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Somerton Man Inquest 1949

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The first inquest was held in 1949 on the 17th and 21st June (it took two days to conduct). 6 months after he was found on the foreshore of Somerton beach.No Finding At Beach Body Inquest

  The resumed inquest into, the body of an unknown man, found on the beach at Somerton on December 1, was yesterday adjourned sine die by the City Coroner (Mr. T. E. Cleland on the ground that the evidence before him was too inconclusive to warrant a finding. 'I would be prepared to find that the deceased died from a particular poison of a group mentioned in evidence,and that it was not accidentally administered.'' the Coroner said in his summary of the evidence. 'But I cannot say whether it was administered by the deceased himself or by another person. 'There is no evidence who the deceased was. Although he died during the night of November 30-December 1. I cannot say where he died.'' None of the witnesses who had seen the man on the beach on November 30 had seen his face, or any part of his body which they could identify with the body found on December 1. Mr. Cleland added. It is understood that the Police Department will ask the Museum to exhibit the plaster cast of the head and shoulders of the body there, in the hope that further evidence of identification will come forward. Poison Group The names of a group of poisons, and of two poisons of that group, suggested in medical evidence as the cause of death, were suppressed by the Coroner. Evidence was given by Sir Stanton Hicks,Professor of Human Physiology and Pharmacology at Adelaide University, that the poison was easily procurable by the ordinary person. It might have been secured from a case under treatment, he said. Its use implied intelligence and shrewd observation, but not necessarily a knowledge of the way in which it caused death.

Prof. J B. Cleland. Professor Emeritus of Pathology at Adelaide University, said that he had examined the clothing of the deceased and the contents of a suitcase left unclaimed at the Adelaide Railway station. Orange-coloured thread in the suitcase corresponded, on microscopic examination, with the colour and size of fibre in similar thread used to mend clothing is the suitcase and on the body. Death was almost certainly not due to natural causes. Probably some poison was taken with suicidal intent. The discovery of the piece of paper with the words "Tamam Shud" (meaning 'the end ') in the deceased's pocket reinforced this supposition. Questioned by the Coroner as to deceased's choice of a frequented place, witness said he thought that the poison might have begun to have a soporific effect before deceased had gone as far along the beach as he intended. Witness thought it unlikely that a common poison had been used and destroyed in the body so as to leave no trace. Deceased had taken the trouble to conceal his identity and might have gone to equal trouble to find a poison which was unlikely to be discovered. The absence of money in deceased's pockets suggested that he had deliberately emptied his pockets, unless he had been robbed before or after death. Sir Stanton Hicks said that a massive dose of any barbiturate would have been needed to cause death between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. In the case of a barbiturate, death would be due to respiratory failure, and the left ventricle of the heart would be enlarged, which was not the case. Witness suspected a certain group of poisons for three reasons: — The heart was contracted; the lungs and particularly the liver and spleen, were engorged with blood; the wall of the stomach was not only engorged, but was bleeding into the cavity. These facts suggested the action of a poison which caused the heart ultimately not to relax and fill in the normal way. Before stopping in the unfilled condition there must have been some time when its filling was growing less and less, which meant that more and more blood was remaining on the input side, leading to the engorgement of the organs.

"Toxic" Witness confirmed the Coroner's suggestion of a group of poisons and two poisons of that group as producing these effects. One of these would be particularly toxic in relatively small doses by mouth, would be completely missed by any of the tests applied and would in fact be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify, even if it had been suspected in the first instance. The only missing facts which would have confirmed this conclusion were the absence of signs of vomiting, or of convulsions. There was, however, sufficient variation in the reaction of individuals to account for the absence of vomiting. The gesture with the arm mentioned in evidence would be consistent with convulsions, which would be mainly of the arms, and not necessarily violent. Evidence of examination of the body at 9.30a.m. on December 1, and of the fixing of the time of death at more than eight hours previously, was given by Dr. John Berkely Bennett, of Fullarton.

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