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The second 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 his performance from the very beginning of his role as head of The Investigation Team and their indifference to the importance of the only clue to the Somerton Man’s movements 24 hours before he was found dead.


What is notable though is that the investigation itself was hampered long before he joined the Team .. the conclusion being that his secondment made little difference in the matter of the Henley Beach Train Ticket.


On the 30th of November 1948 Douglas George Townsend was employed by the South Australian Railways as the only ticket clerk working out of ‘the double star box’ where he sold a one-way second class ticket to Henley Beach to the Somerton Man, the first of three he issued that day.

The two stars on the right side of the ticket indicate that this was sold from the ‘double star box.’ The ticket number appears on the left hand side.These numbers were registered by the ticket seller in a daily journal. (apologies for the blurred aspect)

(Day 1) This ticket was found by Police Constable Moss in the pocket of the pair of trousers being worn by an unidentified man when he was found dead on Somerton Beach the following morning on December 1st.

(Day 2) An autopsy was made the following day on December 2 by Dr. J.M. Dwyer and jars containing various organs were transported on the same day to the State Government’s Department of Chemistry and handed over to R.J. Cowan, the Deputy Government Analyst.

(Day 3) On Friday December 3rd Police Photographer and Fingerprint expert James Durham attended the State Mortuary and obtained fingerprints of the dead man, then, with the assistance of Mounted Constable Knight reclothed the body in the shirt and tie he had been wearing when found and took photographs of of his full face and side facial.

In the initial stages of the investigation Detective Strangeway of the Glenelg Police Station was delegated the duty of investigating what was already considered a suspicious death. He was assisted by Detective Hector Gollan and Constable Sutherland.

(Day 21) Copies of the official reports together with the dead man’s fingerprints were posted to all English speaking countries on December 21.

(Day 22) On December 22 the Deputy Government Analyst R.J. Cowan reported no known poisons found and Detective Gollan compiled a lengthy report containing the description of the dead man, including a record of his teeth which was sent to all interstate police forces.

(Day 39)  On January 8 1949, Detective Sergeant Leane, one of the most senior and experienced detectives in the Adelaide CIB was placed in charge of an Investigation Team which included Detective Gollan and Constables Sutherland and Horsnell.

(Day 42) On 11 January Detective L.D. Brown joined the Investigation Team.

(Day 45) On January 14 Detective Sergeant Leane enquired with the staff at the Cloak Room at the Adelaide Railway Station to ascertain if there was any unclaimed property that might correlate with the unidentified man and learnt that there was an unclaimed suitcase that had been booked in on 30 November. Leane visited the luggage office the same day and was handed the case which he opened and took possession of various items for checking, some of which were mounted and photographed. No list was made available of all the items Leane took back to the station.

(Day 50) On January 19 DS Leane took possession of the case.


Members of the Investigation Team.

Detective Strangeway.

Constable Sutherland.

Detective Gollan.

Detective Sergeant Leane.

Constable Horsnell.

Detective Brown.

Number of days passed before the suitcase was collected by DS Leane – 50

Number of days passed (at that stage) since the Henley Beach Train Ticket was found by PC Moss – 50

Number of days the Investigation Team lost by not acting on the information contained on the train ticket – 50

Number of days the Investigation Team lost before finally interviewing ticket seller Townsend – not known.


 How could so many experienced detectives collectively ignore for a period of 50 days the only clue as to The Somerton Man’s movements 24 hours before he was found dead?


.. and not to forget

The number of Days Detective Sergeant Leane lost by withholding the publication of finding the Tamam Shud slip – 51

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    So, Leane removed certain items from the suitcase on 14 Jan 1949 and, didn’t pick it up for another 5 days. Unless he had someone working in the Cloak Room, to keep an eye on a particular suitcase, anyone could have had access to the suitcase either to remove/place item(s) inside it. And, I bet Leane never made a list of the contents of the suitcase on the 14 January, to compare with the contents after 19 January? That would have made sense, surely?

    May 11, 2022
    • Surely would. I remember years ago when Gordon wrote that he thought the suitcase was thoroughly salted with ‘litter.’ Now we have DS Leane on record as taking stuff out of the case for ‘checking’ to quote Feltus. A bloke doesn’t have to be Einstein to know who was working for the top secret laddies.

      May 11, 2022

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