Mystery of Australia’s ‘Somerton Man’ Solved After 73 Years

A South Australian researcher has identified the “Somerton man” as a 43-year-old electrical engineer from Melbourne, claiming that he has solved the mystery after more than 70 years.

Derek Abbott, a professor from the University of Adelaide, said on Monday that he identified the Somerton man as Carl “Charles” Webb, a 43-year-old electrical engineer from Melbourne.

Abbott analyzed the Somerton man’s DNA using hairs preserved when authorities made a plaster model of his face and collaborated with renowned US forensic expert Colleen Fitzpatrick, who specializes in cold cases, to build an extended family tree using DNA.

From 4000 names, Abbot and Fitzpatrick to Carl Webb, the researchers tracked down the man’s living relatives, using their DNA to confirm his identity.

“It’s a triangulation from two different, totally distant parts of the [family] tree,” Abbott said.

Abbott said Webb was born in 1905 in a suburb of Melbourne, and the youngest of six siblings, and married Dorothy Robertson, known as Doff Webb. 

“We have evidence that he had separated from his wife, and that she had moved to South Australia. So possibly, he had come to track her down,” Abbot said.

Fitzpatrick told CNN she wants to help solve the mystery of Webb’s death.

“I would like to see the toxicology done. And I would like to find out what happened to Dorothy,” Fitzpatrick said.

On December 1, 1948, beachgoers discovered the Somerton man’s body lying against a seawall on Somerton Beach in Adelaide, Australia.

The Somerton man wore a suit and tie, appeared to be aged in his 40s or 50s, and only had bus and train tickets, chewing gum, matches, two combs, and a pack of cigarettes in his pockets.

The tags on the Somerton man’s suit were cut off, and forensic investigators suspected he had been poisoned.

Australian authorities also discovered more of his belongings, including a suitcase, more clothing with labels removed, and incoherent writings believed to be a code.

The Somerton man also held a torn scrap of paper with the Farsi words “Tamam Shud,” which means “it’s finished,” written on it.

The Somerton man’s fingerprints were sent worldwide, but no one could recognize him.

The Somerton man was buried in Adelaide cemetery in 1949 with a tombstone that read, “Here lies the unknown man who was found at Somerton Beach.”


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