We add to DS Leane’s slow motion investigative record.
Early December 1948.
Detective Sergeant Lionel Leane is sitting at his desk sifting through the various articles found in the Somerton Man’s pockets. Leane is scratching his head, hoping to find some sort of lead amongst them. Anything.
Mid December 1948 .. Two weeks later. Leane is still sifting, still scratching.
End December 1948 .. Four weeks later. Still sifting, still scratching.
13th January 1949 .. Six weeks later. Still scratching. Looking for anything!
At this stage it occurred to DS Leane, seeing as how he had just been put in charge of the investigation*, that it might be in order to have his investigative team canvass the several hundred hotels and boarding houses throughout Adelaide and its suburbs in the hope that TSM may have abandoned or deposited some personal possessions prior to his death.
Then, a lightbulb moment on January 14th when Leane enquired with the staff at the cloak room at the Adelaide Railway Station to ascertain if there was any unclaimed luggage that might correlate with TSM. The rest we know.
What we don’t know is why it took Leane so long to ring a railway station when he knew the train ticket he’d been looking at for six weeks proved the Somerton Man had bought it at one.
A reiteration of DS Leane’s sorry record with regard to his management of the Somerton Body Case.
He had no pictures taken of the Freeman Rubaiyat.
No pictures taken of the torn page.
He lost the Rubaiyat early in the investigation.
He sat on the Taman Shud slip for 51 days.
He didn’t fingerprint any articles in the suitcase, or the Rubaiyat or the case itself.
He offered no explanation for the appearance of a box of matches with the evidence, despite PC Moss saying there was none found with the body.
He didn’t send the Freeman Rubaiyat to Naval Intelligence to assist them in deciphering the code, despite that the code may have been linked to some content within the book.
He failed to report whether the Somerton Man’s brown pullover and dressing gown had their labels intact or removed. And his pyjamas.
And now we can add the six week delay in contacting the railway office, as above.
*nod of head to John Sanders.
It’s not often I’ll take notice of what John Sanders has to offer, but in this case he’s on the button in that DS Leane didn’t take charge if the investigation until January 8th, but all that does is shift the blame for non-action to his junior investigators, all of whom were under his supervision as Detective Sergeant Leane, being one of the very small number of senior detectives holding that rank within the CIB was directly responsible for overseeing general matters requiring direction and the supervision of said junior investigators. In other words, case work.
So in reality nothing has changed. The buck stopped at his desk.
It’s indicative of the priority the local cops gave it, I guess. Plays into the narrative of ‘just another washed up bum at the end of the tracks”.
So they get nowhere by early January. Leane comes back to the office after Chrimbo, sees the file and says: “Fellas, what about the stiff at the beach”?
Eventually, it starts to look embarrassing, so DS (Desk Jockey) Leane takes charge himself.
Now, considering the old adage about the first 24/48 hours of an investigation, what has been lost by the 8th January, apart – of course – from impetus, energy, willpower?
The scene is definitely wiped.
Witnesses will have dispersed, forgotten, etc.
There’s been ample, unsupervised opportunity for juniors to screw things up in a whole host of ways from inaction and mis-recording/filing/storing all the way through to a little light-fingered relief of personal effects a stiff would have no use for.
Yeah. The fingerprinting that wasn’t done. I can’t think of a reason.
Cleaving to my ever-preferred notion of cock-up before konspiratsia, I’d vote for “couldn’t be arsed, Gaffer” and “there’s no point anyway, man’s a bum, no third party…”
As a sin of deliberate omission, it would look pretty blatant, or?
There was no cocking up when Durham printed all TSM’s dead fingers and Leane* posted them all across the nation and to most English speaking nations plus America. As far as blatant is concerned, picture such a slack-arsed operation happening these days with news reporters making a living exposing such.
* or someone, and will you please piss of Dusty, you’re making me look bad.
I seem to remember reading somewhere that the SA Police chief crime scene photographer and finger printing expert in the late forties was Bruce Hudd. Jimmy Durham would have been a protégé of his at the time, certainly an underling, so they didn’t send the best along take pics and prints! Also, I always wondered about the mention in the 1949 inquest about 4 photographs submitted as evidence (C.5, C.6, C.7 and C.8) but C.7 and C.8 were returned to Jimmy – must be more photos of SM that we have never seen…
Sly dog, it was Nick Pelling who researched SA’s history of SAPOL’s photographers in 2014 and you’re right, Hudd was the leader in that particular field and Durham was one of his up and comers. Hudd retired in 1952. As far as the missing pics, perhaps Durham took a couple of each, front and side, and the court retained two while allowing him to keep the duplicates. My guess anyway.