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A review of events that took place between the 22nd and 27th of July, 1949.


22 July Friday … Freeman finds the Rubaiyat in his glovebox.

23 July Saturday… Freeman hands book to Leane.

24 July Sunday … SAPOL Golf Day.

25 July Monday … Detective Canney interviewed Jessica Harkness at Moseley St.

26 JulyHarkness visits the Adelaide Museum to view the bust in the company of DS Leane, two other detectives and the taxidermist responsible for the bust, Paul Lawson.

27 July … Newspaper reports that detectives investigating the Somerton Body mystery interviewed a woman ‘yesterday’ and noted “The words Tamam Shud had been torn from the last page of the book.”  The newspaper also reported that tests had been made ‘yesterday’ and had revealed that the TS slip and book matched in texture and colour.

“The woman told the police after leaving Sydney she went to live in Melbourne where she subsequently married. The woman told police a man had come to some flats next door the previous year (1948) and enquired for a nurse. She could not remember the month.**  The newspaper reported that ” It was after this incident that the body was found on the beach at Somerton, not far from the woman’s home.”

The newspaper also reported that “After seeing a plaster cast of the head and shoulders of the dead man, the woman said she could not remember whether the dead man was the lieutenant she had known.”*

In addition, the article noted “It was pointed out yesterday that the features of the dead man had altered materially before*** the cast was made.”

Newspapers report that the phone number of a woman living near to where the body was found was written on the cover of the book. The paper also mentions the woman told the police she had given a copy of a similar book to an Army Lieutenant in Sydney.

SA police send a radio message to NSW police asking if Alf Boxall was missing.

27 July Wednesday … NSW police find Boxall at work at the Randwick Bus Depot.


*According to the late Paul Lawson, Harkness answered every question with the word ‘No.’

** November 1948 ?

Jessica Harkness, who had changed her name to Thomson some years before marrying Prosper in 1950 told the police she had married him in Melbourne before arriving in Adelaide in early 1947. There is the possibility she told Carl Webb the same lie and he was able to find her name, address and phone number in the Adelaide directory when he arrived in Adelaide in 1948 and rather than commit her phone number to memory he wrote it down on the back of his copy of the Rubaiyat. Then he came visiting.

*** This could be put down to the physical effects of the autopsy and temporary removal of the body’s skull cap and brain before both were replaced and the skin resown just under the hairline.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    Presumably, it was an occupier of the flat who told Jessie about the man asking about a nurse. Surely, Jessie would have asked the flat occupier, what did he look like, clothes he wore, was he local etc, etc. Why didn’t the flat occupier confirm Jessie’s address? So, Jessie recalled this information, in July 1949, but couldn’t remember the month, really? Did the police question anyone at the flats as part of the enquiry?

    October 21, 2022
  2. a lurker #

    “The woman told the police after leaving Sydney she went to live in Melbourne where she subsequently married”…so she’s assumed Prosper’s name before arriving in Adelaide.
    Abbott has her getting married in 1950, I assume that’s based on family records – and it must have been in Adelaide given the timeline. Unfortunately SA Government doesn’t do records, instead allowing GeneaologySA to control access – and they seem to give 75 years on wedding records…so there’s nothing there (and nothing matches in their newspaper records either – but that is still a growing capability).

    Is it possible that they were never legally married?

    October 24, 2022

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