that’s not to say whoever it might have been ignored the threat anyway.
      There’s so many worms in this bucket I think I’ll go fishing.

      February 8, 2020
      • How did you pay for classified ads those days? Clive?

        February 8, 2020
  13. dusty #

    Plenty of monster whiting off Somerton all year round…Ads might have been gratis if you had a good mate like Frank ‘TS’ Kennedy of the Advertiser in your corner…Sorry Clive your turn.

    February 8, 2020
    • Hold your water … the bucket of worms is down to one. No pressure, Clive.

      February 8, 2020
  14. Clive #

    Sorry Pete, no idea how Thomson paid for his ads. (Before my time-well, just!) I’m assuming with the number of ads in “The Advertiser” he would have maintained an account, paid monthly? Prosper did use box numbers for some of his ads, in-between addresses probably the reason?

    February 8, 2020
    • I’m wondering what the logistics were for a paper like the Advertiser, who ran hundreds of classifieds a week. Some regular, others just once off. I can’t imagine them all standing in a queue outside the newspaper office waiting their turn to submit an application. Perhaps the Post Offices dealt with the paperwork and payment. There must have been a system to handle the volume.

      February 8, 2020
      • Don t know about the Tiser, but the West used newsagents to lodge classified ads and collect the fee at time of lodging the ad at the newsagent. When telephone lodgement became available you got a bill which you could pay at the newsagent. When credit cards came out in late 70’s, you could pay over the phone when lodging the add, however all old methods ran at same time.

        February 9, 2020
  15. Clive, one more thing – I have a gap in PT’s ads from 27 Nov ’48 to Jan 1 1949, excluding the Tudor watch ad. Then another gap between 15 June ’49 and 14 July ’50.

    Have I missed anything?

    I can pay. Any currency. Call X3239.

    February 8, 2020
  16. Clive #

    Looks like X3239 has been disconnected! One or two items-“The Advertiser” 11 Dec 1948 Page 16-Mrs Thomson, Same paper 18 Jun 1949 Page 17-rifle; same paper 22 Oct 1949 Page 21-House Ring F3380 or Box 953H. Apparently, F3380 belonged to Duffield Motors, 48 Hanson St, Adelaide CBD. Funny but Box 953H appeared in same paper on 15 Sept 1937 Page 5, again on 10 May 1947 & 28 May 1947

    February 9, 2020
  17. thedude747 #

    Proper operated as “Thomson Motors” for a time on Hanson st Adelaide. Hanson st in name now no longer exists but I found an old photograph which just happened to show Thomson motors with a closing down moving to Hindley st sign in the window.

    February 9, 2020
  18. Started by grand nephew, Carl

    Orphan tree Started by me so i could request merges with preexisting Harkness and Thomson trees to import all relatives
    The reasoning being is that SM might possibly be related, but we need to know them all to research them.

    February 9, 2020
    • Pete, I have to tell you, mate, that genealogy stuff just hardens my arteries, but you go right ahead.

      February 9, 2020
  19. Byron Deveson #

    from memory Prosper ran a couple of ads in 1949 with the name Thompson. Compositors in 1949 didn’t make mistakes like that. I feel he was trying to avoid being identified.

    February 9, 2020
  20. Clive #

    There was an ad, I’m sure in “The Advertiser” Dec 48?-I’m kicking myself because I can’t track it down. The ad was concerning a baby sitter/nursery sitter for a period of time, it requested applicants to contact Mr Thomson at/or ring 90a Moseley StX3239. The thing I thought was odd about this ad was why Mr T., not Mrs T?

    February 10, 2020
    • I remember that, years ago … maybe Barry T has it stashed in his Trove links.

      February 10, 2020
    • “NURSERY HOUSEMAID- WANTED for 4 weeks from Dec 6 at Somerton. Ring McTaggart. X1863.”
      Posted on 30 November 1948

      WANTED, governess for two chil–
      Fix this textdren. Oakden Hills Stn, Pt.
      Augusta. Ring Mrs. McTaggart.:
      X1863. (7 Feb 1949)

      governess for two small chil-
      Fix this textA dren, Oakden Hills, via Port Augusta.
      Binr Mrs. A. McTasgart. X1863. (22 Dec 1947)

      A NURSERY governess, by Mrs. Archie
      Fix this textMcTaggart, Oafcden Hills, Port
      Augusta. Ring X1863. (4 Jan ’47)

      February 25, 2020
  21. thedude747 #

    In the UK Proper would be referred to as a “wide boy”. A person involved in petty crime and consorts with petty criminals. Prosper was something of an Arthur Dailey. His angle was that he had access to bills of sale for prestige motor cars. Some of the US car theft rings were exporting stolen cars to the UK and Europe. Many of these US rings were made up of ex servicemen

    February 11, 2020
    • Prosper the Wide Boy. SM the visiting car thief. His unexplained death. A botched police investigation. A series of threatening messages aimed at Prosper. Prosper goes quiet. The police know nothing. Harkness almost gives the game away.

      February 11, 2020
    • Dude, send me an email address that works – I won’t publish it – there might be a wider development on your theory ..

      February 11, 2020
  22. thedude747 #

    Harkness owed Prosper. He saved her life and legitimized her child. She could hardly turn him in. Then what , back to Mentone?? No way.

    February 11, 2020
    • Was SM inside 90A on 30 Nov when somebody with evil intentions knocked on the front door?

      February 11, 2020
  23. thedude747 #

    Old mate Proper sure left an interesting trail with his prolific small adds. For those not aware it seems before he was operating out of Mosley on Ph x3239 he worked from Po box 953H Gpo Adelaide. Touting for cars to buy “pay cash” Living at 200 Hindley st. (Red light district)
    We know the Thomsons were quickly on the move from Mosley st whist Somerton man was still on the slab on west terrace because he seeks “bungalow any area” “pay cash” and offering Mosley st Add placed JAN 1 1949.
    We know he was off to Melbourne on Sunday Jan 9/1949

    February 12, 2020
    • That might tie into an earlier comment from Clive .. both of which makes the PT timeline even more interesting.

      ‘ There was an ad, I’m sure in “The Advertiser” Dec 48?-I’m kicking myself because I can’t track it down. The ad was concerning a baby sitter/nursery sitter for a period of time, it requested applicants to contact Mr Thomson at/or ring 90a Moseley StX3239. The thing I thought was odd about this ad was why Mr T., not Mrs T?’

      February 12, 2020
  24. thedude747 #

    Could be anywhere among his eclectic collection of small adds. Ive got him passing himself of as a Camera dealer in the Brisbane chronicle in November of 48. Asking people to send bank cheque “we quote on all camera equipment” Whats this “we ” Prosper? Hes everywhere! How this guy wasn’t looked into when a dead guy ended up down the road from him with his phone number is incredible.

    February 12, 2020

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