Skip to content

The Jessica Harkness Legend .. updated


(1) We now know that any reliance placed on an individual’s background found on commercial hereditary sites is fraught with risk as the information available on these sites does not undergo any verification process. (refer petedavo comment below.)

(2) From memory, Jessie’s family did not, or could not, provide her birth details to the undertaker and the cemetery. (refer Byron Deveson comment below.)

Intelligence agencies worldwide disguise their agents with fictitious backgrounds commonly called legends. The same goes for individuals under witness protection programs, particularly in America where entire families are often relocated in order to protect the the husband or wife from any vengeful retaliation.

These legends are put together with careful attention to detail, particularly these days when the use of internet search engines by someone checking personal backgrounds can achieve in minutes what once took weeks.

Birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, bank accounts, credit records, voter registrations, job histories, property purchase or sale records – nothing is beyond falsification when the government responsible for the real records constructs false ones. And when someone checks, the telephone numbers linked to the legends are answered by the same people who created them.

When a legend needs crucial support, say in the case where circumstances are proving to be unmanageable and maintaining the status quo needs serious back-up, other methods are used to deflect this unwarranted attention, like producing someone to vouch for their fictitious background.

Alf Boxall appears to fit that bill.

When Boxall was interviewed by Stuart Littlemore for 60 Minutes, the name Jessica Harkness was not referred to by Littlemore at any stage, he only referred to her as ‘The Young Woman’.

And whatever was written under the inscription of the Rubaiyat said to be given him by Harkness and shown to Littlemore was hidden under a strip of tape. Either that or the space was being reserved for what had yet to be confirmed: the codename Jestyn, which to all appearances looks to have been added later on and with another pen (below).

Sign of the removed tape on the left

And when asked by Littlemore if ‘she’ might have known if he was involved in Intelligence, Boxall, after a ten-second delay replied ‘only if someone else told her.’

It’s almost as if Alf Boxall didn’t know much at all about the woman Littlemore was referring to.

You could be forgiven for thinking that he had only been given the the basic information before having to deal with Littlemore, particularly when calling to mind Harkness’ detailed recollection of Boxall’s personal circumstances and wartime record when confronted by the police. She was on her game.

Alf Boxall wasn’t.


Was Jessica Harkness real or was she living in Australia under a legend?

We haven’t seen a copy of her birth certificate.

We don’t know where she was born.

We don’t know where she attended school.

We don’t know where she lived while she worked in Sydney.

Nobody in Sydney ever came forward to say they knew her.

Nobody who frequented the Clifton Gardnes Hotel ever came forward to say they knew her.

Nobody who lived in Victoria ever came forward to say they knew her.

And nobody in Glenelg ever came forward to say they knew or employed her.

Tom Musgrave’s wife (girlfriend?) –  the woman Harkness said had introduced her to Boxall at the Clifton Gardens Hotel – has never been seen, let alone interviewed. Neither has he.

We haven’t seen a registered file copy of the certificate that evidenced her marriage to Prosper Thomson. A document that would have shown her place of birth and maiden name.

Given all this, and considering the inexplicable delays and failures of both the police investigation and coronial inquest, we can only assume that Jessica Harkness – or whoever she was – needed as much official protection as was possible.

Who was she?

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    Interesting , on the website: ‘ Nurses Index l NSW State Archive 1926-1954’, I typed in Jessie Ellen and up pops a Jessie Ellen Abrahams-too much to expect she’s the one?

    September 15, 2020
  2. Clive #

    Not the ‘one1-this Jessie was born 12 May 1912 per NAA was a Midwifery Tutor arrived in Australia 11 Aug 1966.

    September 15, 2020
    • According to the Timeline, Harkness was married to PT in Adelaide in May, 1950 – there must be a record of that somewhere without having to lock yourself into a 100 year contract at $15 per month plus give them all your credit card details …

      September 15, 2020
  3. Found some errors in her family tree. Will try and fix

    September 17, 2020
    • Didn’t know you had one, Pete, where are you hiding it?

      September 17, 2020
        • Thanks very much, Pete, one thing though, what sort of documentation is required in order to put this information online?

          September 17, 2020
          • None at all, with these websites. There s a lot of genealogical websites and an error by one users can be copied by a multitude of others. I usually find these by looking for sources. Most common error is the use of baptism dates as birthdates with UK born ancestors. Anyway I just did a major update to the tree that Bryan added. I’ve added birth and death dates, and discovered on set of parents were wrong on one of the ancestors, and amalgated another tree via a sibling match. There s a trick to Geni matching if you can’t afford to the project version. You will get more of the hidden match information every time you add siblings and descendants. The more the record matches, the more the smart match records will give up. Can be a slow process but the rewards can be well worth it.

            September 18, 2020
      • Here’s the project. Has trees for some of the characters

        September 17, 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s