By Alan Hamill
Why was the Somerton Man in Adelaide? What was TAMAM SHUD? What happened on Somerton Beach?
Coroner Thomas Erskine Cleland
How incisive was Coroner Cleland?
In his findings of 1958 (which were adjourned as “Sine Die” – to be resumed at some date in the future if further evidence was found) he made the following statement:-
“I have been discussing the circumstances on the footing that the body found on the morning of the 1st December was that of the man seen in the evening of the 30th November. But there is really no proof that this was the case. None of the three witnesses who speak of the evening of the 30th saw the man’s face, or indeed any part of his body that they can identify. If the body of the deceased was not that of the man mentioned and if the body had been taken to the place where it was found, the difficulties disappear. If this speculation, for it is nothing more, should prove to be correct, the original assumption that it was the deceased who left the suitcase at the luggage room, bought the rail and bus ticket, removed the clothing tabs, and put the printed words “Tamam Shud” in a pocket, would require revision.
The evidence is too inconclusive to warrant a finding.”
I provide to you here a case to support the coroner’s remarks (above) and that there were two men murdered. One was drugged and given alcohol then left on Somerton Beach to die on the afternoon of November 30th 1948. The other man (Carl Webb) was murdered somewhere else at approximately 2.00am on December 1st 1948 and placed on Somerton Beach between 5.45am and when he was found by the jockeys at about 7.00am.
It was definitely murder, but with consequences of it being a double murder.
I provide a copy of “Police Reports To The Coroner” number 1948/433 of the details surrounding the death of Alexander Arthur Dowling, whose body washed up on Semaphore Beach on Saturday 4th December.
Constable Comley recommended that no inquest was required when he submitted the paperwork that was so hurriedly prepared.
Dowling’s wife was in a mental home, all his parents had died and his children had disowned him for not paying two maintenance orders for which he served 1 year imprisonment.
Alexander Arthur Dowling was 5’ 10½” tall, in reasonable condition when lying down but stooped a bit when standing due to alcohol abuse. He was a white male Caucasian. He had brown hair greying at the sides and his eyes were grey. He was reportedly well dressed when viewed and witnesses reported brown striped trousers. He was 58.
Does Alex’s description sound familiar? Unless you had a good study of him up close both he and Carl could be passed off as twins.
Carl Webb’s trousers were not striped.
Alex was the person/body witnesses reported as raising his arm on Tuesday 30th November at 7.00pm.
On Tuesday 30th November the high tide occurred at 4.52pm followed by a low tide at 10.10pm so when the man was seen in the early evening he would be on a large area of sand well away from the water’s edge with his head and shoulders on the rocks.
However, if the same man was in this position at the next high tide at 4.34am on Wednesday 1st December he would have definitely been washed into the water as the high tide was 9’ and was at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up the rock wall near the steps.
If a person/body was to die at 2.00am and be found at the very same position in the morning (laying exactly the same as the evening before) and not have been washed away, he could only have arrived after the high tide had receded enough to get a section of sand exposed after about 5.45 to 6.15am
That would only leave about 1 1/4 hours to place a body that was already dead, and have been able to set up the cigarette on the ear/shoulder.
Carl Webb was found damp but clean at 7.00am with particularly clean shoes. This would not be the case if he was present at the 4.34am high tide. Even if his clothes had dried sufficiently his pocket contents would be wet and falling apart. They weren’t.
And the dampness is just the wicking of the moisture from the sand travelling into the material of his clothing.
Sunrise was 4.55am.
*The reason I provide Report 1948/433 is for you to review it and I hope you come to the same conclusion that the statements given by George Edward Francis Dowell and Harold (Harry) Adam Dick could not be correct given that their time stamps are impossible.
They state seeing or drinking with Alexander Arthur Dowling just hours before his body was found on the 4th of December when the Medical Examiner reports that A A Dowling had been in the water for several days as his body was de-laminating.
Bystanders looking at the body found on 4th December 1948 told the newspapers that they saw the victim with shark bites and also that the man had taken sleeping tablets, but this obvious detail was not recorded. Neither was any clothing mentioned.
The names and dates on several of these statements and the report were wrong. The reports were carelessly done and rushed. I am amazed that Comley, Heaven, Sayers and Sutherland didn’t consider that the reports never lined up correctly.
Constable Comley seemed to be in quite a hurry to get this case out of the way. The case was closed and A A Dowling buried by the RSL less than 3 days after being found.
When Carl Webb’s wife Dorothy was living with Carl in Elsternwick, Victoria, they had a boarder before Carl moved away in 1947.
This boarder posted sales for used cars and other items at Carl Webb’s address and gave his contact name as George D.
Dorothy Webb and George Dowell were in Adelaide in November 1948.
If I were to offer a motive, a lover’s tiff makes a good start although it’s bigger than this as whoever planned it could have just sent Carl off and didn’t have to involve Alexander Arthur Dowling.
Someone who definitely had an axe to grind was Dorothy Webb, and her father was implicated by something Carl had in his pocket.
Dorothy’s father was John Comber Robertson, so I suggest John and one other was nominated as complicit by the combs.
Some time after about 6.30pm on Tuesday November 30th 1948, in front of the Somerton Crippled Childrens’ Home, Alexander Arthur Dowling was assisted to this position on the beach. He was alive for some time during the evening as he lifted his arm, but he was only there until the high tide took him out into the Bay.
Some time after about 5.45am on the morning of Wednesday December 1st 1948, in front of the Somerton Crippled Childrens’ Home, Carl “Charlie” Webb was deposited in this same position on the beach. He was not alive as he had been killed between midnight and 2.00am on this same morning, and set up exactly the same as Alex D who held the spot for him the night before. He couldn’t have been left before high tide at 4.34am as he too would have been washed away.
Just to illustrate how quickly the authorities moved to have Alexander Arthur Dowling disappear, his funeral notice (inserted by the same undertaker that later inters SM) appeared in the Adelaide papers already lodged and delivered on Tuesday December 7th although the Coroner only signs off on the Police Report as “No Inquest required” during office hours of the same Tuesday December 7th.