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The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Saturday, 5 November 2016




UPDATED 8th November 2106

Image result for Paul Lawson somerton man bust

The Beginnings 

This part of the story began on December 10th 1948. It was that date, just 9 days after SM was found on the beach at Somerton,  that Mr. Elliot, the undertaker commenced the embalming process.

The process was a lengthy one, no doubt because Mr Elliot wanted to create a good impression and demonstrate his skills. I say this because in all Mr Elliot visited the morgue 4 times a week for 3 months carrying out his work.

Final preparations were completed on May 2nd 1949 and the body was ready for Mr Lawson to commence his work of creating the plaster bust.

Most would know that this was the first and only time in SA history that a plaster bust was made of a deceased person for the purpose of later identification.


I would like to start by saying what a bright and sharp mind Mr Lawson has he was very pleasant and factual. He is a man used to choosing his words carefully. I found him to be engaging and he is still very interested in the case.

There were many questions to be asked and so the discussions with Mr Lawson were by phone and in person.


My first step was to establish the basics and it transpires that whilst Paul made reference to the Somerton Body in his diary, no mention was recorded of exactly by who and when the body was identified to him. I found that interesting but Mr Lawson had no recollection of that event.

I also spoke with him regarding the  comment he diarised on  'the disposal of the original body' but he had no recollection of why he had said that.


Turning to the meeting with Jestyn and the uncovering of the bust that day, Paul was quite specific, he described the room, the 3 Detectives including Det Sgt Leane and Detective Brown and how Jestyn was walked into the room.  Paul removed the sheet from the bust and then stepped back, he recalls that when she first saw the bust he was standing behind her and she looked at the bust and then cast her eyes downwards, she remained looking at the floor whilst numerous questions were asked of her. He was clear on the fact that he thought she was going to fall backwards when she first saw the bust. It was his impression that she knew who this man was.


On the question of Jestyn's religious beliefs, I mentioned to him that it was thought that she was of the Jewish faith but Paul thought not. He can recall two very interesting aspects of the events that followed the burial of the man one being the appearance of flowers on the man's grave for many years after the event. He told me that a Detective stopped a woman at the cemetery after watching her leave flowers there. According to Paul, that woman was Jestyn. He believed that she informed the Detective that the leaving of flowers was a custom in her religion and that her religion had it's origin in Iran, or Persia as once it was known.

Gordon and I followed up on this revelation and found that there was a religion that had similar customs, Zoroastrianism. It included the leaving of flowers annually for a period of 30 years. And, interestingly, The Rubaiyat is often mentioned in online documentation on this 3500-year-old religion. There is an issue though and that is that according to research done thus far, you cannot convert to Zoroastrianism, you are born into it.  It is intriguing and more work will be done on this aspect particularly as it may relate to the question of Internees.

Of interest is the fact that Zoroastrians are someimes buried in concrete lined graves as their preferred method, exposure to the sun and birds, is not legal in many countries; much the same way that perhaps George Marshall apparently chose. The Somerton Man's grave is concrete lined although it is said that is because of the burial ground condition. In Australia there are Zoroastrians who agree with cremation.

Recalling the 60 minutes TV interview in 2014 with Kate Thomson, in the background of one clip is candelabra, in the Jewish faith it is called a 'Menora' and normally you would see them with 7 candleholders. The candelabra in Kate's interview has nine holders which makes it a particular kind of Menora, a Hanukia. This is a ceremonial candelabra used for Hanuka celebrations, it seems a little out of place because I understand that it is only put on display at that time of year.

I think that everyone interested should take some time out and do at least some research into this ancient religion and perhaps some of the offshoots.

So, whilst this is intriguing, we have no way at this time of substantiating Paul's words.


On this point Paul was very clear, the Detective who decide how the case would be run and how or if leads would be followed up was Detective Brown later to be Detective Superintendent Brown. Who was able to view the body and if any follow up was to be done was in his hands. On this point, Paul recalled that there was a family from Kangaroo Island who had identified the man, and he emphasised it was the whole family and in fact, they travelled over twice to view the body and identified it on both occasions. They believed that the man, who had worked on their property as a handyman was, in fact, a Russin defector, a ballet dancer. This lead was not followed up.

There is one other point that Pail raised and that was in relation to the political views of one person involved in the investigation, according to Paul this man had strong communist leanings.

Mr. Lawson's diary notations are available here..


I showed the images we have of Tibor Kaldor and the still shots from the Adelaide University 3D video clip of the bust. He carefully considered the questions raised on this and said that his eyesight is not what it was and he was unable to say anything useful in relation to the images except for one thing, he stated that any progress to be made should make full use of the original Police photographs, they should be regarded as the reliable source. He pointed us away from the bust.

UPDATE 8th November 2016

'How does the matter of Jestyn being involved in an Iranian religion, relate to the Internees?'

During 1941 the British Army moved into Iran where there were a number of German civilians employed on various engineering and some armament manufacturing tasks. They were arrested and deported to Australia as Internees and were located at Tatura Internment Camp. I believe there were around 300 men from Iran and they arrived at Outer Harbour, Adelaide on the SS Rangitiki to be driven to Tatura in November 1941.

These men were not POWs but Internees and were treated accordingly. It is thought that a small number of them would have been spies and not just German.


Perhaps we could summarise the relevant events of the 1940s and this case as:

1. 3 men die of poisoning and one simply disappears.

2. 3 of these men have a link to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and one man leaves us only his name and some now, possibly forever, lost documents.

3. 2 of these men are found dead in Adelaide within two weeks of each other and the other was last heard of in Adelaide in 1945. The fourth man died in Sydney.

4. 3 Men in Adelaide leave suitcases behind, 2 in hotels and one in a Railway Station. The 4 th man dies by poison in Sydney leaving only his copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam at the scene, we have no knowledge of his other belongings.

5. 2 of these men's bodies were disposed of in a manner that fits an ancient religion's rites and a third man requests such a disposal, with one man who just disappeared.

The men's names:
The Somerton Man, Tibor Kaldor, George Marshall and the fourth man was a Mr J. Carlin, our disappearing man. That is unless, of course someone has managed to trace him down; JR or Barbara?

Could it all be linked? I really cannot say for certain but we could look and say what an amazing set of coincidences. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

That completes this post at least for now. As you can see there are some new questions raised here and a lot of food for thought. We will update this post over the next few days.


peterbowes said...

Clive, Lawson didn't mention he read fiction did he?

Anonymous said...

The Zoroastrian "sky burial" angle creates an intriguing parallel to the case of 'Neil Dovestone', a John Doe found on a hillside near Manchester, UK in early 2016 and as yet unidentified.

Cause of death: strychnine.

Gordon332 said...

With thanks to an informed follower of this blog. It seems that there are and were some reformist groups with Zoroastrianism that did and do accept converts so it is a possibility.

The Sky Burial has been around for many thousands of years but I would have to admit having pounded the pavements in and around Manchester, it would have been the last place I would have thought to find it. I will take a quick look at the case and thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Good place to start is here:

Comprehensive and well presented. The guy has no known connection to the location, travelled totally incognito from an origin as yet unknown, has a Pakistani connection and died in a very unusual manner.

Two connections that are possible: a 1949 air crash (G-AHCY) in the same location and a remembrance/memorial forest recently planted nearby. Both appear to have been discounted by Manchester CID.

The sky burial "connection" derives simply from the open air location and possibly the positioning of the body. Plus of course the link to the east.

AFAIK the case is still open, with police working with services in Pakistan to ascertain if there are any records pertaining to this man's slightly unusual medical history.

Gordon332 said...

An update on the possibilities of Jestyn being involved in an Iranian religion, it seems that whilst in it's traditionalist and earlier forms, Zoroastrianism did not allow converts. that changed in the 19th Century. It was in that time that a Reformist movement took hold and in just one country, Iran:

'The reform movement begun in the 19th century by Parsi scholars has led Zoroastrians to turn to the basic teachings of Zarathushtra as given in the Gathas. Iranian Zoroastrians have almost all become reformists. The reform movement among Parsis, although begun by them, has been slow. Zoroastrian settlers in Western countries are turning more and more to reformation.'

Other regions have followed suit including here in Australia where we currently have around 2500 Zoroastrians some of whom would be reformists.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete, No, Paul Lawson didn't mention anything about his reading habits! Found him very approachable, alert & aware of the interest in the SM case. Clive

Gordon332 said...

For Byron Devison. I read a comment from you regarding Mr. Cleland as a 'fellow traveller' to a known communist sympathiser and you made a connection with Mr. Lawson's words. I am not able to say much but I can tell you that Mr. Cleland would make 2 people close to the case with communist leanings.