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Unanswered matters relevant to the Somerton Body Case

Detective Sergeant Leane’s responsibilities and case actions according to “The Unknown Man,” written by Gerry Felltus.


Detective Sergeant RL (Lionel) Leane was at that stage (Nov 1948) one of a very small number of senior members holding that rank within the CIB.

He was directly responsible for overseeing general matters requiring direction and the supervisor of junior investigators.”


In the initial stages of the case Detective Strangeway (Glenelg Police Station) was delegated the duty of investigating the suspicious death, assisted by Detective (Hec) Gollan and Const. Sutherland.

On 8th January DS Leane was placed in charge of a dedicated Investigation Team which included Detective Gollan and Constables Sutherland and Horsnell.

On 11 January Detective Len Brown joined them, but despite the police manpower, DS Leane took it upon himself to personally investigate almost every aspect of the case.

As follows: courtesy of Gerry Feltus’ The Unknown Man.


Leane learns of an unclaimed suitcase.

On 14 January, after Leane had been enquiring with the staff at the Adelaide Station cloak room he learnt there was an unclaimed suitcase in their racks.

Leane visits the cloak room.

Later the same day Leane visited the cloakroom and took possession of some of the items in the suitcase, leaving the case in situ.

Leane arranges for certain items from the suitcase to be photographed.

Leane arranges for a photographer (unnamed) to take a picture of five items taken from the suitcase and laid out on a Masonic leather folder placed on a detective’s desk.

According to GF there was no significance intended in the placement of the items –

Leane collects the suitcase from the cloak room.

“At some stage” Leane collected the suitcase from the Railway Station.

Leane visits the School of Arts and Crafts.

Leane interviewed a Mr. Gray, the headmaster, who told him the the cut-down knife was, in his opinion, suitable for starting letters off and the scissors used for cutting around the letter.

Leane interviews a tailor.

Leane interviewed Hugh Possa who was of the opinion the coat worn on the body was of American origin or made by someone in Australia who was familiar with ‘feather stitching.’

Leane hands clothing to Prof. Cleland.

“At some stage” Leane gave the deceased’s property to Professor John Cleland, who examined the clothing and contents in the suitcase. Cleland found that the spooled orange coloured thread found in the case matched a similar thread in the clothing on the body and the clothing in the suitcase. (1) to sew up a trouser pocket (2) to sew buttons on the trousers worn by the deceased and (3) to repair the deceased’s coat collar.

Cleland also found that although tags had been removed from the clothing, he did not find any (loose) thread to indicate they had been recently removed.

Leane compiles a very comprehensive report.

On 18 January Leane compiled a very comprehensive report for the interstate police and media, including photographs and background together with recent developments and a list of property. This was followed up by another report on 29 April.

Leane is informed by Cleland of his finding of the Tamam Shud slip

On the 19th April, 1949, Professor Cleland informed Leane that he had found a small piece of paper in the fob pocket of the deceased’s trousers bearing the word Tamam Shud.

On the 15th of June, Leane, Brown and Detective Noblet inspected the completed bust.

A copy of a Rubaiyat with a hole torn in the last page is handed to Leane.

On the 23rd of July a ‘Mr Francis’ visits the Adelaide Detective Office and hands Leane a copy of the Rubaiyat with a hole in its back page that matches the Tamam Shud slip found in the deceased’s fob pocket.

Leane agrees to suppress Mr Francis’ name.

Leane soon noticed what appeared to be a telephone number written in pencil on the back of the book.

Leane notices the capital letters written in pencil on the back of the book.

Using a large magnifying glass, Leane also saw capital letters written in faint pencil on the back of the book.

Leane and others convey the nurse to view the bust.

Leane seeks assistance of the Naval Intelligence Office.

On 29 July 1949 a photograph of the letters and a copy of a similar Rubaiyat were forwarded by Leane to the Director of Naval Intelligence in Melbourne.


Detective Sergeant Leane’s unexplained 51 days of inaction with regard to the exhibiting and consequent publication of the finding of the Tamam Shud slip

On April 19th, 1949 Professor Cleland informed DS Leane that he had found the Tamam Shud slip in the fob pocket of the trousers worn by the deceased.

Then .. three weeks later

On May 3rd, an oblique mention of the slip was made in an Adelaide Advertiser news article . ” “New clues may identify Somerton Body. A small piece of paper printed in Turkish which was found in the dead man’s pocket has led police to assume he (the deceased) was able to speak that language.”

There was no mention in the article of the words Tamam Shud.

(1) Then .. on June 9th, 51 days after DS Leane learnt of Cleland’s discovery and after the closure date for any further depositions to be submitted the coronial inquest, the Adelaide Advertiser reported the finding of a Tamam Shud slip on the body.

“Cryptic note found on body.”

(2) This was followed by another Advertiser article mentioning the Tamam Shud slip on June 10th. “Tamam Shud.”

June 17th. The Inquest commences.

Evidence is heard from Detective Brown and Professor Cleland mentioning the finding and translation of the Tamam Shud slip.

June 21st. The Inquest is adjourned.

(3) June 22nd. The Advertiser carries news of the discovery of the Tamam Shud slip in the deceased’s pocket.

(4) 25th June. The Smith’s Weekly (Sydney) carries news of a cryptic note containing the words Tamam Shud found in the deceased’s clothing. “Body on beach still baffles SA police.”

(5) 10th July. The Truth (Sydney) “Who is the mystery man? Puzzle of beach find.”

(6) 20th July. The Melbourne Age. “Torn Page.”

(7) 21st July. The Sydney Daily Telegraph. “Clue at long odds.”

(8) 22nd July. The Melbourne Argus carries an article “Torn Book May Be Clue To Somerton Body Mystery.”

 (9) 22nd July. The Adelaide News carries an article “Remote book clue in mystery death.”

(10) 23rd July. Border Watch (Mt Gambier) “Search for a book with a torn page.”

(11) 23rd July. The Adelaide Advertiser “Detective – Sergeant R. L. Leane has been trying for several months to trace a copy of the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” from which the dead man is believed to have cut a piece of paper bearing the words “Taman Shud” (meaning “The End”) and placed it in the pocket of his trousers.”

Then, finally ..

23rd July. The Melbourne Herald “Detectives bring off a million to one chance. Rubaiyat clue may solve mystery death.”

23rd July. The Melbourne Herald. “Rubaiyat clue may solve mystery death. A motorist last night bought them a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam from which the last two words had been torn.”


Detective Sergeant Leane’s deposition with regard to his list of items as found on the body on December 1st.

“The cigarette packet was Army Club but the contents were Kensitas, a different brand, there was also found a box of Bryant and May’s matches, 1/4 full, a packet half full of Juicy Fruit chewing gum, 2 combs, and Professor Cleland found a slip of paper bearing the words Tamam Shud that was on the body.”


PC John Moss’ deposition with regard to his list of items he found on the body on December 1st.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    So Cleland told Leane on 19 April 1949 that he had found the Taman Shud slip of paper-is this the second time he found it or, the first time (after which he claimed he couldn’t find it?) If this was the first time that Cleland had set eyes on the slip, why did it take from 1 December 1948 until 19 April 1949 to thoroughly search the trousers? Clive

    August 16, 2020
    • The first time. The second time when he had difficulty in finding it was in court. Refer to ‘correspondence with Gerry Feltus’ .. top of page.
      As far as the time it took a Cleland to find it the first time .. perhaps he was on one of his many expeditions.

      August 16, 2020
  2. пожалуйста #

    The wording of the Advertiser article of 23rd July is interesting. It refers to Leane’s efforts to locate a Rubaiyat for “some months”, giving the impression that this detail of the investigation has been kept from the public deliberately until that point.

    That’s a fairly normal way of conducting an investigation. Could there have been good reason, in terms of managing an investigation, of withholding this information from the public? If so, perhaps it would be unkind to suggest the 51 day gap is “inaction” on Leanne’s part.

    August 17, 2020
    • ‘fairly normal way of conducting a (murder) investigation’ ….. sounds like you can back that statement up with some examples. Back to you, Boris.

      In addition: Leane didn’t know he was looking for a Rubaiyat until Det Brown had the words translated in June. This has been previously noted.

      August 17, 2020
      • пожалуйста #

        This sort of thing, I meant:

        And things like the (supposedly) folded back TS slip so that the actual shape of it remains concealed.

        German (as ever) has a fantastic term for the reason: “ermittlungstechnische Gründe”. I suppose in English you might shorten it to something like ‘tactical’ reasons.

        August 17, 2020
        • As I said … the translation of the slip wasn’t made until June.

          August 17, 2020
          • пожалуйста #

            Yes, it seems correct to say that the translation that linked the slip to the Rubaiyat wasn’t made until June. Although I think it was possibly the other way round: according to the Littlemore interviews, it was a journalist who pointed out that the words were from the end of the Rubaiyat. The actual “translation” may have come after that.

            But, as you say, as early as 3rd May, the Advertiser was able to report that:

            “A small piece of paper printed in Turkish which was found in the dead man’s pocket has led police to assume he (the deceased) was able to speak that language.”

            So someone told the Advertiser that there was a slip of paper and that it had Turkish words on it. I’m going to assume that when someone (police or otherwise) identifies a two-word message as Turkish, they’ll have also attempted to translate it. Because if you can’t translate it, you can’t know (for certain) it’s a given source language… though this seems problematic to me, as I can only get the word “tamam” to translate from Turkish using Google.

            It seems to me, therefore, that the slip was found in mid-April and that by early May at the latest (as this was date it was publicly reported) some “processing” of that piece of evidence had occurred.

            It was incomplete, incorrect and – you could probably say – incredibly shoddy processing. Even so, is it not possible that SAPOL just got this wrong, rather than engaged in a cover up?

            August 17, 2020
            • It’s hard to see SAPOL just got it wrong: wrong being not making public the finding of the slip and its translation, something that could have easily been done anytime after Cleland found it. Surprising too that the worldly Professor Cleland wasn’t able to make the connection, the Rubaiyat being as popular as it was. Nevertheless any investigator, particular one as experienced as DS Leane would surely have known the value of putting something of that nature up for public notice in a case that had become stagnant ….
              What reinforces my view of a cover up are the other instances where SAPOL seemingly ignored crucial facts and in one instance, provided a false deposition to the inquest.

              Where there’s smoke, Boris, there is fire.

              August 17, 2020
  3. Clive #

    Surely, all Cleland/Leane had to do was ring the University for an explanation of the two words? A 5 minute telephone call, was it so hard to do? Apparently so. Clive

    August 18, 2020
  4. Jo #

    Masons, eh?

    The line on the code page separates the questions from the answers (the half MLIAO line is when he originally planned to right answers immediately below the question). He’s just trying to remember questions he’ll be asked, and the answers he pplans to give

    What rule guides our appendant bodies above brotherly duty?
    Who tasks brothers in meaningful pastimes, and nurtures even the poor?

    My lodge is ancient, but obligates introspection and quiet contemplation
    Initiated, the true mason talks servitude and makes selflessness their goal above boasting

    September 28, 2020
    • Got that. Two questions above the line, both beginning with a W – two answers underneath. One beginning with a M, the other an I.
      Any significance there, Jo? And nice to meet you by the way. This is an unarmed site, we are mannerly, kind and considerate to all. Mostly.
      BTW, you don’t happen to surf at all do you? Sometimes I get lonely.

      September 28, 2020

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