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Fiction and Foxglove

Digitalis purpurea.

Mr T Keane arrived in Adelaide on November 30th. His luggage contained an entire wardrobe together with a set of home-made tools he used to steal cars. He was well-dressed, well built and well shod, a smoker, some of his clothes American made.

His contact in Adelaide was at the pick-up end of a Glenelg phone number.


Keane ate a pasty later that evening, probably sat at a kitchen table while it warmed, looking forward to a feed after a long day.

Keane died soon after and was laid flat on the floor and stripped of ID before being transported from the house.

To the beach.


“The circulation (of a haemoptysis sufferer) should then be kept as tranquil as possible by perfect rest of body and mind. To avoid the necessity of further abstraction of blood, such remedies as digitalis, tartarised antimony, nitre, and saline purgatives may be prescribed.”

A system of practical medicine comprised in a series of original dissertations, Vol 5.


23 Jan 1942 – Haemoptysis.

2 February 1942 – Chest Investigation.

19 February 1942 – Haemoptysis.

10 July 1942 – Pneumonia.

11 August 1942 – Asthma.

29 August 1942 – Sinusitis.

13 September 1943 – Discharged due to the effects of Post Concussion Syndrome.

NAA File VX 67088. Prosper Thomson.


Professor Sir John Cleland would not speak the name of the poison he thought was used to kill T Keane, and held up a small piece of paper for the Coroner to read instead.

Header pc is Digitalis purpurea.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Byron Deveson #

    Jessie had an interest in herbal medicine and pharmacy. Digitalis was only used as a herbal medicine in Scandinavian countries (SM’s mtDNA suggests Finnish ancestry on his mother’s side). SM was probably suffering from the effects of lead poisoning which lowers the safety threshold between a effective dose of digitalis and a fatal dose. It is possible that lead (or bismuth. antimony? I don’t know about antimony but perhaps) poisoning could reduce the threshold to zero. A normally safe dose could be fatal.

    February 9, 2020

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