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Fifty days to interpret the two words ‘Tamam Shud.’

The third 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 removal of evidence from the Somerton Man’s suitcase and the 50 day delay in translating the two words ‘Tamam Shud.’


On January 8 1949, thirty-nine days after finding the Henley Beach train ticket on the body, 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.

Gerry Feltus is quoted as saying that at this stage ‘They (The Investigation Team) were yet to produce any evidence to identify the deceased or to explain the circumstances surrounding his death. It was obviously a suspicious death and despite all enquires to date, nothing concrete was forthcoming to help the investigation.’

It seems even Feltus didn’t realise the importance of the Henley Beach train ticket as it was without doubt, ‘evidence to explain the circumstances surrounding his death.’ Circumstances defined as a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action, in this case the suspicious death of the Somerton Man.

On January 18, the day before taking possession of the suitcase and five days after he removed some evidence for ‘checking,’ Leane ‘compiled a very comprehensive report for the interstate police and media,’ (Feltus) including photographs, the case background and recent developments relating to the suitcase.

Then, ‘at some stage shortly after DS Leane collected the suitcase from the Railway Station he handed for examination all of the clothing associated with the deceased, including the items he was wearing to Emeritus Professor John Burton Cleland, a legally qualified doctor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Adelaide.’ (Feltus)

Cleland informed Leane on April 19th that he had found the Tamam Shud slip in the fob pocket of the trousers worn by the deceased. However

Leane apparently considered this finding as irrelevant to the case as he did the Henley Beach train ticket as it wasn’t until Detective Brown took it to Beck’s Bookshop 50 days later on June 8 that an interpretation of the words Tamam Shud was made and Leane subsequently allowed the press to publish pictures of the slip.

A week before the inquest commenced.

Pictures that had success in unearthing a Mr. Freeman shortly after the inquest was adjourned and whose identity was kept secret for nearly seventy years and then only made known after his death.

Timing was everything in this case.


During the first decades of the 20th century, the ‘Rubáiyát’ made its way into nearly every facet of people’s lives,” said Michelle Kaiserlian, co-curator of the The Harry Ransom Center‘s exhibition “The Persian Sensation.”

“It’s difficult for us to understand today just how important a part of Victorian and even Modernist literature this (Fitzgerald) translation was,” said Molly Schwartzburg, the Ransom Center’s curator of British and American literature and co-curator of the exhibition. “A century ago, the average American and certainly every poet writing in English could quote stanzas of this poem verbatim.”

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    A silly notion perhaps, but could the fact that no one investigated the Henley Beach train ticket, was because the authorities already knew it had nothing to do with the SM?

    May 14, 2022
    • It’s all to do with timing. Moss caught the tickets and reported them, then we had the autopsy etc in the next couple of days, then Cowan with his out of luck analysis a little later on, then Leane dumped all the evidence with Cleland for two plus months … Pick a spot for interference. There were too many detectives on the case for them all to ignore the Henley beach ticket and where it led to, including Feltus.

      May 14, 2022

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