Let’s start the week with a BANG! Here we are with another unsolved mystery.
1948, an unidentified man was found dead on Somerton Beach, South Australia. On a scrap of paper found in a hidden pocket of the man’s trousers there was printed the phrase “Tamám shud” meaning “finished” or “ended” in persian. This turned out to have been removed from the final page of a particular copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
This case gained international coverage, as the police widely distributed materials in an effort to identify the body, and consulted with other governments in tracking down leads.
The jeweler John Bain Lyons and his wife were walking along the beach of Somerton, a few miles south of Adelaide. As they walk they noticed a smartly dressed man lying on the sand, with his head resting against a wall, his legs stretched out and the feet crossed. As the couple reported, the man stretched out his right arm up, then dropped back to the ground. Lyons thought that the man was drunk. Half an hour later, another couple noticed the same man lying in the same position and thought that he was sleeping. The following morning Lyons came back from a morning swim and approached the place where he had noticed the man. He saw a figure slumped on the sand, finally realizing that he was dead. So the police was called.
Three hours later the body was brought to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where Dr. John Bennett Barkley found that the death occurred not earlier than 2 a.m., and declared that the cause was likely to be a heart failure with suspected poisoning. But the repeated tests carried out by chemical experts failed to reveal any trace of some kind of poison so finding the main cause of the death was rather impossible.
Many questions hovered on this mysterious corpse starting from the contents of his pockets: train tickets from Adelaide to the beach, a packet of chewing gum, some matches, two combs and a pack of Army Club cigarettes but with seven cigarettes of a different brand inside. There were no cash nor a wallet so not any I.D. was found. None of the man’s clothes had a label and in one of them the manufacturer’s label had been carefully cut away.
The authorities had a real puzzle in their hands, thinking that the only explanation of the death could be the use of a very rare poison that leaves no trace after death.
Six weeks later a suitcase apparently containing the same man’s property was retrieved from Adelaide Railway Station’s cloakroom, where it had been deposited at around 11am the day before the mysterious man’s death. However, apart from three items marked “Kean”, “Keane”, and “T. Keane”, (nobody with that name was missing) nothing indicating the man’s identity was found in those belongings.
Then some months later, a particular copy of the Rubaiyat surfaced with part of the final “Tamam Shud” page removed – it was claimed that the book had been thrown into a car parked near the same beach where the man had been found. On the back there were slight pencil marks, some annotations that look a lot like a secret code.
As you might imagine rumors were spreading around saying that this man would have been a Russian spy poisoned by unknown opponents keeping in mind that the death occured at a time of heightened tensions during the Cold War. These kind of rumors were “helped” by the fact that the man died in Adelaide, the capital closer to Woomera a missile base and top-secret intelligence center. Three months before Harry Dexter White, a member of the US Treasury Department, accused of being a sovietic spy, died from digitalis poisoning.
The case is still unsolved as the identity of the man.