The Somerton Man inquest was closed for lack of new evidence despite the police having found more than enough.
“I am required to find, if I can, who the deceased was and how when and where he died. I will, I fear be unable to answer these questions unless further evidence is obtained. For this reason I have directed that a cast be made of the deceased’s features, and that the cast be photographed.”
Coroner Cleland, 21 June 1949. The Inquest, adjourned Sine Die.
23 July 1949. Detective Sergeant Leane is handed a coded Rubaiyat by a Mr Freeman which was found to match the Tamam Shud slip submitted as evidence in June 1949.
Neither Leane or Freeman were subpoenaed to appear at the Final Inquisition in March 1958 and neither was the Rubaiyat handed in as coronial evidence, apparently lost while in police custody.
25 July 1949 (abt). Detective Canney interviews Jessica Harkness after establishing her phone number was written on the back of the Rubaiyat. She tells Canney about her relationship with Alf Boxall and that she gave him a Rubaiyat some years previously.
26 July 1949. Jessica Harkness, in the company of several Detectives and Paul Lawson the cast-maker visited the Adelaide Museum to view the cast where she appeared to be taken aback almost to the point of fainting when it was revealed. Harkness said she did not know the deceased and was unresponsive when asked further questions..
Neither Canney, Lawson, Jessica Harkness or the Detectives who accompanied her to the museum were subpoenaed to appear at the Final Inquisition in March 1958
27 July 1949. Sydney Detectives interview Alf Boxall and confirmed he had a relationship with Harkness some years previously where she presented him with an inscribed Rubaiyat signed by a Jestyn.
Alf Boxall wasn’t subpoenaed to appear at the Final Inquisition in March 1958.
“I am unable to say who the deceased was. He died on the shore at Somerton on the 1st of December 1948. I am unable to say how he died or what was the cause of death.”
Coroner Cleland, 14 March, 1958. The Final Inquisition.
It should be noted that the police do not have the power to insist a person make and sign a formal statement, however a coroner or magistrate can subpoena witnesses to give evidence of their knowledge of the circumstances of a suspected death at the request of the police. Penalties apply for non-compliance.
Despite SAPOL knowing that this ‘further evidence’ was available little more than a month after the inquest was adjourned, Cleland didn’t receive any requests from them to subpoena new witnesses and he closed the inquest down nine years later.
Header pic is Coroner Cleland.