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Who had it in for Jessica Harkness?

We know she was targeted: the body left almost at her front door, her phone number written on the back of a book linked to the body, her dramatic reaction at seeing the bust, her refusal to answer questions put to her by the police.

And she charmed Gerry Feltus, this woman with a ‘dark and secret side’ according to her daughter.

What theory could you offer for this extraordinary set of circumstances other than one that involves a conspiracy?

What was she?

25 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    You could say she had the luck of the Devil, how many other individuals could pass themselves off as a nursing sister and say she was married, without anyone in authority checking these facts, as far as we are aware? Obviously, the body near to Moseley St wasn’t enough to point in the right direction, a telephone number was needed to reinforce where the authorities needed to look. But, what if the Taman Shud slip of paper had never been found, we would never have known about Jessie and her involvement. Someone decided that the Taman Shud slip would be found and, at the same time decided that the actual Rubaiyat book would also be found, albeit after the inquest, and handed to the police. Then her telephone number would also be revealed, but by that time Jessie had been briefed as to how to deny any knowledge, apart from naming Alf and shifting the police focus. Despite Alf’s ‘melodramatic thesis’ remarks, one can only speculate how much had Alf and Jessie worked together, but in my view the fact that neither Alf and Jessie were ever interviewed after July 1949 speaks for itself.

    August 23, 2020
    • How could a young woman newly arrived in Adelaide, baby in her arms and nurse by profession attract such a fatal set of circumstances? What could she have possibly done to warrant such punishment?

      August 23, 2020
  2. пожалуйста #

    Without proving who other than SM was Robin’s father aren’t we simply ignoring the elephant in the room and indulging in flights of fancy?

    All the other theories on the table involve a much greater degree of conspiracy. They involve more people, more places, more coincidences etc. While these other theories are not ‘not credible’ per se, but you would have to eliminate this obvious connection first.

    August 23, 2020
    • What are you implying? That the whole sorry mess was simply a paternal matter?

      August 23, 2020
      • пожалуйста #

        I’m not directly implying that it was, because I have no direct evidence that it was.

        But I do think it’s a really recognisable human issue that is supported by the circumstantial evidence, so it ought to be eliminated before considering more involved scenarios.

        On its own, the answer wouldn’t tell the whole story. There would still be a question of conspiracy involving Jess (did she assist in a suicide? Was she an accessory to manslaughter or even murder?). But it would become a domestic drama at that point, rather than an involved tale of international conspiracy, double-agents, Nazi hunters or GTA mafiosi.

        August 23, 2020
        • Well, we have evidence from Paul Lawson that the police had prior knowledge of Harkness’ involvement in covert intelligence gathering in Sydney. Knowledge not necessarily gained from their own investigations. Do you disregard this?

          August 24, 2020
          • пожалуйста #

            You have me at a disadvantage: I’m not that familiar with that particular evidence from Lawson. Does it come across as credible? Is there any corroboration?

            I’m not one to impugn anyone’s credibility, but the thing about Lawson is that he can come across as a bit of a joker. Was it Byron who commented on the recent (?) front-row picture of him in what appears to be a nod-and-a-wink-to-SM get up and pose. And why does Gordon feel the need to preface his reports of interactions (including via proxy Clive) with a statement of how with-it old Lawson is?

            August 24, 2020
            • Who are you kidding, Boris? Lawson’s interview with Littlemore is at the top of the page for all to see and the results of his chat with Clive are on Cramer’s website if you care to dig deep enough, which you have though for other reasons. Corroboration is hardly necessary.

              And if you are in any doubt about Lawson’s capability to be ‘with it’ read the post ‘About Paul Lawson’ on this site and quit the ageism fallback, it stinks! I put up with that bullshit all the time. It’s a criticism I rarely hear from someone my age, only from someone younger. Like you.
              And another thing … I always went by the notion that when someone says something like – ‘I’m not one to impugn anyone’s credibility, but the thing about Lawson is that he can come across as a bit of a joker.’ I forget everything before the but.

              Now give me a break and give yourself a break .. Pelling is still open for business, try your undoubted intellect on him.

              August 24, 2020
              • пожалуйста #

                Couple of things then:

                1) In the Littlemore interview, Lawson makes no mention “that the police had prior knowledge of Harkness’ involvement in covert intelligence gathering in Sydney”.

                2) I genuinely cannot find on Gordon’s site a reference to Mr. Lawson saying that the police had prior knowledge of Jess’s intelligence activities. I don’t dispute it’s there, but the site template he uses is infuriatingly difficult (for example: posts are undated!). I’ve filtered on the keyword/tag ‘Paul Lawson’, but drawn a blank. I’d be keen to know when he gave away this prize bit of information and what else he shared at the time before coming to any kind of judgment about disregarding it.

                3) That “but” was unfortunate, I agree. We are apparently taught to use “and” in these cases these days. But (and?) it never feels grammatically correct to me. Call me old fashioned. And on that very note: rest assured that I’m not far enough behind you in years to be able to be consciously ageist without having to include myself as an object of whatever aspersion I’d be casting. For my unconscious biases I can only apologise and promise to be more alert in future. And (not but), I think perhaps we ought to share this lesson with Gordon & Clive, who are the ones making the point that Mr. Lawson’s spriteliness in in some way special and unusual.

                August 24, 2020
                • Fair enough … you sparked me up a little there. Maybe Clive can help you out with Lawson’s words, he was listening to them at the time.

                  August 25, 2020
  3. Possibilities abound. Was she working for us, the Russians, or Wiesenthal?

    August 23, 2020
  4. Clive #

    Hi petedavo, If Jessie was working for Australia, Russians and Wiesenthal, she would have been in a very good position to play one off against the other. Speaking Russian, per her daughter, may have been second nature. I speculate, that her background was not Australian, but East European and of Jewish faith.

    August 23, 2020
    • I’ve been trying without any luck to find out how someone with the name Harkness could’ve had written to the Army enquiring about their uncle’s Horrie Pile’s medals. But your comment just made me realise something. Could Jessica’s actual birth name be Podem? If she changed it by deed poll from Podem to Harkness then everything makes perfect sense. She’d then be Rivka Pile’s older sister. And considering that Rivka’s dad changed their name from Podemsky by deed poll then a daughter may of thought nothing of changing it again, especially if she wanted to dissociate from her Jewish family of rabid communist party members, or hide those antecedents

      August 25, 2020
  5. John Smith #

    May be Jessie was double agent? One of spy play sides decided to reveal they knows her work for another side so SM killing and phone number finding enlighted her too much… and she decided to get Australian side. Just IMHO, as always.

    August 23, 2020
  6. Clive #

    I think the bottom line, so to speak, is that Jessie knew too many secrets. What if the SM was either Russian/Bulgarian etc and worked for the Nazis, he fled Europe to Australia, as a displaced person?

    August 24, 2020
  7. Clive #

    I wonder if it was the SM who taught Russian to Jessie? Perhaps he was a patient at the RNHS in 1946 shortly after arriving from Europe? Being a displaced person and, no doubt, not wanting to reveal his recent history, he fell in with “men in the shadows” and made a living at the behest of criminal gangs. Jessie found out and didn’t want anything more to do with him. He never forgot her kindness towards him and, eventually found out she had moved to Adelaide.

    August 25, 2020
    • Clive, Boris is looking for the info regards your chat with Lawson .. he can’t find it on GC’s site. Could you assist?

      August 25, 2020
      • пожалуйста #

        Thanks Pete.

        Clive, what I’m looking for specifically is any place that Lawson mentions police knowledge of Jess’s intelligence connection or any of his own theorising in that direction.


        August 25, 2020
  8. Clive #

    Hi Pete, When I discussed Jessie and intelligence work, Paul advised me that he had been told that they met in the grounds of the RNSH. Now where Paul got that information from, he wouldn’t state. He told me that he had been advised that she was known in intelligence circles. obviously, without actual names/dates etc it’s difficult to know exactly what Paul was told and, just how much more he knew but didn’t reveal to me.

    August 25, 2020
  9. пожалуйста #

    Thanks Clive.

    If “they” above refers to Harkness and Boxall, then Lawson could have heard about their meetings in the grounds of the Royal North Shore Hospital from the 1970s Littlemore piece which Lawson himself contributed to.

    In it, as I’m sure you know, Boxall describes meetings of this nature in some detail (and, of course, he also shows Littlemore his own copy of the Rubaiyat and drops his now ‘famous’ “melodramatic thesis” quote). The program-makers illustrate these historical scenes with memorable drawings.

    August 26, 2020
    • You’re surely referring to the meetings Boxall had with Harkness in the Clifton Gardens Hotel, Boris, not the RNS.

      August 26, 2020
      • пожалуйста #

        Ah yes! Good spot. There are clearly too many locations for my limited cognitive abilities to keep track of.

        OK, so dropping the tantalising tidbit that “they” – if it was Boxall & Harkness – met at RNS would appear to deepen their connection. Previously, as you have pointed out, that was limited to the Clifton Gardens. And Boxall does his level best to talk even that down.

        But – and this where it’s back to Clive – does this new location for meetings suggest that “they” is in fact a reference to SM and Harkness?

        August 26, 2020
  10. пожалуйста #

    Did you get a chance to address the “who is they” question with Mr. Lawson, Pete?

    Who was it that, according to Clive’s rendering of his earlier conversation with Lawson, met in the grounds of the RNS Hospital in Sydney?

    If it was Harkness and SM, then we ought to ask ourselves “why there?”.

    Did they both have a connection to that place?

    August 28, 2020
    • No, I thought to ask him only two questions then let the man talk .. see where it took us. One thought might be given the known physical condition of SM, is that one of his many ailments (refer to Byron’s post) may have needed hospital treatment at some stage.

      August 28, 2020
  11. Clive #

    How do people know that Jessie was born in 1921, when her DOB is not even on her gravestone?

    August 29, 2020

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