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Thomson and Keane’s Fatal Relationship.

T. Keane arrived in Adelaide in November 1948 carrying a suitcase that held a set of car-breaking tools together with a pocket-sized copy of the Rubaiyat. At some stage of his journey or prior to it he placed a piece of paper on top of the back cover and wrote down a phone number, a bank account number and five lines of capital letters, leaving faint impressions.

After crossing out and re-writing one line, the five lines then appeared as four which Keane broke into two groups of two lines using the letter X as a border.

The police found these impressions were only visible under a UV light.

If any photographs were taken of the back cover in its original state, before the impressions were marked over with printer’s ink, they were not made available.

The phone number, X3239, was used by a well-known Adelaide second-hand car dealer named Prosper McTaggart Thomson. There is no record of the investigating police attempting to trace the owner of the bank account.

There is also no photograph of the bank account number, despite that it was probably as identifiable as the phone number. No photograph of that has been made available either.

Keane’s business with Thomson is assumed to have been connected with the motor vehicle trades and despite Thomson’s lack of fortune leading up to December 1948 – excluding two Vauxhall deals (*) – he appeared eager to obtain premises and a partner with enough money to assist him in starting up.

WANTED. Building suit workshop – pay ingoing or buy plant. URGENT Thomson X3292′ May ’47.

WANTED. Partner for used car business – $34,539 to $69,077. City premises.’ May ‘47.

‘Detection methods in this state (Qld) have been so successful that clever gangs operating in the southern states have left Queensland severely alone.’ Trove, 17 Nov ’47.

Thomson had previously used an (unnamed) partner in a minor venture turned sour in West Australia in 1936/37, and the police held the opinion that this partner was the one who convinced Thomson to engage in the deal that was his undoing.

(*)’SALE Vauxhall Wyvern 1940 ex. condition. Exchange car suitable tow caravan. $14,801. Thomson, Moseley St.’ June ’48.

(*)’SALE Vauxhall 12 hp sedan,12 hp sedan, new, 1948 model equipped radio and seat covers, exch for a sedan suitable for taxi, 1940 or later, GM or Chrysler product preferred, this is a genuine deal, based on new price both ways. No dealers, all genuine replies considered. Wrire, call or phone Thomson. (90a Moseley Street., Glenelg. Phone X3239.’ September 1948.

Keane was found dead close to Thomson’s home on December 1st, 1948, the day after he was assumed to have arrived in Adelaide.

But there is no proof that this was the case. No tickets were found on his body to indicate he came by train, Keane may have arrived in Adelaide earlier and somebody else could have lodged his suitcase and purchased the train and bus tickets that were found in his pocket. None of the individuals who issued the tickets recalled who purchased them.

The suitcase was found to be unlocked. This is unusual as most travellers are wary of leaving an unlocked suitcase in the care of a railway luggage office.

And there has always been a question mark as to why the bus and train tickets were the only identifiable items left to be found on his body, and why they pointed to the place where his suitcase could be found. Unfortunately the police never made this connection and relied on a press article in their search for any unclaimed luggage.

In addition, the seemingly un-coordinated timing of his supposed arrival in Adelaide in the early morning with the later purchase of the train and bus tickets, together with the hour his suitcase was lodged has never been satisfactorily explained.

The suitcase contained spare shirts, pyjamas, dressing gown, slippers, ties and underwear but no socks. This indicated Keane intended to stay in Adelaide for some time. The missing socks have been the subject of much discussion, some believe if Keane was holding a large quantity of cash when he arrived it may well have been hidden inside them.

One pair of underpants found in the suitcase was soiled, unusual as overnight travellers usually pack clean clothes.

Keane’s body had been stripped of wallet and ID and no luggage-ticket stub or suitcase key was found on his body. One of his knuckles was bloodied.

Keane’s Rubiayat was tossed into a car not far from where his body was found and somebody had torn the Tamam Shud slip from it and hidden it in his fob pocket.

Jessica Harkness, Thomson’s live-in partner recognised Keane’s likeness when she viewed a bust of his head and shoulders. Her memory of him so fresh the police accompanying her thought she might faint when it was unveiled by Paul Lawson.

She answered none of their questions.

Thomson’s fortunes improved markedly in and after the month Keane died.

Wanted house, any district, suit couple, pay cash, can give maison-ette with mod. Cons. Glenelg. Very low rental. Phone Thomson X3239.’ 12 November 1948

Wanted bungalow, pay cash to $93,875. Can give tenancy maisonette, all mod cons, rent 22/6, Glenelg. Phone Thomson X3239.’ 27 November 1948.

It is finished.


One Comment Post a comment
  1. It’s noted that the car-stealing gangs operating in Qld were being severely hampered by 1947, the time Thomson was looking for a partner and a workshop.

    March 10, 2020

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