How Detective Sergeant Leane’s failure to act affected the inquest outcome.
When it came to pursuing leads Detective Sergeant Lionel Leane was on the top of his game. He made it his personal business to attend to the suitcase found at the Railway Station luggage office and take a few items to back to station to be photographed – then to take possession of the suitcase and contents a few days later and secure it in the station lock-up.
Leane quickly busied himself chasing down the source of the two tickets found on the body – trying the local laundries to see whether they were responsible for the laundry marks on the deceased’s trousers – taking the coat to a tailor to have him deconstruct the stitching in the hope it might give up a clue as to its origins – interviewing a teacher at the local trade and arts school for an opinion on the tools found in the suitcase, sourcing the deceased’s trousers to their manufacturer in Victoria and during this period he had the deceased’s teeth mapped and fingerprints taken.
Leane sent comprehensive case reports to every state in Australia as well as every English speaking nation: reports that contained copies of the deceased’s fingerprints and a chart of his teeth.
Leane also attended the morgue for a number of days to observe and supervise Paul Lawson’s work on the bust.
While there he supervised the unpleasant task of dressing the fast decomposing corpse – now months old as you can see – for a photograph prior to the cast being made by Paul Lawson.
Detective Sergeant Leane was fully involved, the case was his.
But for all his expertise and diligence in pursuing a case that by now had gained both local and international notoriety, Leane didn’t follow up the one clue that eventually proved to be the most crucial.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was one of the most popular books published in the early 20th century, it was widely read and often quoted and although you could forgive a policeman for not being familiar with it, the same didn’t go for the general public. Even now well thumbed copies published in the 1920’s are commonly available in second hand bookshops, many of them inscribed.
DS Leane remembered having this particular slip of paper in his possession on June 8th, fifty-one days after Professor Cleland gave it to him and only nine days before the inquest was to commence, which was too late to have it submitted as evidence and far too late for him to achieve any effective press coverage.
For that Leane had to wait for Chemist Freeman’s memory to be jogged by a newspaper article that appeared on July 22nd.
I’m asking you to imagine how different the following statements might have been if Detective Sergeant Leane had acted as promptly with the finding of the Tamam Shud slip as he did with the other evidence and Chemist Freeman had come forward earlier.
And if that had been the case I strongly doubt whether Chemist Freeman or Jessica Harkness would have been successful in their requests for anonymity, and Harkness would have been assured of an appearance as the star witness at the inquest.
Coroner Cleland – “Although he died during the night of the 30th November – 1st December, I cannot say where he died. If the body of the deceased was not that of the man mentioned (seen on the previous evening), and if the body had been taken to the place where it was found, the difficulties disappear.”
Professor John Cleland – “The lividity around the ears and neck was perhaps surprising in view of his position, but it was explainable. It would depend on how much the head was supported, it may have been slight, perhaps no more than one’s head supported on a pillow.”
Professor Sir Stanton Hicks – ” …. If it (the poison) had not been self-administered, and the body brought there (Somerton Beach), that would remove any doubts as to the time at which death took place, as well as any other difficulties.”