After more than 70 years, identity mystery of Australia's 'Somerton Man' solved
By identifying a body discovered long ago on Australia's Somerton Beach that prompted decades of debate about who the person was and why he died, forensic specialists have contributed to solving a nearly 75-year-old mystery.
Through DNA analysis, the body that had been dubbed the "Somerton Man" over the years was eventually identified. By identifying potential relatives, the forensic testing assisted authorities and researchers in reducing the number of possibilities.
The body of the deceased was discovered in 1948 on an Adelaide beach. He was wearing a suit and tie, and he had a cigarette on his collar that was only halfway lit. The tags on his clothing were ripped off, and he had no identification on him. For many years, people conjectured that the man was a spy and may have perished during a covert operation.
After years of searching, authorities discovered illegible handwriting that some speculated might have been coded, but no fingerprint matches were ever established.
On Tuesday specialists from Australia and the United States said that Carl Webb, who was not a spy but an electrical engineer, was the owner of the body.
Derek Abbott of the University of Adelaide and Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic expert from the United States, began working on the unsolved case more than ten years ago. Fitzpatrick employed DNA sequencing to create a family tree. That led to 4,000 potential relatives and ultimately connected Webb to one of them who was still alive.
According to Abbott, the case's resolution followed a period of waiting for technology to progress sufficiently to lead them in the proper direction.
"It resembles a sudoku puzzle made up of 4,000 pieces. Big was it, "Abbott spoke with The Age. In essence, just two unidentified individuals with no dates of death were present. He claimed that using DNA, researchers were able to "triangulate" a match to Webb's maternal and paternal ancestors. Abbott remarked, "It turns out he's our man because it all matches.