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Mystery of body found on Australian beach 73 years ago is finally solved thanks to DNA


An artist's impression of the man whose body was found in 1948

An artist's impression of the man whose body was found in 1948

An artist's impression of the man whose body was found in 1948

He was found dead on an Australian beach, with nothing to identify him and a scrap of Persian poetry in his pocket.

Amateur sleuths have speculated that he must have been a Russian spy assassinated at the beginning of the Cold War before Canberra clamped down on Soviet espionage.

Others have suggested he was a military man or the jilted lover of a local woman.

Now 73 years later a professor at the University of Adelaide claims to have solved the mystery of the so-called Somerton Man, who was found fully dressed on Somerton beach in Adelaide, South Australia, on December 1, 1948.

Prof Derek Abbott said he believed the deceased was Carl “Charles” Webb, a 43-year-old electrical engineer from Melbourne.

Explaining why he was in Adelaide, Prof Abbott said: “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.”

Prof Abbott, with genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, analysed DNA from hairs preserved inside a plaster cast made of the man’s face and used it to create an extended family tree.

From 4,000 names, the pair narrowed it down to one man – Carl Webb – tracked down his living relatives, and used their DNA to confirm his identity.

Mr Webb, according to Prof Abbott, was born in 1905 as the youngest of six children and went on to marry Dorothy Robertson, known as Doff Webb.

The case became one of Australia’s enduring mysteries after no one came forward to offer any clues when he was found.

Adding to the intrigue, the man was found with a scrap of paper in his pocket bearing the words “tamam shud”, meaning “it is finished” in Farsi. 

There was also a phone number, but the woman whose number it was denied knowing or recognising the man.

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South Australia Police have not yet confirmed the discovery. 

(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

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