Solved with DNA? The mystery of the Somerman Man, one of Australia’s most mystical cases

The case that has gnawed the minds of Australian genealogists seems close to being resolved. The identity of ‘Somerman man’ has been a mystery for over 70 yearsSince his body was found in 1948, it has been impossible to find a name. At least, until now. Derek Abbot, a professor at the University of Adelaide, says he identified the man as Carl ‘Charles’ Webb. The findings have yet to be confirmed by South Australian Police or South Australian Forensic Science, but the professor appears to be completely convinced of his conclusions, as reported by the American channel CNN.

Abbot worked in collaboration with American genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, founder of International Identifiersrenowned genealogy agency Experienced in cold cases. Twenty professionals from the university were also involved. An arduous task that began in 1995 and was solved thanks to DNA sequencing. To carry out the sequencing, it was necessary 50 hairs found in the cast which was designed to replicate the shape of the human body so many years ago.

The two professionals then had to build a family tree of about 4,000 people until I found Webb. “By filling in this tree, we were able to find a first cousin on her mother’s side,” Abbott explained. And on July 23, they realized the DNA matched that of Webb’s distant relatives, solidifying their theory. Abbot says he’s sure they’ve found the answer, although he said “in things like this, you can only be 99.999% sure it’s correct, (.. .) strange things can happen. There may be a twist.”

What is the mystery of ‘Somerman’s Man’?

On December 1, 1948, it was Man’s body found on Somerman Beach from Adelaide. His age was estimated to be between 40 and 50, but he had no type of identification with him. In the search for his name, the police even had to send his fingerprints and photograph to the United States, the United Kingdom and the Anglo-Saxon countries of Africa to find possible clues. Without success.

Burial of

However, the conspiracy theories started thanks to some clues found. In the first place, a coroner found a hidden pocket on his clothes with a piece of paper containing the words “Tamam Shud” (“the end”) in Persian. These are the last words of the 11th century poem “The Rubaiyat” written by Iranian mathematician Omar Khayyam. Second, the coin was from a book which was later turned over to the police and on the back cover there was a series of numbers written which were supposed to be war codes. The theory was that the man could have been a spy.

Carl ‘Charles’ Webb

According to Abbot’s research, Webb was born on November 16, 1905, in Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne. He was the youngest of six children and was married to Dorothy Robertson.

Once they found his name, Abbot and Fitzpatrick set out to find him. more information about who this man was. They reviewed police records, election data, or other legal documents, but with few results. The only thing they found was a petition for divorce filed by Dorothy in April 1947 because her husband had left. However, there is no information about what he was doing to Somerman on the day he died.

Very little is known about her life in general, but Fitzpatrick says she is “very interested in helping solve the mystery of his death.”

The search for the identity of “Somerman’s Man” it encompassed more than one aspect of Abbot’s life. Indeed, he met his wife, Rachel Egan, through the investigation. It turns out there were suspicions that Webb was related to Egan because his father, Robin Thomson, physically resembled him. While investigating this clue, they met and fell in love. However, no connection was found between her and Webb, which Abbott described as “a huge relief”. Abbot therefore found Webb and Love in the same investigation.

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