The case of the “Somerton man” remained one of Australia’s most famous unsolved mysteries.
An Australian researcher claims to have solved a 73-year-old mystery by identifying a man found dead on a beach, CNN said in a report. Derek Abbott, from the University of Adelaide, said that the body belonged to Carl “Charles” Web, an electrical engineer born in Melbourne in 1905, the outlet further said in its report. For more than seven decades, the identity of the man has been a mystery that spawned theories featuring jilted lover to Cold War spy and remained one of Australia’s most infamous cold cases.
The body of the well-dressed man was found slumped on the Australian beach. A half-smoked cigarette was found resting on his collar, and a wartime code scribbled in a book along with the final words of a Persian poem in his pocket, according to the CNN report. All this prompted speculation for decades that the man was a spy.
The Persian words on the torn piece of paper were “Tamam Shud”, which means “it’s finished” in English, said the outlet.
The body was found on Somerton Beach in Adelaide on December 1, 1948. The man was well-built, believed to be in his 40s and around 5 feet 11 inches tall. The CNN report said that he had gray-blue eyes and gingery-brown hair. The man was called “Somerton man” after the beach where his body was found.
There were bus and train tickets, a chewing gum, some matches, two combs and a pack of cigarettes in his pockets but no identification proof like wallet or ID card, forcing the police to send his fingerprints around the world, but no one could identify him.
According to New York Times, his remains were exhumed in May last year in a bid to solve the case. He had been buried at a cemetery since 1949 with a tombstone reading: “Here lies the unknown man who was found at Somerton Beach.” The police hoped to use his DNA to find out who the well-dressed man really was.
That mission was undertaken by Derek Abott who was able to analyse “Somerton man” using the DNA from his hair preserved by the authorities. He reached out to renowned US forensic expert Colleen Fitzpatrick- who specialises in cold cases – to build an extended family tree using the DNA, reported CNN.
The duo’s search came down to 4,000 names, from where they narrowed it down to one – Carl Webb. Mr Abott also claimed to have tracked down the man’s relatives to confirm his identity.
According to Mr Abott, Webb was born on November 16, 1905 in Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne. He was the youngest of six siblings.
The researcher also said that the man married Dorothy Robertson, known as Doff Webb. He now wants to join the dots further and find out how the man died.
The South Australia Police has so far not commented on the discovery.