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28 The Somerton Man Investigation – what went wrong.

…. beginning with the discovery of the body on the morning of December 1st, 1948.

(1) PC Moss, the first attending officer, failed to find the Tamam Shud slip later discovered in TSM’s fob pocket.

(2) PC Moss failed to examine the part-smoked cigarette found on the body to ascertain if it was the same type as those in the cigarette pack found on the body.

(3) PC Moss failed to secure the part-smoked cigarette as evidence.

(4) PC Moss failed to find the box of matches that was later established* to be with the body.

(5) Detective Sergeant Leane failed to immediately alert the press when told by Prof Cleland in April 1949 that he had found the TS slip, thereby delaying any public participation in determining its origin.

(6) DS Leane then failed to remember he had the TS slip for fifty-one days before finally alerting the press to its existence in June 1949, just prior to the inquest.

(7) DS Leane failed to have any of the items in the suitcase fingerprinted despite that many of them would have yielded clear results.

(8) DS Leane failed to have the Rubaiyat fingerprinted, despite that it had laid undisturbed in Freeman’s car glovebox for six months and was presumably only handled by his brother-in-law before being retrieved and handed over to the investigation.

(9) DS Leane failed to have photographs published of the actual Freeman Rubaiyat, thereby delaying any public participation in determining its origin and / or ownership..

(10) DS Leane failed to have photographs published of the actual torn page.

(11) DS Leane failed to keep the Freeman Rubaiyat secure as it was presumed lost under his care according to then Detective Inspector Len Brown.

(12) DS Leane failed to establish if chemist Freeman or any other local chemists sold the poisons Professor Hicks thought were responsible for the death of the Somerton Man.

(13) DS Leane failed to establish if any of the local bakeries sold a pasty to a well-dressed, broad-shouldered man wearing faun trousers, a jacket, brown pullover and striped tie on the night of November 30th.

(14) Senior Government Analyst James Cowan failed to identify the black powder shaken from the bristles of the particle brush found in TSM’s suitcase.

*Gerry Feltus

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    I suppose one or two mistakes/errors are acceptable in any investigation, but in this case it’s more than just one or two, it reads like an entire litany of failures, from the bottom to the top.

    October 13, 2021
    • You could hardly blame someone for thinking they weren’t mistakes but were examples of outside parties influencing the case outcome.

      October 13, 2021
  2. Clive #

    Well, you can’t help thinking that someone/some group were certainly steering the investigation in the direction they saw fit.

    October 13, 2021
  3. thedude747 #

    Having lived my whole life in Adelaide and seen all of the famous cases unfold I can say the following with confidence.

    Adelaide has in the past been dubbed the “murder capital of Australia”. This ,at least statistically ,is an unfair characterisation. We dont have any more murders per capita that another state so why the bad rap? It would to my mind be due the the number of unsolved murders and mysteries ,SM included, that have played out in the media over many decades.

    So why so many unsolved crimes in SA ?? Because we have do, and have always had, a completely dysfunctional and incompetent police force and a judicial process that has been criminally incompetent for generations.

    Along with our unsolved cases are a litany of appalling cases of wrongful convictions.

    We hired our states chief pathologist down here in the early 70s. A guy named Colin Mattock.

    Unfortunately no-one bothered to check Col’s resume and bona fides. Had we done so we would have learned that he did not and never had the necessary qualifications to conduct thisrole. To put it into context this is the equvelant of putting a guy behind the wheel of a 747 who only had a bus drivers licence. yet he stayed in the roll for decades and conducted thousands of autopsies , testified and provided evidence in cases which saw people jailed for life and or let of the hook.

    Old Colin is a creepy 15 pound Pom who’s wife hires herself out to Adelaide creeps and weirdos as Mistress Gabriel dominatrix but thats another story.

    Some of these so incompetently conducted autopsies have later been revealed to have both convicted innocent people and let highly suspicious deaths go un investigated.

    They eventually tried to sack Colin about a decade after they found out his credentials didn’t stack up but he went to court and somehow won his job back and continued on for years until he retired.

    You would struggle to believe or even invent any of the above but do the research and you see it is all entirely true and accurate. I could tell a dozen more stories about botched investigations in SA.

    So long story short I can see why people jump to the conspiracy conclusions because they simply can’t fathom how so many mistakes could have been made but down here its just par for the coarse. Leane and Moss were just doing what SAPOL have always done, phone it in and knock off for an early lunch.

    October 15, 2021
  4. MyName #

    1-4 are easy enough to dismiss based on the oft cited “Noone was taking it seriously at the start”.
    5-12 are interestingly based predominantly on 1 person. Is it deliberate or is it just someone not good at their job?

    Not sure where I sit with #13 – did Cowan try to identify the powder, or merely try to confirm that it was something specifci (which he couldn’t).

    October 15, 2021
  5. dude47 #

    The boys down here dont have the brains to put together a conspiracy.

    Want an example boys ? We had a gang of nuff nuffs out killing young males for fun in the 80s for sport.. The ringleader and main perpetrators name and corroborating facts were given to the plods just days after the very first victim turned up.

    Cops never followed up ……… old mate and his cronies went on to kill multiple victims for the next few years when ever the mood took them.

    So could the SA police balls up a John Doe so badly ??

    Aserf….nlutely. !!!

    If botching police investigations was a sport SA would be the undisputed world champion.

    October 15, 2021
  6. I’ve added another – the score is now fourteen.

    October 15, 2021
  7. Byron Deveson #

    Pete, I think you can add that Cowan did not seek any help in identifying the black substance from the brush. Cowan could have tried the University’s chemistry or physics departments. They would have had UV/VIS spectroscopic equipment and maybe even a mass spectrometer. They would have had X-Ray diffraction equipment as an earlier Prof. had basically invented the method (the Braggs).
    Also, Cowan did not preserve a sample for later investigators.

    October 23, 2021
  8. Byron Deveson #

    Sir Lawrence Bragg born Adelaide 1890 won the 1915 Nobel Prize for physics with his father for their ‘services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays’. It was this work that created the new science of x-ray crystallography and the founding work was done in the laboratories at the University of Adelaide. William Lawrence Bragg at age 25 still remains the youngest recipient of a Nobel prize.
    Adelaide University in 1949 would surely have had the equipment required to identify the black material from the brush found SM’s purported suitcase. X-Ray diffraction equipment was well established and available by 1949 and it is inconceivable that the Uni did not have equipment that was basically invented at the very same university.
    A prospector in 1949 with a copy of Ion Idress’s book Fortunes in Minerals, first published in 1940, could have made a number of tests on the black substance in a bush camp. Yet Cowan did nothing.
    Warned off is my evaluation. Cowan had the frighteners put on him.

    October 23, 2021
  9. Which means they must have had a motive, whoever they were. And Cowan was big in the game: taking a phone call from a Detective Inspector wanting a favour for a dead body case sounds a bit rocky.

    October 23, 2021

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