Hidden clue solved death of ‘Umbrella Joe’ on South Bulli Colliery rail line

bellambi train death 1946

JOHN LESLIE, of Russelvale shows scientific experts and members of the C.I.B, where he found the body of a middle-aged man on a South Bulli colliery line late Wednesday night.

Suspecting murder, C.I.B. detectives spent hours yesterday investigating the death of a man whose body was found an a railway line near Bellambi.

After having been baffled by the strangeness of the clues, they eventually decided that the man had been run over by a train, and that there was no foul play.

The man’s fingerprints were taken, but late last night he had not been identified. All police could find out about his identity was that he was known as “Umbrella Joe”, “Bombo Joe” and “Tim the Tinker”.

Local residents said the man arrived in the Bellambi district about a month ago, and that he earned a living by mending umbrellas. He had no home and often slept in the surf sheds at Bellambi beach.

Yesterday morning, a young Bellambi woman contacted Bulli police. She told them she had heard that a man had been found dead the night before on the train line connecting South Bulli with Bellambi jetty. Police told the girl the report was correct.

“Man With Body”

“I’m afraid he was murdered,” she said. “Last night, when I was seeing a boy friend of mine off on the Bellambi train, I saw a man carrying a body on the train line.”

Detectives sent from Sydney were puzzled by the absence of bloodstains on the railway track. They thought it possible that the man had been murdered before the train ran over him. On re-examining the body at Bulli Hospital morgue, they found that the man was wearing two suits.

The inside suit had absorbed all the blood. This solved their problem. Last night the Government Medical Officer (Dr. C. E. Percy), the Assistant-Government Medical Officer (Dr. England), and Dr. Palmer, of Bulli, held a post-mortem.

They found that the man had died from abdominal injuries sustained when a train passed over him. Police last night ascertained that the “body” seen by the young woman was a large sack of ashes, which a man was carrying on his shoulder to dump down the railway embankment.

– Sydney Daily Telegraph Friday 15 March 1946

The dead man was subsequently identified as 66-year-old Michael Curran a native of Cork, Ireland. An inquest at Bulli Court House was told that Curran was in a drunken stupor, asleep across the South Bulli Colliery rail lines, about 80 yards east of the level crossing. The coroner found his death was accidental.

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