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How the Somerton Man investigation could have been done in one day.

Author’s note.

The reason for all of this is because we are sick of griping about the police response and thought it would be useful to imagine how the investigation might have gone if handled with a little more urgency.


December 1st, 1948.

Glenelg Police Station.

The phone rings.

‘Constable Moss.’

‘A body you say. Where?’

‘I’ll be right down.’

Ten minutes later Moss stoops over a body lying on the sand with both its head and shoulders resting on the sea wall. Already his day had started badly as he had stepped into a substantial pile of warm horse-shit left uncovered by the jockeys who had been exercising their horses when they spotted the corpse and rode over. Now he had some gaunt old war veteran bending his ear and telling him he saw the body in the same place the previous evening.

‘Pissed he was, as a newt.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Couldn’t even light that smoke under his chin. Look.’

Moss looked. The cigarette was half smoked.

‘Mr Lyons is it? The local jeweller?


‘Wear glasses do you?’

‘Well yes, mostly at work, for the fine stuff.’

Moss rose, looked at the mess on his boot and turned towards Lyons.

‘Borrow your hanky?’


Back at the station.

Detective Strangeworts looked at the dead man’s belongings Moss had spread on his desk.

‘This all there is?’


‘No wallet, no papers, no money, just a bus and train ticket and a packet of fags.

‘That’s it Boss, and no matches either.’

‘So how did he light his smoke?’

‘Beats me.’

‘Speaking of which, where is it?’


‘The smoke he was smoking.’

Moss stuck a finger in his ear and scratched an itch that wasn’t there.

‘Don’t tell me, you bloody lost it, didn’t you? And what’s that bloody smell?’

Moss looked down at his left boot. Winced.

‘Where’s the body now?’


‘You searched him?’

‘Yes Boss, turned everything inside out but the funny thing was I couldn’t find a fob pocket in his duds.’

Strangeways liked a pipe in the mornings, a little plum shag with his cup of tea and as he packed his briar he told Moss to duck into town and see if the train ticket found on the dead man meant he might have lodged a suitcase at the station. Perhaps there might be some form of identification inside it.

Then, after Moss left he rang the morgue and asked them to search the dead man’s clothes again. Asked them to look for a fob pocket in particular.

‘Bloody Moss,’ he grumbled, looking at an unhealthy brown smear on his office floor, ‘needs help wiping his own arse.’


Later that morning.

Glenelg Police Station.

The phone rings.

‘Detective Stringedwise.’

‘Moss here Boss, we have a problem.’

‘Where are you?’

‘With a bloke named Craig at the railway luggage office .’

‘What’s the problem?’

‘Want me to put him on?’

Moss waved Craig over, wondering where he remembered him from. Handed him the phone.

‘Boss wants to know what the problem is.’


‘What’s the hold up Mr Craig?’

Craig laughed. ‘Who was the bloody idiot who sent this bloke down here to ask if I had any unclaimed luggage?’


‘You there?’

‘What’s the hold up, Mr Craig?’

‘I’ve got two thousand pieces of luggage in the bloody racks, you want to tell me where to start looking?’

Strangeways sighed deeply, wished he was elsewhere.

‘Put the constable back on the phone will you?’


Later that morning.

The Morgue.

The phone rings.


‘Moss here Boss, at the morgue, what do you want me to do?’

‘Ask if anyone noticed anything peculiar about the clothes on the body.’

‘Already done that.’


‘And what, Boss?’

‘Did. They. Find. Anything. NEW?’

‘There’s an old bloke here going through his clothes and he found the fob pocket. Strange old bugger, bit of a bloodhound, sniffs everything. He found a funny bit of paper inside it.’

‘That’d be Cleland, coroner’s offsider off to an early start. Blood and guts man from way back.’


‘Never mind. Anything else?’

‘Yair, the dead joker used a waxed thread to sew up his buttons. Be a job and a half my view.’

‘Bring the piece of paper in then go back to the luggage office and look at every suitcase that was lodged yesterday.’

‘What for, Boss?’

Strangeways shook his head.

‘See if there’s a thread in one of the cases that matches the repair job.’


‘Then get back to me.’




The University of Adelaide.

The phone rings.

‘Cleland here.’

‘Good afternoon Professor. I’m Detective Strengleweys from Glenelg Station, do you have a minute?’

‘How can I help you?’

‘I believe you found a small piece of paper with two words printed on it in the fob pocket of a pair of trousers worn on a body you were examining earlier today.’

Cleland took off his gloves and put a temporary cover on the tray of intestines he was fingering, his lab window was open to the breeze and blowflies were becoming a nuisance.

‘Indeed I did. I put it back and when your Constable asked me for it blowed if I could find it straight away. Tricky little fob pocket that one, stuck under the inside seam. Most peculiar.’

‘Any idea what the words mean?’

‘You little bastard!’



‘Sorry, bloody blowfly just got in and squirted a dozen maggots on my work-in-progress.’

‘Tamam Shud, professor. Any ideas?’

‘It’s all Greek to me, but I’d give Frank Kennedy a ring, the newspaper fellow, he knows a fair few reffos*.’

*Refugees from the war in Europe


A little after lunch.

The Adelaide Advertiser Editorial Office.

The phone rings.


‘I’m looking for Frank Kennedy.’

‘Not another fucken bookie looking for my money are you?’

‘No sir, I’m Detective Strongeleways from Glenelg Station.’

‘Who’s in the shit now?’

‘Nobody Mr Kennedy, I was just hoping you’d be able to translate a few words for me.’

Kennedy laughed.

‘Last time I did anything for you blokes it ended badly.’

‘How so?’

‘Somebody who didn’t need to know I did it found out.’

‘Sorry about that.’

‘Never mind. What two words?’

Tamam Shud. Spelt T A M A M S H U D

‘Buggered if I know, gimme five and I’ll call you back, ok?’



Glenelg Police Station.

The phone rings.

‘Detective Strongflays.’

‘Moss here Boss, I’ve got a result from the luggage office.’

‘What do we have?’

‘The bloke’s name is Keane, with or without an E, rolled in yesterday, one suitcase.’

’How did you get the name?’

’Bloke wrote it on some of his stuff, first name starts with T.’

‘Excellent result Moss. Give yourself a pat on the back, come back to the station, help yourself to the Petty Cash then take the rest of the day off.’

Stranglefays disconnected the line then rummaged through his files, looking for photographer Jimmy Durham’s number. Time to get a photo of the slip of paper out and about while he was waiting for the journo to ring back.


Early afternoon.

Jimmy Durham’s Office

The phone rings.

‘Durham here, ace photographer at your service.’

‘Hello Jim, Stranglingways here, all well?’

‘Couldn’t top it with a million quid, you?’

‘Box of birds. I need you to do some work, soonest.’

‘Name your poison detective, I’m here to serve.’

‘Got a body at the morgue for a headshot and a piece of paper on my desk, can you do them both for this afternoon’s newspaper edition?’

‘On the way.’


Mid afternoon.

The Adelaide Advertiser Editorial Office.

The phone rings.


‘That Kennedy?’


‘Detective Streaglewants here, the two foreign words, anyone get back to you?’

‘Persian, out of a book by Omar Khayyam, means The End.’

‘Did you get the pics from Durham?’


‘Everything ok  for this afternoon’s edition?’


‘Thanks Mr Kennedy you’ll …’




Glenelg Police Station.

The phone rings.

‘Detective Strugglewaiths.’

‘The book, I’ve found the book!’

‘Sir? What book?’

‘The one in this afternoon’s paper, the Rubberwaite or something with a bit torn out, I found it in the back of my car.’

‘Your name, sir, please.’

‘Freeman. And there’s a phone number written on the back.’

‘Could you read it out please.’


‘Thank you Mr Freeman, we’ll contact the subscriber immediately.’



90A Moseley Street

The phone rings.

‘Hello, Sister Thomson on the line.’


The rest we know   …. and thanks for getting this far.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. пожалуйста #

    Not sure if you’ve seen this, old chap. David has done some interesting work on the Isdal Woman and has now taken a similar AI based approach to Keane.

    You might enjoy this…

    June 23, 2022
  2. Yeah .. he’s a better bet than Fedosimov

    June 23, 2022

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