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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.

Monday, 9 April 2018



A very brief post for now but I think it interesting enough to warrant a heads up for all those interested.

Thie photograph appeared on 15th January 1949 in the Mail. This is quite probably the very first image distributed. It is a little blurred but if you look at the first number set at the top, it looks to me to be 7171/7 and not 1171/7.

Is that number difference significant, I honestly don't know but I do know that we now have 3 different images of what is supposedly the same set of laundry marks, yet all have apparent differences.

Both Clive and I have been pouring over all of the Trove articles in an effort to find further photographs of the laundry marks but without success to this point. If anyone else can take a look that would be great.

There's more very interesting information to add to this post but other commitments prevent spending more time until tomorrow.

Original Police Photograph of Suitcase Contents

I made an effort to enhance the laundry marks but the image is not of sufficiently good quality. If someone has a better one that would be appreciated.


  1. Perhaps I'm stating the obvious....In this one, it suddenly looks to me like it's 3 digits and a date 717 1/7, 489 3/3, 305 3/1 - and I thought there was some mumbo jumbo at the time about not being Australian laundry marks because they were 4 digits** instead of 3...
    So whereas the power that be seem to have interpreted them as:
    3053 - Jan
    4893 - March
    7171 - July
    Perhaps they should be:
    305 Jan 3rd
    489 March 3rd
    717 July 1st

    (the increasing date and sequence suggest the bottom is the oldes, no?).
    Sort of leads to a question on how many items we'd expect to be dry cleaned in a month. That is 60 orders (only 2 a day, but possibly with multiple items) more likely than 600 orders (20 orders a day)?

    **Without thinking about it too much, I sort of always assumed that the /x was about how many items in the order (which is where they came up with 4 digits for the order number).

  2. Thanks for that, it is an interesting way to look at these numbers and it kicked off a line of thought that what if we treated them as such? As in just numbers and not laundry marks.

    What can be said about these numbers? the first set is straightforward, 71717 is a palindrome but does it end there? Is there a relationship between these numbers and the ones that follow.

    I looked at the 43933 and if you multiply that by 7 you get 307531 not far off our 30531, I have to head out so I will get back to this later on but if you could take a look that would be good.

  3. Sorry, what I meant is in the latest one you can almost see (or at leat imagine) a gap between the first 3 digits and x/x.
    What I find interesting (if we take 717 rather than 117) is that this means that both the dates and the sequence numbers are increasing.
    So suppose they are laundry marks, where the 3 digits is an order number (or similar) and the other two are a pick-up date.
    This means you have dates that are 30 and 60 days (creature of habit laundering every 30 days, but missed one for some reason).
    If you then divide the differences in numbers by the number of days, you get a rate of increase of about 2.2-2.3 (depending on the interval you take - but the variance is easily explained by something like the number of Sundays in the interval).
    Basiocally this suggests 2-3 order per day on average.

    It sounds like slow business in today's terms, and I have no idea whetrher it's a realistic order rate for 1948, but the similarity of the rate when we analyse it this way makes me irrationally lean toward the idea.

    If we take it a step further, we can estimate that that series of invoices/orders began about 4 months earlier. Given that as far as I can tell this would apparently be a non-standard way of marking laundry (which is why it hasn't been picked earlier - because the Australian Police thought the marks had a different format) we can perhaps extrapolate that to suggest the shop was relatively new (might explain the slowness of business too). So perhaps we're looking for a Laundry shop that opened somewhere around September 1947 and was still operating in July 1948....
    Coming in from a slightly different angle, the marks were dismissed as 'not Australian because we want 3 digits, but possibly American because they have 4'. Given an apparent SM connection to NZ, did they ever think to look how drycleaners marked laundry in NZ?

    Perhaps the elephant in the room is whether there would be any other reason for anyone other than a dry cleaner to be marking clothes?

  4. Seems odd that the first vertical line of figures and the last vertical line of figures are in descending order-coincidence or something else at play here? Clive

  5. A look at a map of
    Munno Para, Co. Adelaide has land numbers similar to those numbers shown, near to rail lines. Maybe meeting locations? I looked at 1717 & 3053

  6. Seems a bit random - especially when I think that map (if it's the one on wiki) shows land cadastre at 1964 for the Hundred of Munno Para (a much greater area than what today is the Suburb Munno Para).
    So 1717 would probably be in 'modern day' Munno Para, and 3053 would be somewhere near Waterloo Corner (which is very, very close to Edinburgh, FWIW).
    Trying to work out how the numbering works and whether we might be able to find 4393 in a neighbouring hundred (maybe Port Adelaide, didn't look like it was in Yatala)....

    Although the proximity to the railway seems to be an interesting coincidence, the fact that they don't seem to be particularly close to stations, and aren't on the same lines would to me seem just a coincidence. It also ignores the presence of /x

  7. Thank you for your reply, very random I agree.
    I have addressed the presense of /x, as perhaps numbers which identified those who were meant to see/apply further micro codes and have acknowledged this and so the overwrites in a/the correct progression.
    It may also address times to be at these particular locations and in which order?

  8. Please ignore my comment that needs approval, as the belief is the overwrites were presumably made after finding the item. Thanks

  9. Just reviewing these comments and also had a look at the original Police photograph when the contents of the suitcase were examined. I should qualify this a little, the police pic shows the laundry marks on the pocket, they appear to be very faint indeed but, that may be due to an extent at least, to the nature of the lighting etc.

    However, if they were that faint, how could that be? Laundry marks were done using indelible inks, at least that was certainly the case in the mid-50s. The idea was that the marks wouldn't wash away but in this case apparently, they may have done. So, pursuing our original questioning and thoughts, what if they weren't laundry marks, what if they were locations as you have suggested. A grid reference of some kind perhaps? Or maybe something totally different, telephone numbers? Could the last /x in fact be an extension? I think it is at least worth pursuing a little further. Have you been able to find the elusive set of numbers 4393/3?

    1. Hello Gordon, no I haven't found anything on the last set of numbers and I also have briefly looked to records indicating possible phone numbers.

  10. Just a thought Annonymous, it might be worth checking those numbers against numbers for the Red Cross in Adelaide as per the other thread on80 Moseley Street?

  11. Gordon, if Durham had fingerprinted the contents of the suitcase, what type of report would he have made?

  12. Hi Pete, A fair question, the idea of a report on fingerprints is all about creating a provable audit trail so whilst I am not familiar with the format SAPOL would have used at the time, I do nknow what it would have addressed so here's my view of how the report would have gone:

    Report by:

    I beg to report that on (date and time) at (the exact place as in CIB office Adelaide or SOCO office) I met with Detective Sergeant (name and Detective (name)

    DS .... showed me a suitcase and said, 'This is the suitcase that we recovered from Adelaide Railway Station parcels office on (date) We believe that this suitcase is directly linked to the man whose body was found on Somerton Beach on (date). The case and its contents have been handled by myself, Detective .... and (name/s of Railway office personnel)

    We need you to carry out an examination of this case and its contents and to retrieve and record whatever fingerprints or other evidence that you might find in that examination. I immediately commenced a detailed examination of both the inside and outside of the suitcase and then the listed items that were found within it. (Produce list including glass dish, tools, sheets of paper, letter cards etc)

    Attached are photographs of the fingerprints recovered from the case and items as a result of my examination.

    Further and in order to verify the identities of those persons who had handled the case and contents, I retrieved copies of Detective Sergeant ... and Detective ..... and subsequently arranged to take the fingerprints of the two Railway employees (names) all of which are attached to this document. I also retrieved the fingerprints that I had taken from the body of the man found on Somerton Beach on (date).

    Matches were found for the fingerprints of both Detective Sergeant ... and Detective ....
    Both these sets of fingerprints were located on the outside of the case and only the fingerprints of Detective Sergeant ... were found within the case and on the following items listed as contents of the suitcase. The locations of the prints of both Detectives were found as shown on the attached photograph marked ...

    I found the fingerprints of only one Railway employee, (name) on the exterior of the case near the handle as indicated on the attached photograph marked .....

    I was able/unable ? to find a match for the fingerprints of the body of the man found on Somerton Beach on December 1st 1948.

    In addition to these matches, I also found 3? other sets of fingerprints within the suitcase that I have been unable to trace at the time of preparing this report. There were several smudged areas as shown in the attached photograph which appear to have been made by some sort of material.

    OK, so that, very roughly, is how such a report may have been formatted, it could have been a standard form but much more likely to have been a purpose written document with photocopies of the various prints and items with comparison information.

    That is the kind of information you would expect and, knowing GF, I would think he would have been a stickler for accuracy as would his predecessors.

    I hope this helps, apologies for the delay, been on the road for a few days.

  13. Thanks Gordon, much appreciated.

  14. I should have added that there should have been a formal written request from Leane or another superior officer.

  15. I'm understanding Detective Brown a little more now and remember you saying that the investigation team was split in it's approach.

  16. Strange about the photo of the police showing the trousers-as I can't seem to find any newspaper article with this photo-why the secrecy? Clive

  17. No problems with contaminating evidence in those days .... open slather ....