WALLETS, PURSES, AND BACKPACKS Wallets, purses, and backpacks can provide a great deal of information about a person. These days most people carry at least one form of identification. Many people carry credit cards and membership cards. There may be photographs, personally meaningful papers, or even a collection of slips from old fortune cookies. The presence or absence of such items can give clues regarding not just an individuals identity but also the sort of person they are.

POCKET LITTER While it does not sound exciting, pocket litter can tell the story of the person from whom it was collected. Receipts and other items with time stamps can be used to create a time line. A specific item—such as a letter or photograph found in a wallet— might help identify a person. In other cases, wallet contents taken together can give a clue to the victim’s identity. Book club and gym membership card could be the clue to where a crime took place or where a victim was selected.

WW2 IDENTITY CARDS  Identity cards were produced during the second world war in case of a national emergency. Each person was issued with a card, which had their name, address and identification number on it. They were required to carry it with them whenever they were away from their home, and were required to show it, at any time on demand, to any person authorized by law to see it. Australia followed British procedures for the introduction of rationing. Shops were made ready for the change from a cash to a coupon economy. Each adult Australian citizen received a ration book with 112 coupons. All purchasable items had a coupon value, for example a man’s suit cost 38 coupons whereas a pair of socks cost only four coupons. Used coupon books were exchanged for new ones annually and people had to plan their expenses to avoid spending all their coupons within twelve months. By December 1948 most things were no longer rationed. However rationing of Tea, Petrol and Butter continued until mid 1950.  

TATTOOS Tattoos can be used to help identify a person too. It can show affiliation with groups or gangs and tell of a persons passions.

Any distinguishing features can be used to help identify an individual. These could be congenital eg birthmarks and physical features such as anodontia, or acquired features such as wounds or tattoos.

What is interesting about the Somerton Man is the complete absence of any of these items. He had no wallet, no ID papers, no keys, no tattoos, and the labels had been removed from many of his clothes. The Somerton Man had clearly gone to great lengths to keep his identity a secret (that or somebody else had removed these items).

OPERATION MINCEMEAT World War II’s most famous and successful intelligence hoax involved the British creation of an identity for a body that was believable enough to persuade the Germans to move troops from the south of Sicily, where the Allied forces successfully invaded in 1943. Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu executed the elaborate deception—code-named Operation Mincemeat —and wrote the book The Man Who Never Was.

In the plan, the corpse of “Major William Martin,” purportedly a Royal Marine courier bearing documents regarding a fictitious Allied assault on Sardinia and Greece, washed up on a Spanish beach. In addition to the intelligence fraud, there was a wallet with the picture of a fake girlfriend, love letters, bills, a receipt for an engagement ring, ticket stubs for a variety show, pencils, loose change and keys. A crucifix, and a St. Christopher medallion were also placed on the body with the hope it would be given a Christian burial in Spain.

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