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31 Jestyn: ‘her tremendous courage.’

Patterns are hard to come by in this mystery, but there is one that’s unmistakeable and it’s about the name used to sign off the inscription in the Rubaiyat given to Alf Boxall by Jessica Harkness when they met in the Clifton Gardens Hotel 1945, just prior to Boxall being posted north.

Harkness was interviewed once by Detective Canney in 1949 and twice by Gerry Feltus prior to his book being published in 2010. Boxall was interviewed once by Stuart Littlemore in 1978 and Harkness’ daughter* Kate was interviewed once by Charles Wooley in 2013.


When Detective Canney knocked on the door of 90a Moseley Street in July 1949 he was looking for Sister J E Thomson (pic), but the woman who opened the door to him was Jessica Harkness. She mentioned giving Boxall a copy of the Rubaiyat.

Detective Gerry Feltus knew who he was talking to in both his interviews with Jessica Harkness but decided to withhold her real name from publication, calling her Tessie and her then husband Prestige Johnson.

When Stuart Littlemore interviewed Alf Boxall in 1978 and was shown the inscription written on the Rubaiyat’s fly leaf, the Jestyn signature was hidden by a slip of tape (pic).

Lastly, when Charles Wooley interviewed Kate Thomson in 2013 he didn’t ask her if she knew of her mother* ever being called Jestyn.

Neither did Feltus ask that question of Harkness in either of his interviews, and Littlemore didn’t ask Boxall if it was Jessica who signed the inscription.

Four interviews, and not one mention of the name Jestyn.

Perhaps the key to this secrecy can be found in the notes of the Littlemore / Boxall interview where it’s written that Boxall stated of Harkness ‘I think she had great courage, tremendous courage.’

Great courage to do what?

Harkness was a nurse at the Royal North Shore Hospital, a job she apparently didn’t like given what she said in a letter home when visiting the UK some years later.

I would be wise I suppose to be a withered virgin in some hospital or another emptying pans and taking temperatures.

Tremendous courage to do what?


header pic Jessica Thomson

*Thanks to GC for the assist and corrections.

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    What was Boxall getting at? Doesn’t it suggest that Boxall knew far more about Jessie than he was prepared to say?

    December 2, 2021
    • What was the context of his comments?

      December 2, 2021
      • Barz #

        Admitting an affair with a chap?

        December 3, 2021
        • Barz: I’m reading through the transcript of Littlemore’s interview looking for the reason Boxall was prompted to express such admiration for Harkness.

          December 3, 2021
  2. Clive #

    Barz: You could be on the right lines, if Boxall knew this chap and, this chap was of interest to certain parties-was Jessie the ‘bait’? Did Boxall have a profile of the chap and, knew full well that events could turn nasty, if Jessie wasn’t careful?

    December 3, 2021
    • Clive: a reading of the Littlemore Boxall transcript fills in a few gaps … for instance, when Alf arrived home after the police visited him at the Randwick depot, he found the street was full of reporters, cameras, lights and journalists. The old boy wasn’t at all happy.. He also said that he and the other instructors stayed overnight at the Water Base during the week. He also confirms he only met Jessica twice and very briefly on both occasions, a fact Gordon mentioned some time ago.
      Should have the details ready for posting tomorrow.

      December 3, 2021
  3. Pat #

    There was a man called Estyn Dick Jones living in Henley Beach at the time. There are plenty of reports about him on newspapers (Trove) and the National Archives of Australia. He was bankrupt by 1939, in the courts, see case Yerkey V Jones, it’s a classical case of the ‘wives special equity’, he enlisted in 1941 (2/27th Infantry Battalion) and ended up in a Court Martial by 1946, after being dispatched on the SS Stirling Castle ship to an Australian Mission in Berlin, Germany.

    My theory is that the SM was looking for Estyn (hence the Henley Beach ticket) and that the signature on the Rubaiyat is J Estyn for Jones, Estyn. Maybe the book was a gift from other person (even Jessica Thompson or Boxall), but the SM (aka Carl Webb) was going to see Estyn, maybe because he had business with him (and Jessica or her husband) or was something related to his dead brother Roy Webb (2/29th Infantry Battalion), maybe Estyn knew Roy, or many other possibilities.

    August 17, 2022
    • Thanks Pat, I’ve read your posts on CM as well … intriguing.

      August 17, 2022
  4. Pat #

    Peterbowes, no one else on CM seems to think he’s the JEstyn of the book, but what I find very intriguing is that no one seems to have investigated him before. I have never investigated the SM mystery until the recent news.

    August 18, 2022
  5. Are you absolutely sure you haven’t fallen for the most massive misdirection in the whole case? Why is x3239 always called her telephone number and 90 Moseley St her address? They might have been in her name because she went and he followed, but at the time we are interested in it was her and Reginald’s place. So if car thief A has the telephone number and address from which car thief B carries on business why bring a nurse into it?

    Yes, she wrote her name in anothe Rubaiyat text. To illustrate how ubiquitous this was for how long here’s a 1904 quote from the popular if overrated english writer HH Munro, pen name “Saki” (guess where that comes from?)

    “Even friends of one’s own set, who might be expected to know better, have curious delusions on the subject. I am not collecting copies of the cheaper editions of Omar Khayyam. I gave the last four that I received to the lift-boy, and I like to think of him reading them, with FitzGerald’s notes, to his aged mother.”

    Linking the two because of (wildly different editions of) the same book is like saying two murders in the USA must be linked because both houses had a bible in them.

    August 24, 2022
    • X3239 is called her number because she was listed as its subscriber in the phone book and there is no proof she wrote the inscription in Boxall’s Rubaiyat.

      August 24, 2022
      • Thanks. As I say,she would be the listed subscriber because she got there first. And i agree there is no proof she wrote in Boxall’s Rubaiyat, but that just makes her even more peripheral.

        August 24, 2022
        • Peripheral doesn’t near faint when exposed to the dead man’s likeness.

          August 24, 2022
  6. It does if it recognises a bloke she saw in good health in her (not yet) husband’s company hours before he croaked.

    August 24, 2022
    • Then why go to the trouble of disguising his ‘natural’ death by secreting the TS slip in his fob, carrying his body to the beach then dumping the book?

      August 24, 2022
  7. G #

    The correct names are important. Someone rushed to change theirs! 😂

    August 25, 2022

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