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The entire Somerton Man Case is based on one unproven assumption ..

The phrase ‘ A chain is only as strong as its weakest link first appeared in Thomas Reid’s “Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man,” published in 1786; the full idiom was first printed in Cornhill Magazine in 1868.

The Basques too had a proverb “Haria meheenean eten ohi da”, “A thread usually breaks where it is thinnest”.

The weakest link in the Somerton Man case is the accepted belief that PC Moss wasn’t able to find the Tamam Shud slip in the fob pocket of the trousers being worn on the body. Moss wasn’t overly specific in his deposition, he just said he searched the clothing but didn’t find it – not couldn’t – the assumption being he found the pocket but was unable to ascertain if the TS slip was inside it.


Without doing anything other than a random Google search I’ve come to the conclusion that in post-world war 2 in Australia, given the general hardships and great influx of refugees from Europe, we would have had our fair share of pickpockets on the city streets. Ten years ago on Anzac Day my father had his pocket picked while drinking on the footpath outside a hotel in Castlereagh Street Sydney**, he lost his wallet and everything in it. Put him off his golf game for a week.

That set me thinking what would have been the best pocket to keep folding money safe from pickpockets in the post-war years if you didn’t use a wallet.

Apparently one of the favourite methods used by a pickpocket gang working a railway station say, would have one of them shout ‘Pickpocket!’ and watch for a traveller to check the pocket where he kept his wallet or money. Then, using tic-tac* he would alert an accomplice, point at the target and pat his own pocket to indicate where the money was. A back trouser pocket, a front trouser pocket, an outside coat pocket, an inside coat pocket  .. a fob pocket.

This is where you ask yourself which pocket would have been the safest place to keep your money. The easy answer is the fob.

So, in 1948 you might expect a constable to have rousted a few pickpockets on his rounds and who was familiar with the pockets they picked as well as the ones they found too hard to slip their fingers inside.


The weakest link in the Somerton Man case is an assumption, a thing that is accepted as true or is thought to have happened, without proof.

It is generally assumed that PC Moss didn’t find the Tamam Shud slip in the fob pocket because he couldn’t feel it with his finger. If you care not to accept that assumption as true then the whole case falls apart like a house of cards.

*A kind of manual semaphore used by racecourse bookmakers (or pickpockets) to exchange information.

** you’re good for some things, Sanders .. I give you that

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Years ago, back in the early stages ByronD said he thought Cowan had slipped the TS slip into the Somerton Man’s fob pocket to embarrass Prof. Cleland, or something like that, I’ve long lost the comment, nevertheless I’ve been in contact with BD today, hoping for more of the same only to be told he’s just had a triple by-pass op. Ordinarily this would be bad news but the fact that the old opal digger got back to me is proof of his tenacity.
    Byron has always been the mainstay of coherent comment here .. and I’m fully expecting him to be able to continue being so. We need him.

    May 1, 2022
  2. Byron Deveson #

    Pete, I agree that Moss would not have missed the rolled up piece of paper in a fob pocket. Long ago, so it feels, I did make a case that the TS paper and the ROK were planted. It maybe litter if SB were involved. Maybe a practical joke to take down Cleland or maybe somebody else.

    May 3, 2022

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