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Tags Australia cases , Australia history , murder cases , the Somerton Man

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Old 19th May 2021, 12:28 AM   #1
a_unique_person
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The Somerton Man Mystery

The story is straight out of a crime fiction novel but it has never been solved.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-...tery/100148922

Police will try a DNA test to see if they can solve this.
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Old 19th May 2021, 02:05 AM   #2
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I was going to post about this!
The 'Taman Shud' mystery is a favourite of mine, part of Australia's wonderful collection of weirdness.

The Missing Prime Minister, Parkes Observatory, The Birdman of the Coorong, Guillaume Le Testu, the disappearance of Lamont Young, those strange falls of hail in Alice Springs and what really happened to Lasseter's Reef?
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Old 19th May 2021, 02:32 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
I was going to post about this!
The 'Taman Shud' mystery is a favourite of mine, part of Australia's wonderful collection of weirdness.

The Missing Prime Minister, Parkes Observatory, The Birdman of the Coorong, Guillaume Le Testu, the disappearance of Lamont Young, those strange falls of hail in Alice Springs and what really happened to Lasseter's Reef?
....That under arm bowl.

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Old 19th May 2021, 02:53 AM   #4
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TBH had never heard of it but the article sounds quite interesting and worth further read.
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Old 19th May 2021, 03:45 PM   #5
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This news has caused quite a stir in a facebook group I joined to discuss a podcast about the 1970 Isdal Woman case in Bergen, Norway (which has several curious similarities). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isdal_Woman

I'm curious to know what exactly the authorities intend to do with the Somerton Man's DNA. Compare it to someone who claims they may be a relative, I read somewhere.

The Isdal Woman is unlikely ever to be identified unless her DNA is released to one of the large public DNA databases and relatives can be traced. But the Norwegian authorities so far will not do this, seemingly as it would contravene privacy law. I gather that there is some other test case pending which might result in that policy changing but that's been talked about for a couple of years and nothing has come of it. The police have shared the profile with other police forces through Interpol but unsurprisingly none of them had on file a DNA match for this woman who died in 1970.
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Old 19th May 2021, 04:38 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
This news has caused quite a stir in a facebook group I joined to discuss a podcast about the 1970 Isdal Woman case in Bergen, Norway (which has several curious similarities). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isdal_Woman

I'm curious to know what exactly the authorities intend to do with the Somerton Man's DNA. Compare it to someone who claims they may be a relative, I read somewhere.

The Isdal Woman is unlikely ever to be identified unless her DNA is released to one of the large public DNA databases and relatives can be traced. But the Norwegian authorities so far will not do this, seemingly as it would contravene privacy law. I gather that there is some other test case pending which might result in that policy changing but that's been talked about for a couple of years and nothing has come of it. The police have shared the profile with other police forces through Interpol but unsurprisingly none of them had on file a DNA match for this woman who died in 1970.
Compare it to existing DNA databases to try to nail down his identity, see if he has living relatives today. Perhaps also determine if he fathered Jessica Thomson's son Robin, which would prove that his relationship with her was much closer than she claimed.

Personally, I think both he and Jessica Thomson were spying for the Soviet Union. Maybe the Soviets thought he was a double agent or about to defect, and killed him.
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Old 19th May 2021, 05:47 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by a_unique_person View Post
Police will try a DNA test to see if they can solve this.
How has THIS person not been DNA tested yet? The tech has existed now for decades.
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Old 19th May 2021, 06:05 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
How has THIS person not been DNA tested yet? The tech has existed now for decades.
Government resistance, claiming it wasn't in the public interest. They finally agreed to in October 2019.
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Old 19th May 2021, 06:23 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by shemp View Post
Government resistance, claiming it wasn't in the public interest. They finally agreed to in October 2019.
Ah. Yes, looking into it, it seems the man's body is having to be exhumed for this. I had assumed they would've preserved some material that was now being tested. I can sympathize to a degree with the government's reluctance to exhume a dead body to satisfy the curiosity of some people on the internet.
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Old 19th May 2021, 06:26 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by shemp View Post
Government resistance, claiming it wasn't in the public interest. They finally agreed to in October 2019.
Kinda raises the question of what _they_ knew.
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Old 20th May 2021, 12:56 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Ah. Yes, looking into it, it seems the man's body is having to be exhumed for this. I had assumed they would've preserved some material that was now being tested. I can sympathize to a degree with the government's reluctance to exhume a dead body to satisfy the curiosity of some people on the internet.
Free entertainment. That's what I pay my taxes for.
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Old 20th May 2021, 02:00 AM   #12
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I have a theory. 1948ish?

Call me crazy, but could this be the last surviving Kiwi who owned the thing brought over to show the Aussies the original recipe inventing the Pavlova from the 20's.

Age seems right.

Nasty Aussies kidnap him. Kill him.Take away his identity. Burn the recipe evidence and still try to claim they invented it?

In fact, it may go deeper. If they got the age wrong he may have also brought the original ANZAC biscuit recipe.

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Old 20th May 2021, 02:56 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
This news has caused quite a stir in a facebook group I joined to discuss a podcast about the 1970 Isdal Woman case in Bergen, Norway (which has several curious similarities). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isdal_Woman
Interesting. There are quite a few unidentified bodies in similar cases.
In Ireland we have the case of 'Peter Bergmann', a mysterious 'Germanic' man who (apparently) committed suicide on a beach near the town of Sligo on 16JUN2009, after methodically disposing of his personal possessions without being seen on CCTV.
Another such case is that of 'Lyle Stevik', the twenty-something man who hanged himself (it's believed anyway) in a cheap motel in Amanda Park, Washington in 2001, a few days after the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
I'm curious to know what exactly the authorities intend to do with the Somerton Man's DNA. Compare it to someone who claims they may be a relative, I read somewhere.
Pass it around everyone who's got a database and hope for a familial match.

Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
The Isdal Woman is unlikely ever to be identified unless her DNA is released to one of the large public DNA databases and relatives can be traced. But the Norwegian authorities so far will not do this, seemingly as it would contravene privacy law. I gather that there is some other test case pending which might result in that policy changing but that's been talked about for a couple of years and nothing has come of it. The police have shared the profile with other police forces through Interpol but unsurprisingly none of them had on file a DNA match for this woman who died in 1970.
One could argue there is a legal duty to establish identity that overrides potential privacy.
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Old 20th May 2021, 05:44 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
... One could argue there is a legal duty to establish identity that overrides potential privacy.
One could argue that, but that argument has not so far carried the day in Norway. Not that I know the detail of the legal position - it's all very vague.

One thing which would possibly improve the argument's chances is if there was an unsolved crime for which someone might be prosecuted. But the case was judged suicide and due to a quirk in Norwegian law at that time the statute of imitations passed after 25 years even if it had been murder. So nobody could now be prosecuted even if they came forward and confessed.
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Old 20th May 2021, 04:08 PM   #15
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They don't worry about stupid rules on NCIS.. They go ahead and run the DNA tests anyway..

Easier to get forgiveness that permission.

You don't have to exhume the body.. Just get a core sample and plug the hole..
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Old 21st May 2021, 01:01 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
One could argue that, but that argument has not so far carried the day in Norway. Not that I know the detail of the legal position - it's all very vague.

One thing which would possibly improve the argument's chances is if there was an unsolved crime for which someone might be prosecuted. But the case was judged suicide and due to a quirk in Norwegian law at that time the statute of imitations passed after 25 years even if it had been murder. So nobody could now be prosecuted even if they came forward and confessed.
What about investigating the deceased for espionage or possessing false documents?
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Old 21st May 2021, 01:02 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Skeptical Greg View Post
They don't worry about stupid rules on NCIS.. They go ahead and run the DNA tests anyway..

Easier to get forgiveness that permission.

You don't have to exhume the body.. Just get a core sample and plug the hole..
There's no need for exhumation, there are stored tissue samples.
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Old 21st May 2021, 02:03 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by cullennz View Post
I have a theory. 1948ish?

Call me crazy, but could this be the last surviving Kiwi who owned the thing brought over to show the Aussies the original recipe inventing the Pavlova from the 20's.

Age seems right.

Nasty Aussies kidnap him. Kill him.Take away his identity. Burn the recipe evidence and still try to claim they invented it?

In fact, it may go deeper. If they got the age wrong he may have also brought the original ANZAC biscuit recipe.
Hey, he could have just called the wrong guy a thug and got his ass erased from history
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Old 21st May 2021, 02:13 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
What about investigating the deceased for espionage or possessing false documents?
Well, they investigated at the time of course. They already know all the many identities she filled in on hotel registrations were bogus and use non-existent passport numbers, but whatever fake passports she had were never found so there's not much to investigate. I believe the same statute of limitations problem would apply to any crimes she might have been involved in, and of course you can't prosecute a corpse anyway, so how much police time do you invest in chasing answers?
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Old 21st May 2021, 02:14 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
There's no need for exhumation, there are stored tissue samples.
For the Isdal Woman yes, but not for the Somerton man.
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Old 21st May 2021, 02:24 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
Well, they investigated at the time of course. They already know all the many identities she filled in on hotel registrations were bogus and use non-existent passport numbers, but whatever fake passports she had were never found so there's not much to investigate. I believe the same statute of limitations problem would apply to any crimes she might have been involved in, and of course you can't prosecute a corpse anyway, so how much police time do you invest in chasing answers?
Tell that to the Catholic Church:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadaver_Synod

Quote:
The Cadaver Synod (also called the Cadaver Trial; Latin: Synodus Horrenda) is the name commonly given to the ecclesiastical trial of Pope Formosus, who had been dead for about seven months, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome during January 897.[1] The trial was conducted by Pope Stephen VI, the successor to Formosus' successor, Pope Boniface VI. Stephen had Formosus' corpse exhumed and brought to the papal court for judgment. He accused Formosus of perjury and of having acceded to the papacy illegally. At the end of the trial, Formosus was pronounced guilty and his papacy retroactively declared null.
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Old 21st May 2021, 02:33 PM   #22
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She better watch out then; based on the little evidence they had, she's buried in the Catholic cemetery.
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Old 21st May 2021, 05:23 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
Another such case is that of 'Lyle Stevik', the twenty-something man who hanged himself (it's believed anyway) in a cheap motel in Amanda Park, Washington in 2001, a few days after the 11 September terrorist attacks.
If you read the Wikipedia article you linked to again, you will find that Lyle Stevik has been identified.
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Old 22nd May 2021, 08:53 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
For the Isdal Woman yes, but not for the Somerton man.
Ah, you were referring to him. My bad.
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Old 22nd May 2021, 08:56 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by shemp View Post
Tell that to the Catholic Church:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadaver_Synod
Or the British Monarch, remember Cromwell, Bradshaw, Ireton; and Pride.
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Old 22nd May 2021, 08:57 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Ryokan View Post
If you read the Wikipedia article you linked to again, you will find that Lyle Stevik has been identified.
D'oh. I was C&Ping from my notes, which obviously need some updating.
Thanks.
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Old 22nd May 2021, 09:40 AM   #27
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The body was exhumed in Wednesday. We'll see where that leads.

This is an absolutely baffling case. I've followed it for a long time on Nick Pelling's Cipher Mysteries blog.

Every clue just brings about more mysteries. What caused his death? Why was he on the beach? How come no friends, family, employers, co-workers, etc. identified him?

Why did he have no identification? Why no money even though he had bought train and bus tickets? Why the unused train ticket? Why did he have half a pack of cigarettes' but the brand of cigarettes were different from the brand of the pack?

Why did he have an American jacket and American thread used to repair his trousers, but other items were Australian and the book from a New Zealand publisher? Why the stenciling tools in the suit case? Why changes of clothes but not extra socks? Why do some of the clothes have the name "Keane" written on them?

Why did he have a scrap of paper with "tamam shud" on it torn from a book rolled up and stuck in a fob pocket? Why was that book found in the back of someone's car 5 blocks away? Why did that book have indentations on the back cover of some strange code? Why did have the phone number of a woman who lived about two blocks away? Why did she say she didn't know who he was? Why had she given a copy of that book to a military man she had met a couple times a few year before?

There has been much speculation, but every theory ends up with things that don't fit. A very strange case.
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Old 22nd May 2021, 08:08 PM   #28
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In the States, random dead guys don't generate nearly so much hype and mystique.

"Hey, Bob. Got another dead John Doe."

"Put him in the pile with the others."
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Old 22nd May 2021, 08:54 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Thermal View Post
In the States, random dead guys don't generate nearly so much hype and mystique.

"Hey, Bob. Got another dead John Doe."

"Put him in the pile with the others."
John Does tend to be transient homeless people disconnected from their families where people only know them by a first name or nickname.

Somerton Man was wearing a decent suit with a new jacket and polished shoes. He looked like someone who might have a wife and kids at home or an employer or friends who might be looking for him. And no cause of death could be determined. That led to a bit more investigation, which started turning up strange clues.
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Old 22nd May 2021, 09:04 PM   #30
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I think he may have been an American who worked on the docks on the West Coast in the 20s and joined the Industrial Workers of the World, from which he was recruited by the Soviets as a spy. He may have been sent to Australia to gather information on American maritime activity there during WWII. He could have blended in as a dock worker. After the war, he may have fallen out of favor with his spymasters; perhaps he expressed his intent to abandon spying and seek a more normal life.

But I don't think he was murdered. I think it's unlikely that his handlers would have poisoned him and left him to die on a public beach when they could have just killed him quickly and gotten rid of his body. I think he became despondent and committed suicide. But first he did everything he could to cover up his identity, probably because he didn't want to expose Jessica Thomson who was assisting his spying.

Or not.
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Old 24th May 2021, 01:20 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by shemp View Post
I think he may have been an American who worked on the docks on the West Coast in the 20s and joined the Industrial Workers of the World, from which he was recruited by the Soviets as a spy. He may have been sent to Australia to gather information on American maritime activity there during WWII. He could have blended in as a dock worker. After the war, he may have fallen out of favor with his spymasters; perhaps he expressed his intent to abandon spying and seek a more normal life.

But I don't think he was murdered. I think it's unlikely that his handlers would have poisoned him and left him to die on a public beach when they could have just killed him quickly and gotten rid of his body. I think he became despondent and committed suicide. But first he did everything he could to cover up his identity, probably because he didn't want to expose Jessica Thomson who was assisting his spying.

Or not.
Perhaps. I think the spy theory is unlikely and is more the imagination of book writers. But it is not unfounded. A mysterious death. A book with a code. A woman's phone number who denies any knowledge.

But one of the significant elements that brought about the spy theory is that Jessica/Jo/Jestyn told police she gave a copy of the Rubaiyat to Alf Boxall several years before. She met Boxall in a hotel bar that military men often frequented. It appears she met him twice and he was shipping put and she gave him the book with an inscription. For a time it was suspected that Boxall was the Somerton Man, but he was found alive and had the book. He was working in military intelligence at the time he met Jessica, but he denies that he told her about that.

Maybe Somerton Man and Jessica were spies. Maybe Boxall was as well, or at least Jessica tried to recruit him.

She met Boxall in 1945. US/Soviet relations began breaking down at that time, but I'm not sure how extensive the Soviet spy network was at that time. If Jessica was a spy and Boxall was also or she had tried to recruit him, why would she tell police about giving him the book when it would be very unlikely for the police to ever make that connection? Also, I don't think anyone has presented evidence that Jessica or Boxall were Communist sympathizers.

There are, of course, many other theories. Jessica was involved with a man named Thomson. She presented him as her husband even though he was married to another woman. He was in the process of getting a divorce and when that happened a couple years later they got married. Thomson was involved in illegal black market used car sales (common at the time due to government restrictions). There are also speculations that he was involved in illegal baccarat gambling.

I think my preferred theory is that Jessica had a secret relationship with Somerton Man and that her son, Robin, is his. He had no family or friends. He found out he had a child. But she didn't want to have anything to do with him because she was in love with Thomson. He became despondent and went to meet her to ask her to marry him, even though he knew she wouldn't, but he want that last meeting before he killed himself.

After she rejected him, he killed himself. Maybe took some poison. Maybe she allowed him to stay the night and he stuck his head in the oven. Having his dead body there would result in a lot of unwanted explaining to do. So she, probably along with a close friend, moved the body to the beach.

That would explain why she told the police about giving the Rubaiyat to Boxall. Maybe she gave the Rubaiyat to all her lovers. Giving the name of someone previous would provide a nice red herring.

The code in the book may not really be a code. When I looked at I came to the same conclusion of many others that it appears to be initials of words rather than a cipher. It is four lines, like the quatrains of the Rubaiyat. It could be that Somerton Man made up his own quatrain to add to the Rubaiyat and wrote down the initials so he cold remember it.

One of the principal researchers of this case is a man named Abbott, who oddly enough married Robin's daughter. It appears she wants to test if Somerton Man is her grandfather. I think Robin's DNA is also available.

Hopefully DNA tests will show whether or not Robin is Somerton Man's son.
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Old 24th May 2021, 05:48 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by shemp View Post
I think he may have been an American who worked on the docks on the West Coast in the 20s and joined the Industrial Workers of the World, from which he was recruited by the Soviets as a spy. He may have been sent to Australia to gather information on American maritime activity there during WWII. He could have blended in as a dock worker. After the war, he may have fallen out of favor with his spymasters; perhaps he expressed his intent to abandon spying and seek a more normal life.

But I don't think he was murdered. I think it's unlikely that his handlers would have poisoned him and left him to die on a public beach when they could have just killed him quickly and gotten rid of his body. I think he became despondent and committed suicide. But first he did everything he could to cover up his identity, probably because he didn't want to expose Jessica Thomson who was assisting his spying.

Or not.
Bah, he was obviously a time traveller. Kerry Greenwood was right.
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Old 24th May 2021, 10:13 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
John Does tend to be transient homeless people disconnected from their families where people only know them by a first name or nickname.

Somerton Man was wearing a decent suit with a new jacket and polished shoes. He looked like someone who might have a wife and kids at home or an employer or friends who might be looking for him. And no cause of death could be determined. That led to a bit more investigation, which started turning up strange clues.
I get that (and was mostly kidding). Most of what I read on Wiki about him seems +/- mundanely explainable. The code indenting is likely personal shorthand notes. The removed clothing tags were common at the time in second hand clothing. Being dressed and neat looking was more societally required in '48 than now. If he was from another country, the odds are pretty good that people who knew him would miss the news of finding his carcass in Oz.

Not sure how common undetermined death was in 'Straya in 1948. The coroner suspected "class 1 or 2" poisoning? Most details seem explainable by "quirky travelling guy", even down to cigarettes in a mismatched packet (smoker saves an empty pack to store whatever smokes he gets his hands on).

I mean, interesting and mysterious enough, but not much out of the realm of a not-wrapped-too-tight postwar wanderer. If I lost my wallet, you could paint a pretty perplexing painting out of the contents of my pockets, too.
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Old 6th August 2022, 08:02 AM   #34
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Somerton Man identified, nobody mentions it?
Carl “Charles” Webb, a 43-year old engineer from Melbourne.
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Old 6th August 2022, 08:22 AM   #35
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I read about that, but I didn't realise we'd had a thread about it. Neat piece of detective work.

Here's the link to the article I read, since Retyk doesn't yet have enough posts to post links.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-62314555

Welcome to the forum, Retyk, or rather welcome to your first post.
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Old 6th August 2022, 09:00 AM   #36
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Quote:
Somerton Man identified, nobody mentions it?
Carl “Charles” Webb, a 43-year old engineer from Melbourne.

I guess it's not a mystery any more?
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Old 6th August 2022, 09:12 AM   #37
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These thorughly removed cloth labels and personal data still remain kinda mysterious ...

Hello to all ISF users
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Old 6th August 2022, 09:12 AM   #38
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Without question the most perplexing part of the mysterious man is why the local police dedicated any time or money into identifying him 70 years later. They really have nothing else to do but galavant around solving Nancy Drew mysteries of no consequence?
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Old 6th August 2022, 09:14 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Thermal View Post
Without question the most perplexing part of the mysterious man is why the local police dedicated any time or money into identifying him 70 years later. They really have nothing else to do but galavant around solving Nancy Drew mysteries of no consequence?
It wasn't the police.
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Old 6th August 2022, 09:16 AM   #40
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It wasn't the police, who did the investigation, but a private reasercher on his own, for clouts I guess.
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