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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, 11 June 2016

Somerton Man: The Book: A Collection

1. The Image Released by SA Police in 1949

You can see where a piece was torn from the book, some contention about the shape, in fact the Police released only folded over copies of the torn piece ahead of the book being found. The reason for that was to ensure that if someone came forward with a copy of the book, that the claim was genuine, then they would be able to match the torn piece to the book.

ADDED 14th June:
There is a view expressed by Nick Pelling:

"It’s far from clear to me whether the edges of the Tamam Shud piece were deliberately folded over by the Police (as he asserts), cropped for clarity by the Police, or whether cropping the image tight to the letters was a decision by the picture editors at the News and the ‘Tiser. Just so y’know"

 Nick, I know that investigative work can be challenging so I would really like to help you out here. The facts of the matter are that the piece was folded over by the Police and handed to journalists at the inquest. As a young Detective, one of the first things I learnt in the SOCO attachment was the need to sometimes keep parts of the evidence from the public as a fail-safe method when checking witnesses statements. Quite logical really. Anyway, you can verify that is the case for the torn piece with Professor Abbott, we had a discussion on this some years ago and confirmed it again yesterday.

And just for you Nick, some choice words from one John Saunders, he posted a comment on your site which I thought to be quite apt:

"To trick by planting faulty seed which down an endless path shall lead
Can only cause contempt to breed amongst the others of thy creed
To take another’s word or deed and use the same to serve thy need
The evil consequence of greed is apt to fail, cannot succeed
Thou who repenteth can be freed seek out thy brother beg and plead
Forgiveness shall be thine indeed peace be to thee indeed, indeed"

As it turned out, the only way the Police were able to match the torn piece to the copy of the book was because of the similarity of the fibres in both the book and the torn piece, the shape was not at issue.

What does need to be carefully considered of course is the issue of tradecraft, the techniques and methods used by agents of all persuasions for hundreds of years. One of those methods was to match two pieces of a document, a button, a beermat or of a coin as a form of identification, very simple but quite effective because, as is the norm for tradecraft, it relied on every-day items but put to clandestine use. In this British Pathe video on the left, you can see some of the methods used in the Cold War, note that the date for this video was 1963, you can take it as read that they would not be releasing anything top secret in a video so these methods would have been used for a long time.

But, the torn piece was not a perfect match at least according to the copy of the book at the commencement of this page. Having said that Detective Brown in his later years was quite adamant that it was a fit and yet recent research and documents from the time spoke of how they used the fibres from the book and the torn piece to arrive at their conclusion that it was a match.

The question is then, if the shape wasn't a match, what was the purpose of the piece? And why was it secreted in a 'hard to find' fob pocket? Given that we have the code on the back of the book, then just maybe the torn piece provides the key to the micro-code, the earlier examination of the piece does indeed show micro written numbers inside some of the Tamam Shud letters. What good would a code be without the key? What good would the key be, in the shape of the Tamam Shud letters that carried micro-code, if it had been left in the book? I am certain that this was the purpose of the torn piece and of the fob pocket, a custom fob pocket according to the evidence from the manufacturers of the Elasta Strap trousers.

Never, ever underestimate the resourcefulness of those engaged in the espionage field. Never ever think that any aspect of tradecraft is too old for use in that field. Toni Hiley, Director of the CIA Museum actually said that in a recent interview.

It is important to note that the book was always said to have been white in colour. The released image at the head of this post is black and white, so we really wouldn't know from this image if it was white in its original state. Below you will see an image that demonstrates this. The colour of the torn piece which is still in existence gives us the only clue to the original colour as you will see.


Here's a copy of the same page with a representation of the torn piece accurately placed within the torn out area. Of particular interest is the fact that the overlaid image from the SA Police released version has been placed against an accurately sized image of the W&T copy of the book released in 1942. You will note that the Police copy is somewhat narrower which might be explained by the fact that it was cropped but, as you will see further down the page, there is a very likely additional reason.

You may also want to make note of the distance between the crescent moon at the upper edge of the cropped page and the top of the page. Again you will understand why as you move down this post.


Moving on to an image of a 1942 Whitcombe and Tombs copy of the book which we will refer to as the JW version. This is the cover a paperback version. In discussions with Gerry Feltus some years ago, he was quite certain that the book was a pocket version, the kind that you could stow away in an inside pocket of a jacket for example. Gerry has an extensive collection of the book.


In the image below we can see the W&T triangular trade mark, notice its placement on the page of the JW version. You can also see the distinctive artwork surround for the page, it matches precisely the art work shown in the image released by the SA Police in 1949.

Next, we have an image of the inside of the fly-leaf of the book, JW version, you will see that it is from the Courage & Friendship series produced by W&T in 1942.

Below is the 'Tamam Shud' page from our 1942 or JW version. Notice the artwork on the surround of the page. Also, notice again the colour of the page and the location of that crescent moon to the upper right of the page.


Whilst the above image is cream, I have used a standard editing tool to change the image to a grey scale image, you will be able to see that it now very closely matches the SA Police released version. You may also be able to make out a faint triangular mark above the word Tamam Shud, that's the W&T trade-mark


In this next image I have used an editing tool again to highlight the Triangular W&T trade-mark which you should be able to see more clearly than in the previous image, again note the location of the crescent moon to the upper right, you may also want to  note the locations of the thread used for binding the signatures within the centre of the book:


Next is a comparison of the JW version of the book, on the right as you look at it, and the image of the cover of the book which, I understand, was published by SA Police in 1949. The width looks similar but the height quite different:

This next image of the SM book cover sourced from the web, seems to be of a sharper quality.


Now, here is the Tamam Shud page that was provided to me earlier in the week by 'Annonymous', I received this on Thursday evening, 9th June. Note, in particular, the location of the crescent moon in relation to the top of the right-hand page. Also, note the location of the thread binding, in book -binding, waxed thread is used to firstly tie together the 'signatures' or groups of printed and folded pages and then the signatures are in turn bound together to form the 'block'.  In this case, the threads can be seen starting just above the letter A in 'Among' and then below the last line of the quatrain ending in 'Glass'. There is no sign of a lower thread which should have been in vision just below and at the centre to the words 'Tamam Shud'.

Note also that there is no sign of the triangular W&T trademark in this image. That could be because of the direct light from above that would tend to 'drown' the faint trademark image. This book is different in that it is hardback version. The majority of hardback books that I have seen use a different quality of paper in their paperback versions.


Next, we have a comparison image of the same page from the JW version, the SA Police version and the 'Dave' version, the colouration is very similar, note the location of the crescent moon and the thread:


To round off the dozen, this is an image of a W&T version, which we will refer to as the JP version, in hardback from the same era, note the paper type and the layout, the ads joining the signatures are properly spaced and whilst you don't actually see the thread, you can see where the pges are slightly pulled in. The Tamam Shud page is on the left and not the right side as per Dave's version and the font used for the hardback copy is totally different.

So why this post? Well it does seem to me that the images of the hardback book presented by Dave have a remarkable similarity to the JW version which is a paperback, but there are some unexplained differences that raise questions. As for conclusions, I am not drawing any, I leave it to the audience to review and come to their own.

Dave, if you read this, if you have more images which show the trademark however feint or in fact can show a full set of the pages, there should be approximately 54 in total if you include the cover and frontend and backend papers, then I would look forward to seeing them.

For those with an interest in the Marshall case, I have some images of a Methuen Version 7 that you may want to add to your collection, please leave a comment and I will send you copies of the ones I have.


  1. A friendly word for Nick Pelling.
    The torn piece was copied and trimmed by the SA Police and was handed to journalists at the inquest by them, the editors were not involved neither should they have been. I clearly recall as a young detective being trained by a very competent SOCO and amongst the issues covered was that of prudently withholding parts of evidence to ensure that when you had a suspect or a lead you could quickly qualify it.

    This aspect was subject of a discussion many years later with Professor Abbott and it was about the torn piece. He confirmed that it was indeed handed out at the inquest having first being trimmed by the Police.

    Don't feel too bad about it :)

  2. Hi Gordon, Did all the hardback versions have the "Tamam Shud" titles on the LHS? Just wondering if there is something in this , as the hardback version(s) would, I presume have printing on the reverse of the "Tamam Shud" page, whilst the paperback version i.e. "Tamam Shud" titles being on the RHS, would have nothing printed on the reverse. Clive

    1. Hi Clive, I can recall seeing a version of a paper back where the courage and friendship titles were listed inside the back cover. Paperbacks had a dust jacket of sorts and not the cover that you see in the images above, may have been plain brown paper? I will dig through and see what I can find.