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The baccarat connection

Dome had it first :

Lifted from Cipher M .. Trove article 26 Jan ’49.

“Melbourne.- Two prominent Melbourne baccarat players who desire to remain anonymous, believe they knew the unknown man in the “Somerton beach body mystery.”

They saw the man’s picture in a Melbourne newspaper and said they thought they recognised him as a “nitkeeper” who worked at a Lonsdale street baccarat school about four years ago. They could not recall his name.

They said the man talked to few people. He was employed at the baccarat school for about 10 weeks, then left without saying why or where he was going.”

You could argue in this instance that ‘prominent’ means successful  .. Kerry Packer became a prominent player after doing his numbers and realising baccarat didn’t pay the bank as much as other forms of gambling, leaving more for the punter.

The story goes that when Packer was playing baccarat in Las Vegas with a Texan who was bragging about the size of his spread and the thousands of his cattle he owned, Packer stopped the dealer, looked the Texan in the eye like the poisonous old lizard he was and asked him what were their names.

Getting back to it – if our man Keane was involved in gambling four years before being found dead on Somerton beach, what’s to say the code found imprinted on the back of the Rubaiyat wasn’t a record of some wagering game he played.

I’ve seen men notating their wins and losses at roulette in Queensland casinos as an example, scribbling their coded hieroglyphics on sheets of foolscap paper. So there’s a precedent.

Then Russian Boris joined the party with this comment:

“In terms of “notation” it might be important to look at not just the letters and symbols, but also their arrangement.

Assuming that they were pencilled on a sheet lying on top of the Ruby, we also should assume that that sheet may have had other content on it, e.g. printed words, graphics, etc.

Is the code “filling in” a form or grid? “Marking up” a document? Does it (the format) fit any known “games” if the day , e.g. in newspapers ?

Another question is: why lay the original sheet on top of the Ruby? Because there was no other flat surface available? The lettering looks rough, rushed. Was it done in the field? On a train? On a bus?


There does appear to be a pattern of sorts with the letter M prefixing most lines .. and all the lines consisting of roughly the same number of capitals. Not to mention the X that separates them and what looks to be a triumphant St Gab flourish at the end.

There you have it.

37 Comments Post a comment
  1. John Smith #

    If to separate first letter, others go in pairs. In my mind this thing associates with table of radio callings ( this was used by me in time of serving in Soviet army, changing callings every midnight). Letters in two sets had been placed on special sheet rows and columns (like Excel) with code words and digits. But first letter here may show more complex encoding or using several sheets. IMHO.

    March 22, 2020
    • Gordon Cramer (Tamam Shud Blogspot) did a similar exercise using Allied signalling techniques … the post is buried pretty deep in his site but might be worth searching for as he knows his game in that respect.

      March 22, 2020
  2. Thedude747 #

    Another famous KP Las Vegas legend has it that becoming more annoyed with a boorish American wearing a ten gallon hat who advised all seated at the table that ” I am worth one hundred million dollars” KP turned around eye balling him and says. “Yeah , ill toss you for it”

    March 22, 2020
    • Back when James and Gretel Packer used to holiday at Palm Beach as youngsters they were stranded on the rocks south of Kiddies Corner near to a very secret spot called The Terraces .. the Life-guards at Whale beach were alerted and as they were pushing their ducky into the water KP arrived in about five Mercedes and demanded a seat. The head Lifey, a known Avalon hell-man named Stretch told KP to pull his head in and and go back to wait on the beach.
      Everyone got rescued and from then on Stretch, the bloody hoon, got invited to every New Years Eve bash at KP’s compound. Probably went bare-foot, knowing him.

      March 22, 2020
  3. dude47 #

    The problem I have with the code is that its just an imprint and probably the partial remains of what was probably a larger series of notes or list that without the entirety of the document can never be known.

    In other words its out of context.

    The opens up all kinds of very mundane possibilities far less exciting than the secret code theory. It could have been a simple as test running a new pen. Fidling with a cross word. If he was from a non English speaking background he may have been going through an exercise in improving his written English lettering skills.

    To me its second to Alf Boxal as the most overrated leads in the case.

    However Im far more inclined to consider ideas such as the ones being discussed here than the secret codes and micro code writing rabbit holes that have been dead ends for 70 years.

    March 22, 2020
    • пожалуйста #

      I would tend to agree with The Dude here when it comes to “solving the case” (and it very much depends on the definition of what that means).

      The code is only loosely connected to John Doe, via the found copy of the Ruby, which may never have been in his possession. It doesn’t seem that the code will be critical in identifying the man, although it may offer some corroborative evidence once he is identified, e.g. if it links him to a “domain”, such as intelligence/security, petty crime, the arts, etc.

      Other factors than the code link him to the domains recently explored:

      Nit-keeper/gambling/cards – witness statements
      TWOC’ing / motor trade – tool set, link to Prosper
      Ballet – physical characteristics, link to Jessica & Robin Thomson, tool set
      Espionage – Tamam Shud slip, time/place, attempts to obscure ID, incongruous origin of personal effects, purported tradecraft

      None of these relationships between John Doe and a domain appear to NEED the code. Although the code (especially if “solved”) might strengthen any connection.

      I have drawn a basic network diagram that attempts to link some (not all) of these things together in relationships. It’s partial, incomplete, based on a shaky data-model (not POLE), prone to elision and interpretation of entities and their relationships… and bloody complex.

      But the code looks like an outlier. Until it’s solved.

      March 22, 2020
      • There is no proof that John Doe owned the Ruby, there is proof that the TS slip was torn from it.

        March 22, 2020
        • пожалуйста #

          Only shaky proof, if I have understood correctly? A hearsay match. Certainly the photos purported to be of ‘the’ book don’t match ‘the’ slip. IIRC, you said that Feltus (?) claims the torn-page book photo is not of the actual book, but a ‘re-creation’ made by/for a newspaper.

          But let’s take it at face value: we are left with the fact that John Doe had the slip, not the book.

          If the book/slip were separated as a recognition code, he might never have had the book. Only the slip. He might have the slip in his pocket at the time of death for many reasons, e.g.:

          a) He never made the rendezvous to effect the transaction
          b) He made the rendezvous and the code transaction failed (eg because the first word-code didn’t match)

          This then opens up the question of the extent to which the code might be unrelated to John Doe. If it was written on a sheet resting upon a book that was never in his possession… is it relevant at all?

          Cracking the ‘code’ is maybe the only way to know?

          March 22, 2020
          • It might be relevant if the book belonged to the little nurse who handed another one to the elder Boxall some years before in a pub, celebrating what sounded like a tragic night of misgivings and regret whilst on the turps.

            March 22, 2020
  4. пожалуйста #

    Absolutely. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is an aspect of this whole case. Whether it’s ‘the’ Ruby supposedly found in a Hillman Minx or not.

    March 22, 2020
  5. dude47 #

    Given the slip was with Keane , Keane was too close to 90a Mosley for it to be a coincidence and the the phone number was in the ruby that’s good enough for mine that the 3 are connected. No arguments there .

    However who had which and at what time is the question.

    Because the phone number was in the ruby it makes no sense that either of the residents of 90 a Mosley were in possession of it on November 30 because why walk around carrying a book and with your own phone number.

    I suspect either keane of a third party were possession of our ruby at some time on Nov 30 but potentially neither Keane or the Thomson’s ever actually had possession of this particular ruby being the one found in the Hilman M.

    March 23, 2020
  6. john sanders #

    X3239 is in pencil as opposed to the impressed dance step routine.. And stop calling it a fucking Ruby, that’s for Ivans, Dudes and other recently retrenched Qantas dunny cleaners..

    March 23, 2020
  7. Clive #

    The only clue that led Det Canney to visit 90a Moseley St was the X3239 number. The book was supposed to have been in the Hillman Minx from about Nov 1948 until July 1949, what’s the possibility that the X3239 number had been written by the chemist after consulting Jessie re-a medical matter?

    March 23, 2020
  8. пожалуйста #

    “X3239 is in pencil”

    Is it?

    The book does not exist any more. Are there any pictures of the phone number in/on the book?

    March 23, 2020
    • (1) “Leane soon noticed what appeared to be a telephone number written in pencil on the rear cover of the book …. ” The Unknown Man, p105.

      (2) There are no pictures of the book available.

      March 23, 2020
  9. john sanders #

    There are pictures of a sort , planted/pasted pictures some say, which you can find on the Matt D. Hall (aka Gordon Cramer) site if you’re quick.

    March 23, 2020
    • The one thing old GC can’t do, with respect to his finding of the other number on the back of the bloody Rubaiyat is SHOW ME THE MONEY !
      Gotta go now, that phone ringing is probably my psychiatrist, he advises against calling a spade a spade.

      March 23, 2020
  10. пожалуйста #

    OK, let’s call that canon then: the Moseley Street phone number was written on the “rear cover” of the book. Whatever that means (inside or outside?).

    It may or may not have been in the same place as the indentations that comprise the code. The code page pictures don’t show the phone number.

    But either way, in my mind, the fact that the code and the phone number are written in a different way, i.e.:

    a) one indented, one pencil
    b) one written on the book, one likely written on another document resting on the book
    c) one “in tiny writing”, one in hurriedly scrawled caps with a “ta-daaaah” flourish to end on,

    further separates the code from all the other evidence.

    The phone number is a link to Jess and Prosper, but for all we know, it might have been in there as a type of “if found, please call x3239” message.

    March 23, 2020
  11. пожалуйста #

    I think The Colonel is referring to:

    Which probably nixes some of what I proposed above.

    He’s finger-lickin’ good.

    March 23, 2020
    • Last time I gazed into my navel I found I was reading the New York Times 1948 early morning edition, funny how I was just reminded of that looking at those images.

      March 23, 2020
  12. john sanders #

    …..but to be a flim flam man you gotta have a good memory…Check out TS/BS for Jestyn’s number posted as such on 19/11/16, this time in the top right hand ‘smudged’ corner of the code page. You can see that by 18/10/18 its now positioned more appropriately half way down beside the big ‘P’ for Prosper which is more connected to the heart of the matter.

    March 23, 2020
    • пожалуйста #

      Can’t find those refs. Are you saying Nursey’s number actually moves around the page over time?

      March 24, 2020
  13. пожалуйста #

    As with nearly all the imagery of the code page, I struggle to see the content that some people want me to see. The more they shout “look inside the Q” etc., the more I hear alarm bells (no, not synaesthesia: many years ago I did some experiments with patterns, white noise, etc. as part of an enquiry into “ESP”, so I’m very conscious of my pattern-seeking brain and its dreaded pareidolic tendencies).

    It’s got to the point where I’m looking at these pics and wondering if I’m seeing anything at all.

    What’s everyone else’s take?

    And IF that is indeed “Jess” and her number, then isn’t the placement on the page a bit odd? By my reckoning, it’ll have been somewhere in the middle of the page. In a sea of blank, bearing in mind that the code text was indented, not penned/pencilled, and therefore virtually invisible. Feels to me as if the name and number it should have been aligned with an edge if it was the only text on the page.

    March 24, 2020
  14. dude47 #

    Image appearing on on page 2 Advertiser Aug of 49 under heading “This beat the navy” presents exactly as above left. The number looks as described , small and clearly from a different hand that the “code”

    March 24, 2020
  15. пожалуйста #

    I find that the above left and above centre images don’t match. This could be down to differences in aspect ratio. This is something Gordon could probably better explain.

    But to me:

    1) the distance between the code ‘P’ and the visible writing in the left image is different (shorter) than the distance between the ‘P’ and the rectangular ‘cover’ in the centre image

    2) the ‘P’ in the left image has a near-horizontal ligature or similar mark extending rightward from the base of the upright. This is not present in the centre image. They look like different characters to me.

    March 24, 2020
  16. dude47 #

    Personally I put that down to the image on left having been lifted from a printed newspaper article of the day as opposed to the other which I believe was lifted from official police records so the image on the left is a lower pixelated facsimile.

    March 24, 2020
  17. пожалуйста #

    Apologies for repost, but wondered if The Colonel had missed this question, as it was buried in the reply-threads above. It pertains to the various images of the code page (referred to as being on “TS/BS” in 2016-18) that purport to include the Moseley street phone number:

    пожалуйста on March 24, 2020 at 7:14 pm
    Can’t find those refs. Are you saying Nursey’s number actually moves around the page over time?

    Would be interested to hear views.

    March 25, 2020
    • A word of advice, Boris, the Colonel finds it hard to respond to those who refer to Harkness as ‘Nursey’ and the hallowed Rubaiyat as ‘Ruby’ – other than that you are clear to go.

      March 25, 2020
      • пожалуйста #

        I apologise for any undue flippancy. It was not intended to undermine or diminish the seriousness of the matter, nor to impugn the standing of those involved and affected both at the time of the events and today.

        March 25, 2020
        • It’s ok, Boris, love having you aboard, carry on do.

          March 25, 2020
  18. john sanders #

    My sincere apologies Boris, the date and place of Jestyn’s number came from a Tamam Shud Blogspot thread entitled Jestyn’s phone number revealed 3/11/16 and updated 5/11/16 which apparently was researched with input of Clive. You’ll see the number quite clearly for effect in the smudged top right corner of the page.

    March 26, 2020
  19. пожалуйста #

    So, the two image sets above in this comment stream both purport to show the 90A Moseley Street phone number that is commonly referred to exist “in tiny writing”.

    But the image sets show completely different areas of the page:

    a) One (source: TA/BS) shows the upper right hand corner of the code page image.

    b) The other (source: Random Stuff) shows on the left hand an area at end of the code line ending in ‘P’ where there may be some script. This is about half way down the page? On the right hand, this image also purports to show a rectangular area of modification intended to later conceal the tiny writing. Yet that area of modification doesn’t appear to match the placement of the script in the left hand image.

    c) neither image purports to show the second number (CIS, Bank), as both interpretations involve either “Jess” or “X” or the sequence 3239.

    Have I got that right?

    March 26, 2020
  20. john sanders #

    In 1948 the Savings Bank of S.A. in King William Street Adelaide had their telephone number listed as Central 6111 (9 lines) which presumably was their exchange for all incoming calls, so obviously the C 7407 number was the private line for Commonwealth Investigation Service. Perhaps Flash might try squeezing that in as the oft mentioned third number.

    March 26, 2020

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