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This post is all about Carl Webb’s brain.

Imagine a human brain sitting inside a skull attached to an unidentified body that has been lying on a gurney and refrigerated in a mortuary for six months and during this period dozens of visitors have requested permission to view the corpse, thinking they might know the owner. I mean, imagine treating a leg of lamb that way, in and out of the fridge for a poke and a prod every couple of days for six months.

This particular brain had already been examined during autopsy and highly motivated personal research has determined that after such an examination, which necessitates the complete removal of the object, the brain is put back into the cavity from where it was removed, a task that would require the use of both hands (see pic) as detached cranial matter is both heavy and slippery.

The skull cap is then replaced and the skin flap stitched back on, a procedure which has the effect of disturbing the features of the corpse. This cause and effect may well allay the fears exhibited by some that Webb’s pre-autopsy photo looks markedly different from his post-autopsy photo.

Perhaps a kind soul might pass this information onto my colleague Mr Gordon Cramer who no longer welcomes my approaches, not that I make any these days.

So, here we have a situation where on 15 June 1949  Detectives Brown, Noblet and Leane, together with Professor Cleland have arrived at the mortuary to inspect and approve Paul Lawson’s plaster work. The police find everything is in order, however Cleland is mightily displeased as his request for a sample of Webb’s brain had not been met. Lawson is asked to cease unstitching the skin covering the detached portion of the deceased’s skull and Cleland leaves empty-handed. Fuming. Like Webb’s six month old brain.

This is where we ask, ‘What possible use would Cleland have made of such a ghastly object?’

I recently asked this question on Nick Pelling’s Cipher Mysteries site and was met with a deluge of silence, those folks are much more interested in Webb family matters and all the more strength to them, but it is such a boring subject. I mean, zzzzzzzz.

Back to it, and this is where it gets exciting.

WL Cleland (the Professor’s father) was born in Hong Kong in 1847 and migrated to South Australia, arriving in Adelaide in August 1852. He was educated in Adelaide, and afterwards studied in Switzerland, England, and Edinburgh, then returned to found a lucrative practice in Adelaide. He was appointed Resident Medical Officer at the Parkside Lunatic Asylum in December 1878, and Assistant Colonial Surgeon in 1879, a year after the birth John Burton. In 1896 he was appointed Acting Colonial Surgeon. He died in 1918.

The Parkside Dead House, also known as Paul Lawson’s Workplace

Oh, be still my beating heart because now we have linked Cleland and his father to Lawson’s workplace and it doesn’t require much imagination to see the entire Cleland family eating a Sunday dinner of roast lamb, potatoes and peas as WL told illuminating stories of examining a brain during the autopsy of some poor soul who expired unloved in the Parkside Lunatic Asylum. Young Bertie would have been entranced as his father told him of lunatics who killed, raped, dismembered and murdered their way into the wretched rooms and cells of the asylum. Locked away until they died but not before a medical interest in their bodies became an established practice. In their brains to be more concise, despite the tragic consequences of experimental work undertaken by American doctors in the 1940s.

‘Electro-Convulsive therapy was not the worst treatment used at Glenside by a long shot, in the 1940’s the American surgeon Walter Freeman had invented his own form of Lobotomy, ‘The Trans Orbital Lobotomy’. This lobotomy technique used an ice pick to stab through the skull behind the eye socket and scramble the frontal lobe on both sides of the brain. Often the patients weren’t administered an anaesthetic for this procedure, they would just be given E.C.T until they were in a catatonic state and then operated on.’

The first Leucotomy (the surgical cutting of white nerve fibres within the brain, especially prefrontal lobotomy, formerly used to treat mental illness) performed in Australia was under-taken at the operating theatre at the Parkside Mental Hospital on 10th October, 1945. The operation of prefrontal Lobotomy was performed by Dr L. C. E. Lindon (now Sir Leonard Lindon). The patient was a 30 year old female who had spent the previous five years in hospital and was extremely difficult for the nursing staff to manage, and despite intensive care with the treatments available at the time, improvement was never maintained.

Surgical interest moved with the times and experiments on live tissue were replaced with experiments on dead tissue. Surgeons and scientists were interested in finding if a mass murderer’s brain was in any way different to that of an ordinary man. This led to further experimentation in the area of child abuse perpetrators for instance, where they developed procedures to determine whether a paedophile’s brain had characteristics that were in some way different to that of the ordinary man in the street.

Carl Webb we have been told was a sullen, bad tempered man who would retire to his bedroom for the night when offended, sulking.

I have had children like that. I was like that and my brother was worse.

But there is no record of Webb being a murderer, rapist or someone having sadistic tendencies.

So why did Professor Cleland have such an abiding interest in Carl Webb’s brain? Or was the good Professor born before his time?

Brain function and paedophiles.

Click to access cantor.pdf

It can be noted that Professor Cleland is on record as being known to sniff along the entire length of human intestines in the quest of identifying if any poison was used in the death of the disembowelled owner. A herculean task, given the large intestine could be five feet long and the smaller up to fifteen feet.

Professor Cleland was also planning to visit New Guinea before an illness prevented him from travelling to the highlands on a quest to gather the region’s cannibal recipes.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. a lurker #

    I think I missed the point a little. Are you suggesting Cleland was taking it post-mortem for some research? Or are you more suggesting that perhaps for whatever reason they had Webb at the asylum and poked at his brain accidentally killing him….then they had to cover up everything and in the process the brain went missing?

    If I’m honest I’m somewhat skeptical about a lot of what Lawson said or allegedly said in recent history. I think some of it is when people are led to questions in particular way it’s natural for most people to introduce little white lies that try to avoid exposing an inaccuracy in a previous interview, and over time a lot of those things become fact in your own head. I also think memory evolves and is enhanced by speculation over time and when coupled with visits from media and other investigators a story easily grows from your perception of what really happened into something that is vaguely based in what actually happened, but exaggerated and coloured by other ideas that you (and people questioning you) have brought to the case.
    I think it’s quite possible Lawson always believed there was a conspiracy – and perhaps that explains his caginess in the Littlemore doc. He wasn’t specifically trying to protect anyone, he was avoiding stuff that he either didn’t know with any certainty (in which case many people like to make it sound like their privy to the information and not allowed to disclose it – some people are averse to saying “I don’t know”, so “Can’t talk about it” is more grandiose) or genuinely thought he could get in trouble for saying something (or getting something wrong).

    September 23, 2022
    • Cleland could only have wanted the brain for professional/ medical purposes He was an intensely curious man, as his record shows.

      September 23, 2022
  2. Lurker .. you say “If I’m honest I’m somewhat skeptical about a lot of what Lawson said or allegedly said in recent history. I think some of it is when people are led to questions in particular way it’s natural for most people to introduce little white lies that try to avoid exposing an inaccuracy in a previous interview, and over time a lot of those things become fact in your own head. “

    The facts are quite different and I’ll quote you part of a comment that was published a few days ago: “Paul told me (Clive) that Leane knew TSM’s ID. At that point Paul changed the subject, I was sat opposite him and I remember he gave me a slight smile.”

    No allegedly said. Nobody leading anybody on. No introduction of ‘little white lies that over time become facts in your head.’

    Clive just sat and listened to what Lawson said.

    You also say, without giving any reason, that Lawson’s more recent utterances have left you somewhat skeptical. What exactly do you mean old boy?

    September 23, 2022
  3. misca #

    If they knew who he was, why make a bust? Something that had never been done before (I don’t think) or since? What a shit show.

    September 23, 2022
    • If we knew why Cleland wanted Webb’s brain things might become a little clearer. If Carl was a kiddie fiddler and his ID became publicly known back in 1949 then an investigation of his background may have tarred a few of Adelaide’s untouchables with the same brush.
      Tell me that’s never happened in other places.

      September 23, 2022
      • em #

        we could be looking at something like the count Mountbatten case- a homosexual with penchant for young boys. might explain his late marriage to Doff

        September 28, 2022
        • But what explains his physique? Lawson, being a champion grappler himself marvelled at the shape Webb was in, upper and lower body. To maintain that degree of overall fitness would require a man to attend to a consistent routine, especially given his age. Perhaps he worked as a hospital aide whose job was to train patients to regain or maintain their mobility.

          September 28, 2022
  4. The Sly Dog #

    I just can’t get past the extra ordinary efforts that were taken, that do seem like they were done to legitimately ID the SM… the embalming, the freezing for six months, the bust. Plus an inquest, then another 10 years or so later! Seems like a lot of time and money spent (wasn’t SA and the western world under austerity measures) particularly if SM was some deviant and deserved to be incinerated ASAP and passed off as some vagrant hobo no one cared about, deflecting any attention to help protect any of his contemporaries.

    September 23, 2022
    • You could also ask why Harkness’ identity was withheld for over fifty years, and Freeman the chemist for even longer.

      September 23, 2022
  5. Clive #

    Like an old Western film set, the authorities in the SM investigation had to put up a ‘front’.

    September 23, 2022
    • Clive, this is a question right out of Interrogation for Dummies … do you remember what you were talking about with PL before he dropped his bombshell?

      September 23, 2022
      • Clive #

        Not exactly sure, but, Paul told me that he was going to approach a MP Dana Wortley. Apparently, Paul had spoken to her about the coroner’s report, she had information on this. Whether he did or not, and, if she replied is not certain.

        September 23, 2022
        • Where does she fit in the scheme of things?

          September 23, 2022
          • Clive #

            Paul gave me the impression that Dana Wortley may be able to obtain certain information, relating to the coroner’s report, that was not made public. Now, why Paul thought this way, he didn’t elaborate, no surprise there! Whether he had read the original coroner’s report and knew(?) sensed there was something missing/not quite kosher, I don’t honestly know. But, he was adamant he was going to try and get to the bottom of it. Since Paul never raised this matter again, I assumed that, if, Dana had contacted him it was likely to be a ‘sorry I can’t help you’ reply, or a brush off.

            September 23, 2022
  6. Clive #

    I wonder if Paul asked Che for Dana’s help? Interesting thought!

    September 24, 2022
  7. thedude747 #

    There’s obviously a Wortley connection. Che (who authors the article in. the link above) being the son of Dana and Russell Wortley both useless SA politicians. Russell is infamous as a do nothing career politician who has some embarrassing interviews available to watch online probably where he stumbles pathetically over basic questions. He held the auspicious portfolio of “Minister for councils” and ensured SA councils continued to be useless fat organisation operating manly for the purpose of helping their old private school mates /developer gain lucrative re zoning approvals. He’s an expert in getting committee appointments which add to his pay packet.
    He’s also famous for an appealing mullet that son Che has clearly inherited. AND looking at Cheese studies certainly intends to follow in Dads Lazy footsteps.

    September 25, 2022
  8. dude47 #

    Im not dismissing the angle PB is taking here and wouldn’t put it past anyone in SA BUT I would need to understand why they went to all the fuss?
    The the bust , photos in the papers etc that bought even more attention to Carl.

    Surely the simplest and most effective way to shut this down was to just go quiet , , bury Carl in her paupers section of west terrace cemetery. Any question and Leane could just play a straight bat “turns out he was an itinerant worker, nothing to see here”

    September 25, 2022
  9. Clive #

    Yes, they could have just placed a paragraph in the local paper, to say that after ‘extensive’ enquiries, nobody has confirmed his identity. He will be buried at West Terrace Cemetery in a few days in the paupers section. The question is, as dude47, asks is why? Why such a long drawn out case, seven months (December 1948-June 1949), contrast with Tibor Kaldor, he was identified within 24 hours of his death but, he still ended up in the paupers section at West Terrace Cemetery.

    September 25, 2022

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