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1. Paul Lawson’s tender ground.

Update as follows ..

“The idea of casting the skull was so that Cleland could keep the skull for future examination and bury the man with a substituted plaster skull. After the bust was moulded, Lawson proceeded to peel back the scalp in order to remove the skull, as ordered, when the Police hurriedly removed the body insisting it had to be buried immediately. Given that the body had not been buried for six months, it seemed rather odd to Lawson that the Police could not wait another day. And in reality, the body did not get buried for another 6 days. Thus, the cast of the skull and hands were unfortunately never carried out.”

Lawson was not allowed by the Police to transport the body to his laboratory, and the moulding work had to be carried out at the City Morgue using limited materials and tools. Lawson was not allowed any assistance, and carried out the work with three detectives watching over him.


Bold is mine


Part of Byron Deveson’s comment on Mike Dash’s site. Reading it today prompted the post.

“There is a very interesting file in the NAA – it contains a transcript of all the takes made during the production of the 1978 TV program concerning the Somerton Man mystery (ABC report “Inside Story”. Interviewer Stuart Littlemore). Lionel Leane, Len Brown, Paul Lawson and others, were interviewed by Stuart Littlemore. The material is in the NAA. Search for “The Somerton Beach story” 1977 Series number C673. Item bar code 7937872.”


In the interview, Lawson had just recounted to Littlemore the difficulties he had in making a bust off a long-dead body slowly thawing from months of refrigeration  – It was oozing moisture, the skin softening and beginning to slough away under his hands despite the embalming. The smell almost overpowering.

Lawson went on to say the completed bust was then taken to the Coroner’s Court before being bought back to the museum, where ‘quite a number of people’ viewed it.

Littlemore. “Did any of them stand out in your memory?”

Lawson. “Ordinary people, ordinary couples, ordinary man on the street, if such a person exists.”

Littlemore. “Did you get the feeling that any of them did know him?”

Lawson pauses ..

“Ah .. I don’t know.’

Littlemore. “Well that seems to suggest .. well you’re a very cagey man Mr Lawson. It seems to suggest to me that, maybe, somebody did know him.’

Lawson. ‘I wouldn’t know.’

Littlemore. “Did anyone think they knew him?’

Lawson. “I don’t know.”

Here Lawson pauses, half-smiling.

“By the way, you’re on tender ground,” he goes on, laughing softly.

Littlemore – “Explain why?”

Lawson – “Cut it boys.”

Littlemore – “Well don’t worry about them.”

Lawson, still smiling  – “No, I’m not going on with that part of it.”

“Why not?”

Lawson almost replies, but thinks better of it and remains silent.

“I mean what you suggest to me is that there was somebody who obviously did know him.”

“You’re not going to tell me”



You could say that ..

– An individual who knew the Somerton Man visited the museum to view his bust after it was returned from the Coroner’s Court. This person wouldn’t have been a member of the Police investigative team or the local press as they already knew what the Somerton Man looked like. He wouldn’t have been part of the Coroner’s party for the same reason.

An ordinary man on the street – if such a person exists – came to view the bust and Lawson’s reticence to identify him might indicate he didn’t come alone, but was accompanied by someone who subsequently requested that Lawson to keep silent about his identity. Either that or the man’s identification alone was enough to keep him schtum.

A similar request for anonymity was made by Chemist Freeman.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. пожалуйста #

    The specific request for anonymity was also made by nurse Harkness and two prominent baccarat players from Melbourne.

    May 22, 2020
    • пожалуйста #

      Another thought: to many of us, SAPOL’s willingness to protect the identity of witnesses – in Jess’ case even to fillet the record – seems suspicious, smacking of cover-up.

      But what if it was genuinely intended as protection for those witnesses, e.g. because SAPOL understood SM’s identity likely meant great personal risk for them. If it was SAPOL’s decision alone, then perhaps it points away from spy stuff and toward organised crime.

      The various mafias have institutional memories that persist. And they’re famous for preferring revenge as a dish best served cold.

      May 22, 2020
      • Harkness the first to be favoured, then Lawson’s visitor and finally Chemist Freeman. Dude went to that great unveiling, Feltus and Abbott mingling with a cast of thousands … I can’t get a good result from the pub test about that event, Boris.

        May 22, 2020
  2. dude47 #

    Cant find them for the minute but on the night of the doco Lawson attended aged about 99 at the time and I snapped a photo of him. I wonder if you still have it pete? because from memory he dressed in an almost identical outfit to that which Keane died in. I thought he was taking the piss at the time but no-one seemed to pick it up

    May 25, 2020
  3. dude47 #

    So there we have Lawson front row next to his wife I assume in grey. Zoom in and do a side by side with the image to the front page image on Feltus’s book .

    Tell me lawson , the old silver fox isn’t taking the piss.

    May 26, 2020
  4. пожалуйста #

    Quite the comedian, our Paul. Twinkle in eye and all that. Is he telling us the whole thing is a cosplay set up?

    BTW, note how Mr. Lawson’s duds are pointedly UN-striped. And of all of us, he knew best.


    May 26, 2020
    • If we were to take the proposition seriously, that Lawson was privy to some information that would have a profound effect on our understanding of the case, at what investigative stage would the absence of police effort become apparent?

      May 27, 2020
      • пожалуйста #

        Apparent to whom, is the question.

        Looking back now, I’d say it’s apparent from the very moment the body was found. No sketches of the scene? No photos? Not even a proper description of the body position – to the extent that the coroner has to address the lividity question by stating that it could be explained “if” the head was only lightly supported.


        He can’t even seem to determine from the management of the crime scene what position the body was in.

        May 28, 2020
        • пожалуйста #

          From our vantage point, it’s probably very difficult to separate cock up from conspiracy from standard practice.

          At what point does the apparent shoddiness of the investigative effort look suspicious to us? Right from the get-go (as I have tried to illustrate with the body position issue above).

          At what point does it become apparent or begin to look suspicious to someone at the time? Difficult to say. But I refer you to the classic noir trope of the “chalk outline”. Even back in those days, people instinctively understood that recording a crime scene was important.

          (BTW: I do think that the crime scene shoddiness weakens the argument about unfound matches too… the whole treatment of the scene was cursory).

          May 28, 2020
  5. dude47 #

    I’ve been inclined to favour incompetence over deliberate subterfuge. Jo sold the red herring and the lads bought it.

    Yeah Paul is taking the mickey cheeky bugger. He knew stuff.

    May 27, 2020
  6. dude47 #

    Remember that initially, this was just another John Doe dead on beach post WW2.
    Was it considered a crime scene at the time? Not sure it was and the first plod to arrive probably never assumed that this would become what it has.

    May 29, 2020

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