Around the same time as the inquest, a small piece of rolled-up paper bearing the words "Tamam Shud" was found in the fob pocket of the dead man's trousers. The scrap of paper, with its distinctive font was found to have been torn from the last page of a Whitcombe and Tomb's edition ofThe Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Public library officials called in to translate the text identified it as a phrase meaning "ended" or "finished" found on the last page of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The scrap of paper was blank on the opposite side.
Police conducted an Australia-wide search to find a copy of the book that had the same font and the same blank reverse side to this slip of paper. A photograph of the scrap of paper was sent to interstate police and released to the public. Eventually a man revealed that he had found a copy of an Edward FitzGerald's 1859 translation of The Rubaiyat, published by Whitcombe and Tombs in New Zealand in 1941, which was found on the back seat of his car which had been parked in Jetty Road, Glenelg, around the time of the Parafield Air Pageant. He had known nothing of the book's connection to the case until he saw an article in the newspaper. This man's identity and profession were withheld by the police, as he wished to remain anonymous.
There is some uncertainty about the precise time the book was found in the car. One newspaper article refers to the book being found a week or two before the body was found. The timing is significant as the man is presumed (based on when the suitcase was checked in), to have arrived in Adelaide the day before he was found on the beach. If the book was found one or two weeks before, it suggests that the man had previously visited Adelaide, or had been in Adelaide for a longer period of time than previously thought.
If Mr Ronald Francis had taken his car to the Parafield Air Pageant then is it possible that the book ended up in his car there? Perhaps this really was the first time that the Somerton man had been to Adelaide.
The theme of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is that one should live life to the full and have no regrets when it ends. The poem's subject led police to theorise that the man had committed suicide by poison, although there was no other evidence to back the theory. The book was missing the words "Tamám Shud" on the last page, which had a blank reverse, and tests indicated that the piece of paper was from the torn page of the book.
On the back of the book were faint pencil markings of five lines of capital letters with the second line struck out. The markings are presumed to be some sort of code.
- W RGOABABD
- MLIABO AIAQC
It has been muted by Gordon Cramer that the message lines each begin with the letter M which would mean that the real format for the page would look like this:
MLIAOI (This line could be a strike-through or it could have been in place before the letters MLIAO were written, according to Gerry Feltus, all the letters we see were in fact indentations left by someone writing them and not pencil lines)
MLIABO AIAQC VTT (The letter I in the sequence ITT is possibly a V)
The last letter in the last line being an R with a flourish beneath it and not a B. The reason for the 'bunched together' letters of last line is that the writer saw they would not have sufficient space to write another line on the page.
Some of the letters of the code are ambiguous, it is unclear if the first two lines begin with an "M" or "W", but they are widely believed to be the letter W, owing to the distinctive difference when compared to the stricken letter M. There appears to be a deleted or underlined line of text that reads "MLIAOI". This strike out is considered significant with its similarity to the fourth line possibly indicating a mistake.
There is an "X" above the last 'O' in the code, and it is not known if this is significant to the code or not. Initially, the letters were thought to be words in a foreign language before it was realised it was a code. Code experts were called in at the time to decipher the lines but were unsuccessful. When the code was analysed by the Australian Department of Defence in 1978, they made the statement that there was insufficient symbols to provide a pattern or they could be a meaningless response to a disturbed mind. They went on to say it would be impossible to provide "a satisfactory answer".
Also found in the back of the book were an unknown number of telephone numbers which included the telephone number belonging to a former nurse who lived in Moseley St, Glenelg, around 400 metres (1,300 ft) north of the location where the body was found. The woman said that while she was working at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney during World War II she owned a copy of The Rubaiyat but in 1945, at the Clifton Gardens Hotel in Sydney, had given it to an army lieutenant named Alfred Boxall who was serving in the Water Transport Section of the Australian Army.
The code was written on the slip cover of the book, it is sometimes incorrectly reported that the code was found on the Somerton man. It was a slip of paper bearing the words Tamam Shud, that police found rolled up in the fob pocket of his trousers, not the code itself.