Timeline of the Taman Shud Case

From Derek
Jump to: navigation, search


  • 1903 Estimated year of birth of the Somerton Man.
  • 1906 April 16th, Alf Boxall is born in Hammersmith, UK.


  • 1912 October, Jestyn's future husband is born.


  • 1921 Jestyn is born.


  • 1936 Jestyn's future husband marries his first wife.
  • 1937 November 16, Alf Boxall marries Isobella Dulcie "Susie" Smith.


  • 1941 December, Jestyn's future husband joins the Army and is posted in Victoria. Rank private.
  • 1942 Jestyn begins a 4-year nurse's training course at the Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW
  • 1943 September, Jestyn's future husband is discharged from the Army. His last posting was with the Ordinance Work Shop.
  • 1944 February, Operation Venona targeting encrypted Soviet diplomatic communications began.
  • 1945 June 3rd, "George" Joseph Saul Haim Marshall (aged 34) was found dead of poisoning in Mosman, Sydney. It was believed to be a suicide. A copy of Omar Khayyam was found open next to his body. Mosman is between St. Leonard's where Jestyn lived and Clifton Gardens where she later met Boxall. The estimated date of death was May 21st, 1945.
  • 1945 August, Jestyn gives Alf Boxall an inscribed copy of the Rubaiyat over drinks at the Clifton Gardens Hotel, Sydney.
  • 1945 September, Alf Boxall sent to military service (Cairns, Port Moresby, Bougainville)
  • 1945 November 11th, Jestyn completes nurse training course at the Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW
  • 1946 October 18th, Alf Boxall returns to Australia from military service.
  • 1946 December 31st, Alf Boxall is detached to the Services Training Centre in NSW.
  • 1947 April, Under Operation Venona, American cryptanalysts, at the US Army’s Signal Intelligence Service, crack messages transmitted from the Russian Embassy in Canberra to Moscow. They detected leaked intelligence information, and this results in a ban of US classified information in Australia during 1948.
  • 1947 July, Jestyn's son is born.
  • 1948 April 12th, Alf Boxall is discharged from military service.
  • 1948 May, Sir Percy Sillitoe, Director General of MI5 flys to Australia and prime minister Ben Chifley is informed of the security breach.
  • 1948 August 16th, US Assistant Treasury Secretary Harry Dexter White, died suddenly of a reported digitalis overdose. He had been identified as a spy under Operation Venona.
  • 1948 November 30th, the Somerton Man presumably arrives in Adelaide by train sometime between 8:30am and 10:54am.
  • 1948 November 30th, a suitcase allegedly belonging to the Somerton Man was checked into Adelaide Train Station cloak room sometime between 11.00am and 12noon. R. Craig issues the luggage receipt.
  • 1948 November 30th, the Somerton Man buys a train ticket to Henley. The ticket is in his pocket. He doesn't take this train but instead takes a bus to St. Leonard's.
  • 1948 November 30th, sometime after 11:15am the Somerton Man buys a 7d bus ticket from conductor Arthur Holdernesse at some point between North Terrace and South Terrace. The bus is headed for St. Leonard's (in the general direction of Somerton).
  • 1948 November 30th, an allegedly unrelated man in Glenelg finds a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam on the back seat of his car.
  • 1948 November 30th, at some point the Somerton Man eats a pasty.
  • 1948 November 30th, in the evening John Lyons and his wife notice the man slumped lying adjacent to the steps in front of the crippled children's home. The Somerton Man raised his right arm and dropped it.
  • 1948 November 30th, Gordon Strapps and Olive Neill notice the body somewhere between 7:30pm and 8pm.
  • 1948 December 1st, estimated time of death of man 2:00am.
  • 1948 December 1st, man found dead at 6.30am, Somerton Beach, Adelaide, by Lyons and two men with a horse. Constable John Moss arrives 6:45am. In an ambulance outside the Royal Adelaide Hospital at 9:40am the body was officially pronounced dead by Dr John Barkly Bennett and the body was then transferred to the city mortuary.
  • 1948 December 2nd, the post-mortem is carried out at 7:30am at the City Mortuary by Dr John Dwyer, a government pathologist.
  • 1948 December 2nd, Robert Cowan tests samples of the body for traces of poison. None detected.
  • 1948 December 2nd, The Advertiser newspaper in an article "Body found on beach" suggests that "E. C. Johnson" is the deceased man.[1]
  • 1948 December 3rd, Police photographer Patrick Durham fingerprints the body and photographs the body.
  • 1948 December 3rd, Johnson walks into a police station to prove he is alive. This possibility is thus eliminated.
  • 1948 December 4th, Police announce that the Somerton Man's fingerprints were not on South Australian police records.
  • 1948 December 5th, Police search military records in response to a reported sighting of a military man named 'Solomonson', resembling the Somerton Man, was sighted drinking at a hotel in Glenelg on November 30th, 1948.
  • 1948 December 10th, the dead body was embalmed by pumping in formaldehyde to preserve it. This was a usual custom in those days, if a body was for display.
  • 1949 January, two people identified the body as that of 63 year old former wood cutter Robert Walsh. This possibility was ruled out as the dead body looked too young to be Walsh. Also Walsh was a Woodcutter and the hands of the Somerton man showed no signs of manual labor. Elizabeth Thompson,who had identified the body as Walsh, retracted her statement.
  • 1948 January 8th, Det.-Sgt. Lionel Leane is assigned to the case.[2]
  • 1949 January 12th, police detective Len Brown is assigned to the case.
  • 1949 January 14th, Adelaide Railway Station find a brown suitcase apparently belonging to the dead man.
  • 1949 February, there were eight different possible identifications of the body, including a missing stablehand, a worker on a steamship, a Swedish man, and a man from Darwin.
  • 1949 March 16th, Ben Chiefly issues the directive to start an Australian security agency to address the embarrassing leaks revealed by Operation Venona. By August, 1949, the new organisation is named ASIO.
  • 1949 April 5th, The coroner writes to Sir John Cleland asking for his assistance.
  • 1949 June 2nd, Paul Francis Lawson is shown the dead body at the City Morgue in order to prepare for plaster cast manufacture.
  • 1949 June 6th, the dead body of Clive Mangnoson is found 20 km away from Somerton by Neil McRae.
  • 1949 June 7th, Paul Lawson makes plaster mould of head and shoulders of the Somerton man at the City Morgue.
  • 1949 June 8th, Keith Mangnoson is admitted to Parkside Mental Hospital.
  • 1949 June 8th, Paul Lawson makes separate plaster mould of ears at the City Morgue.
  • 1949 June 9th, Paul Lawson fills moulds with plaster of Paris combined with sisal fibres.
  • 1949 June 10th, Paul Lawson finishes breaking away the mould from the plaster bust.
  • 1949 June, Sir John Cleland re-examined the body and noticed the dead man's shoes were remarkably clean and polished, implying the man would not have walked on the beach much if at all. About this time Cleland found the piece of paper bearing the inscription "Tamám Shud" tightly concealed in the dead man's fob pocket.
  • 1949 June 14th, the Somerton man is buried.
  • 1949 June 15th, Lawson completes finishing touches to the bust. Brown, Leane, and Cleland inspect the bust.
  • 1949 June 17th, The coronial inquest commenced. It was held at the Corner's Court, which was then in the IOOF building at 11-13 Flinders Street, Adelaide.
  • 1949 June 21st, The coronial inquest ended inconclusively with an adjournment sine die.
  • 1949, June 21st, After the inquest, the plaster cast of the bust is delivered to Paul Lawson's office for safe keeping.
  • 1949 July 22nd, a businessman hands in the copy of the Rubaiyat containing the secret code to the SA police and Jestyn's phone number. Jestyn's residence was only half a mile away from where the dead body was found. The book contained one penciled telephone number plus a sequence of 50 letters presumed to be a secret code. The sequence is in 5 lines and contains 3 spaces. One line is possibly crossed out.
  • 1949 July 25th, SA police test the "Tamám Shud" paper against the colour and texture of the paper in the book found in the car. They confirmed a match. A copy of the code is sent to Army Headquarters in Melbourne for an attempt at decryption.
  • 1949 July 26th, Police trace the phone number in the book to Jestyn, and they show her the plaster cast of the victim at Paul Lawson's office. Lawson's diary entry for that day names her as "Mrs Thompson." According to newspapers, she stated she was unable to tell if it was Alf Boxall or not. Lawson describes her as a short lady. She dressed in light coloured clothes that day. She had a nice figure, and according to Lawson she was "very acceptable" (referring to level of beauty). Lawson describes her odd behaviour on that day here.
  • 1949 July 27th, Sydney detectives find and interview Alf Boxall.
  • 1949 July 27th, police send the code to a Navy cracker.
  • 1948 July 28th, Boxall's wife shows a Sydney reporter their copy of the Rubaiyat.


  • 1950 May, Jestyn is married.
  • 1951 February 5th, the Petrov affair begins.
  • 1954 November 17th, Keith Mangnoson is discharged from Parkside Mental Hospital.
  • 1958 March 14th, the Coronial Inquest is continued. No new findings. No new witnesses. Appears to have been a bureaucratic formality rather than an active inquest. Strangely the extra details of the book, Jestyn, and Alf Boxall are not mentioned. Only a copy of the 1948 inquest is presented as the documentation of the 1958 inquest. This second coronial inquest ended inconclusively with an adjournment sine die.
  • 1959 May 11th, Robert James Cowan dies.
  • 1959 November, E. B. Collins an inmate of Wanganui Prison, New Zealand, claimed he knew the identity of the Somerton Man.


  • 1968 March, William Owen Sheridan dies.


  • 1971 August 11th, Sir John Burton Cleland dies.
  • 1973 November 29th, the coroner Thomas Erskine Cleland dies.
  • 1975 May 16th, John Bain Lyons dies.
  • 1976 February 7th, Sir Cedric Stanton Hicks dies.
  • 1978 The ABC TV documentary show called Inside Story screened an episode of "The Somerton Beach Mystery" at 8pm, Thursday, August 24th, 1978 (Sydney time). The documentary was hosted by Stuart Littlemore.


  • 1982 January 9th, Patrick James Durham dies.
  • 1986 The Somerton Man's brown suitcase was destroyed.


  • 1991 June 14th, Vladimir Petrov dies.
  • 1991 August 28th, Keith Waldemar Mangnoson dies.
  • 1994 The Chief Justice of Victoria, John Haber Phillips, studies the evidence presented by the Coronial Inquest and concludes that poisoning was due to digitalis.
  • 1995 August 17, Alf Boxall dies.
  • 1995 Harold Rolfe North dies.


  • 2005 May 28, Edmund Leslie Hall dies.
  • 2007 May, Jestyn dies.
  • 2009 March, Jestyn's son dies.
  • 2009 March 19th, The Adelaide University project team, with an ABC film crew, all visit the SA Police Museum and examine the bust of the Somerton man closely, noting that hair is definitely embedded in the plaster cast and Prof Derek Abbott notices the ears of the man are distinctive (see entry on April 28th).
  • 2009 March 19th, Dr Matthew Berryman notices rocks placed at the foot of the Somerton Man's grave in the Jewish tradition. The Somerton Man himself was not Jewish, as he was uncircumcised. This most likely indicates that a Jewish person visited the gravesite in recent years.
  • 2009 March 19th, Prof Derek Abbott checks Adelaide Uni/RAH Pathology Autopsy Reports of 1948 and 1949, finding that there is no entry for the Somerton Man. Next step is to check Coroner's office for them. Also the Barr Smith Library's collection of Cleland's notes did not contain anything on the case.
  • 2009 March 27th, ABC Stateline broadcast a story on the Somerton mystery. See video link here.
  • 2009 March 31st, Andrew Turnbull and Denley Bihari give a seminar on the Somerton mystery at the University of Adelaide, proposing a number of code cracking approaches. The talk was attended by Gerry Feltus, Tony Elliot, and an ABC film crew.
  • 2009 April 6th, Prof Derek Abbott puts out a world-search for an identical copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to that of the Somerton man, using the power of FaceBook. No one in 60 yrs has ever found or come forward with an identical edition of the book. To see the world-search go here.
  • 2009 April 15th, Prof Derek Abbott finds that the Coroner's office has no autopsy report on the Somerton man.
  • 2009 April 28th, Prof Derek Abbott consults an expert on ears and finds the Somerton Man significantly has a cymba larger than his cavum. This feature is possessed in only 1-2% of the caucasian population.
  • 2009 April 28th, Prof Derek Abbott has a microscopic analysis of the original "Tamám Shud" piece of paper performed and compares the paper fibres to a Whitcombe and Tombs copy of Omar Khayyam from the same period. It is found that the "Tamám Shud" paper from the dead body, by comparison, has a larger surface roughness. Also under the microscope, the "Tamám Shud" paper appears to have quite a lot of dirt and contamination on it, but this could be due to poor handling and storage since 1948.
  • 2009 May 5th Prof Derek Abbott consults dental experts and concludes the Somerton Man had anodontia of both lateral incisors from a young age and possibly birth. This feature is present in only about 2% of the general population.
  • 2009 August 7th, John Harber Phillips dies.
  • 2010 June 16th, Prof Derek Abbott tracks down a clear newspaper photo of Jestyn's son showing a clear shot of ears and teeth. The photo clearly demonstrates a small cavum and low crus helicis like that of the Somerton Man. Also the teeth show andontia of the lateral incisors like that of the Somerton Man. Prof Derek Abbott estimated that the null hypothesis that this is merely a random coincidence would be very small somewhere between 1 in 10,000,000 and 1 in 20,000,000.

See also


  1. The Advertiser, "Body found on Beach", 2 December 1948, p. 3
  2. "Body mystery: Extra police assigned," Adelaide News, 8th January 1949.