After 74 years, researchers at the University of Adelaide believe they have solved the mystery
University of Adelaide researchers believe they have finally solved the mystery of Somerton Man.
The man was found wearing a suit against a wall on Somerton Beach, near Adelaide, Australia, in 1948.
The mysterious story has plagued investigators for nearly a century, and no one has ever come forward to identify the body.
Rumors circulated that he might have been a Russian spy, and the press dubbed him the “Somerton Man”.
Here’s everything you need to know about who the Somerton Man really is.
What was the mystery of Somerton Man?
On December 1, 1948, the body of a man was found on Somerton Beach in Adelaide.
The man had no ID and unused tickets in his pocket.
There was no known cause of death and all tags on his clothing had been removed, preventing police from figuring out where they were purchased.
The story made headlines around the world, with copies of his fingerprints and photos sent to the UK and US.
In the months that followed, a pathologist found a secret pocket in the man’s jacket.
Inside was a folded piece of paper with the words “Tamam Shud” meaning “the end” or “finished” in Persian.
Further investigation revealed that these are the last words of the poem “The Rubaiyat” by the 11th century Iranian polymath Omar Khayyam.
The page had been ripped from a book that was eventually handed over to police after an unknown man found it in his car.
No one has ever come forward to claim the man’s body, and rumors have circulated that he may have been a Russian spy.
Who Was the Somerton Man?
The Somerton man has been identified as 43-year-old Carl “Charles” Webb.
The youngest of six siblings, Webb was born on November 16, 1905 in a suburb of Melbourne.
The engineer had a passion for poetry and was described as “a bit of a loner”.
Records show that Webb and his wife divorced and she returned to South Australia in 1947.
Other than that, not much is known about Webb, with the mystery of why nobody claimed his body still unsolved.
How did they solve the mystery of Somerton Man?
Professor Derek Abbott of the University of Adelaide has claimed to have identified the Somerton Man as Carl “Charles” Webb, a 43-year-old Melbourne engineer who enjoyed writing poetry and was described as “a bit of a loner”.
The discovery was made with the help of American genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick.
The researchers used DNA traces from hair caught in the plaster cast of the man’s face to see if they could create a DNA profile.
Together they were able to reconstruct a family tree from 4,000 relatives.
Speak with CNN Abbot said: “By filling in this tree, we have managed to find a first cousin who has been removed three times on the mother’s side.”
Fitzpatrick added, “It’s like one of those folklore mysteries that everyone wants to solve and we pulled it off.”
Speaking to the Guardian Abbot, he said: “The most important thing is that the DNA extracted from the hair that was in the Somerton man’s plaster cast was linked to distant cousins of Carl ‘Charles’ Webb on both the maternal as well as paternal side of the family.”
Webb, who was then divorced, would not have been a stranger to South Australia as that is where his former wife lived.
Despite rumors that the Somerton man was a Russian spy, Abbott says their findings actually match what police suspected at the time.
The Somerton man had left unused tickets in his pocket and his suitcase at the station.
When police searched his belongings, they found clothing with the name “T. Keane”.
Abbott explains that Webb’s brother-in-law’s name was Thomas Keane, adding, “It seems logical that he got his hand-me-downs from his brother-in-law.”
Despite findings from DNA researchers, South Australian Police have said the case is “ongoing”.
In a statement, they said: “SAPOL and Forensic Science SA are conducting DNA testing on the remains of the Somerton man. This work is not yet finished.
“Once this work is complete, a brief will be submitted to the state coroner.”