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Why has it taken over 70 years to question why the police didn’t use the Henley Beach train ticket to trace the Somerton Man’s movements?

The first instalment of a series of posts that show the influence Detective Sergeant Leane had on all aspects of the Somerton Man Investigation. Here we look at the anomalies surrounding the initial investigation and the evidential contradictions in the testimonies of PC Moss and his superior, Detective Sergeant Leane.

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What would you expect a well-dressed man to have in his pockets in November 1948?

“I searched the clothing, found a railway ticket to Henley Beach, also a bus ticket, a tramway bus ticket. There were cigarettes on the body, which were in a packet. I did not compare them with the one that was partly smoked. The packet produced looks like the cigarettes I found. The comb produced was on the body, also the chewing gum and the metal comb.” PC Moss.

“For instance, the fingers of the dead man were heavily nicotined and yet, although there was half a packet of cigarettes in one of his pockets, he didn’t have a match on him.” PC Moss.

There has always been conjecture as to whether the Somerton Man’s pockets were rifled during the night by some opportunistic passer-by and was the reason why he wasn’t found with a wallet, ration card or watch. And if he wasn’t in the habit of carrying a wallet then you would expect him to have had some folding money stowed away in one of his pockets, but none was found by PC Moss, not even some small change which is highly unusual. So, if we were to assume that a thief took advantage of the Somerton Man’s state and helped himself to the above you’d have to ask yourself why did he take his matches as well?**

The simple answer is that TSM was searched and relieved of practically all his possessions, including the means to light his cigarettes prior to being carried to the beach and propped up by the steps to the Children’s Home, but like all good mysteries, the answer to one leads to the unveiling of another. Why did they leave behind the railway and bus tickets?

Well, the simple answer is that whoever removed TSM’s wallet, watch, luggage stub, cash and ration card missed the tickets after probably giving his trouser pockets a quick pat down, not realising they were there and therefore not knowing the railway ticket in particular led back to the station where his suitcase was eventually found some six weeks later. And neither did the police because if they had acted upon it straight away their interviews with the station staff would have been much more productive.

Whether this was a complete lack of investigative instinct – and one so basic to standard police routines – cannot be believed because it demonstrated that the case detectives completely ignored the value of having their hands on what were the only clues to TSM’s movements 24 hours before he was found dead. Yet they did nothing about it.

Not only couldn’t that happen, it would not have been allowed to happen.

Then DS Leane found some matches.

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I smell a rat ..

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The irony is that it’s taken over 70 years for someone to question why the police didn’t use the train ticket to trace the Somerton Man’s movements, instead they waited six weeks before calling around for any unclaimed luggage, as outlined in the next post.

Years ago Gerry Feltus wrote to say he hoped I’d find the truth, he must have been talking about his book, The Unknown Man, because without it I would not have been able to see it.

** A cigarette lighter was found in TSM’s suitcase.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    Whoever removed the matches made a mistake? What was so important that the box of matches were removed, it doesn’t make sense. Finding the box of matches later, wonderful news but, there is no guarantee that this box of matches belonged to the SM. What were the chances that the SM’s box of matches were of foreign name/manufacture, a possibility, perhaps?

    May 9, 2022
  2. Maybe so, or perhaps it was a lighter that could have been traced, a gift perhaps.

    May 9, 2022

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