The Somerton Man is one of the most infamous unidentified bodies/unsolved murder investigations in Australia. A man’s body washed up on Somerton Beach in Adelaide on 1 December, 1948. There’ve been persistent rumours that he may have been a Soviet spy, with laypeople unable to resist speculating on intriguing details like the fact that all the brand labels on his clothes had been removed, or a strange sequence of letters handwritten into the back of a book of Persian poetry he’d been carrying. Nonetheless, the murder has never been officially solved.
On 27 July 2022, a researcher who had spent significant time and energy trying to identify the Somerton Man (Prof. Derek Abbott – whose wife it was thought might possibly have been related to the unidentified victim) announced that he believes he has identified him. If he’s correct, the Somerton Man was Carl “Charles” Webb, a 43yo engineer and instrument maker, from Melbourne. His wife had left him and moved to South Australia, and Abbott speculates that Webb may have been trying to track her down when he came to his untimely end. The identification was made by use of the body’s DNA – it was uploaded to DNA genealogical databases “like Ancestry.com”, which identified two of his first cousins – one on his father’s side and one on his mother’s. From there, they were able to identify Webb as a common link, and also discovered in the archives that he was an individual without a death record (basically he just disappeared and no one ever reported him missing).
See Also / References
- ABC News: Somerton Man has long been riddled with Russian spy speculation, but is it a red herring? (20 July 2022)
- ABC News: Somerton Man identified as Melbourne electrical engineer, researcher says (27 July 2022)
- ABC News: US expert who worked on Somerton Man case says it was like solving a ‘sudoku puzzle’ (27 July 2022)