Name: Unknown (Somerton Man)
Age: Unknown (approximately 40-45)
Found: 1st December 1948
Location: Somerton Park Beach, south of Adelaide, South Australia
Status: Still unidentified
The Somerton Man is an unidentified man who was in his 40s when he was found, he had an athletic build, he was 5’11 (180 cm) tall, he had gray eyes and he had ginger-colored hair. He was and he was neatly dressed when he was found on Somerton Park Beach.
Finding of the Somerton Man
The Somerton Man is one of the biggest mysteries in the world and it all started when the unidentified man was found laying on the beach, leaned on the rock, neatly dressed in the summer of 1948 on the Somerton Park beach.
The person looked like he was taking a nap on the beach, neatly dressed, and his head leaned on the seawall with an unlit cigarette in his hand leaned on the top of the right collar of his coat.
People have noticed the Somerton Man laying on the beach alive, the night before he was found. The same couple returned the next morning for a walk when they found the Somerton Man laying in the same position they saw the last night.
Another couple saw the Somerton Man the night before he was discovered but they didn’t notice any movements and they found it very strange that he wasn’t reacting to the mosquitoes. They thought he was either asleep or drunk and they didn’t give it a second thought.
When police arrived at the scene – they were not able to find any identification but they were able to find the following items:
- Unused second-class rail ticket from Adelaide to Henley
- Local bus ticket that might have not been used
- Aluminum hair comb
- Chewing gum packet
- Cigarette pack
The cause of death was unknown but the police thought this was a suicide as no identification was found and there was no evidence of foul play.
Upon the autopsy, the pathologist estimated the time of death around 2 AM on 1 December, but he also found something very unusual. The body was congested including the stomach, pharynx, the second half of the duodenum, and there was blood mixed with food in the stomach.
Even both kidneys were congested, the spleen was 3 times its regular size, the center of the liver was destructed, and both liver and spleen have been congested. On top of that, the brain was congested too.
The pathologist was also able to determine the last mean Somerton Man had, but other than that – they weren’t able to determine any foreign substance in the body – even though they believed that the cause of death was poison.
The conclusion of the autopsy was undetermined death cause, unidentified identity, and police weren’t even sure if the Somerton Man was the man witnesses saw the night before he was found.
However, one smart thing that they did is they embalmed the body to preserve it and have an easier chance of identifying it in the future.
Police tried matching the Somerton Man’s dental records were not able to be matched with any known records.
With not much to go about, police discovered that the Somerton Man’s clothing had all labels removed. All the efforts of publishing the portrait of the Somerton Man in the papers did yield no results and it seemed that no one knew who the unidentified person was.
The Finding of the Suitcase
A month later, on 14th January 1949, police were able to discover a brown suitcase at the Adelaide railways station as they followed the clue of the ticked found in the man’s pocket. The suitcase had the tag removed but it is believed that it belonged to the mysterious man and inside the suitcase, police found:
- Dressing gown
- Shaving items
- Electrician’s screwdriver
- Table knife
- Pair of scissors
- Stenciling brush
They also found a thread card of Barbour brand orange waxed thread which was of an unusual type as it wasn’t available in Australia at that time. Just like on the person’s clothing items, all labels were removed from the clothing items found in the suitcase.
However, one important clue police were able to find from the suitcase is the name T. Keane on a tie, Keane on a laundry bag, and “Kean” on a singlet.
Upon further research, police were able to determine that there was no T. Keane missing in any English-speaking country at that time which might mean that the Somerton Man’s name wasn’t T. Keane.
Discovery of Tamam Shud Paper Piece
On the second thorough research of the clothes, Somerton Man was wearing – police were able to find a tiny piece of paper pushed way deep into the man’s pocket that they weren’t able to find it on the first search.
The little rolled-up piece of paper had words Tamam Shud printed which was a phrase translated to “ended” or “finished”. The police were also able to identify the origin of the paper/phase which was the ending of the book (last page) of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Police tried to find the exact copy where the last page was ripped out/missing by publishing the photograph of the piece of paper and that’s when they got lucky. A man walked into the police station with a copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’s book (a translated version of the book, 1941 edition of Edward FitzGerald).
However, the person’s privacy and identity were protected by the use of a pseudonym and he was never officially identified.
The origin of the book is unsure as there were two stories as to how the man ended up with the possession of the exact book that had the last page missing.
The first version was that the book was found a week or two prior to the discovery of the unidentified man’s body. The second version was that the book was found just after the Somerton Man’s body was discovered on the beach.
The witness who returned the book to police as evidence said that he found the book in his unlocked car. The police were able to confirm my analysis that the found piece of paper came from the book they just received from the man.
Code in the Book
One significant discovery was 5 lines of text written on the back cover. The lines of text included capital letters and it looked like code.
Code experts and deciphers were called to try and encrypt the meaning of the code – but they were unsuccessful. The code has never been encrypted to this day and no one knows its meaning.
Along with the code, police were able to find a phone number that belonged to Jessica Ellen Thompson known as “Jo”. When the police found Jessica, she said that she doesn’t know the man and she doesn’t know why would anyone write her phone number at the end of the book. But she also said that her neighbor told her that an unknown man was looking for her when she wasn’t home.
Police believed that Jessica was evasive or she just didn’t want to talk about it – but they thought that they felt like she knew the identity of the Somerton Man. But when police showed the plaster cast of the Somerton Man’s face, her reaction was completely taken back to the point where she nearly fainted.
In the interview in 2014, Jessica’s daughter said that she believed that her mother knew the Somerton Man.
Theories About the Somerton Man
Police weren’t able to identify the identity of the Somerton Man despite hundreds of reported identifications over the past 70 years. And with only a few clues – theories about the Somerton Man only grew.
The three most commonly talked about theories are:
- That Somerton Man was a spy
- It was a suicide
- It was a love affair perhaps combined with suicide
The main reason why the Tamam Shud case was never closed and the Somerton Man was never identified is because all the main witnesses are dead by now.
There were many theories saying that the Somerton Man was a spy because of the removed clothing labels and the code that was found in the book that matched the piece of paper found in his pocket. Also, since it wasn’t a natural death and possibly a death by poison – spy theories were probably the number one discussed theory.
Others believe that the Somerton Man decided to commit suicide. This would explain the arrival to the area and the beach, being neatly dressed, having no identification, and ending his life in the most peaceful way on the beach.
However, the most believable theory is that Jessica knew the Somerton Man and that he came to visit her (possible affair) and that’s why she wasn’t willing to identify the Somerton Man. However, the timing and the cause of death still remain strange and we can only speculate as to what has happened in his last moments of life.
Highly Possible Connection
With everyone’s interest in the case, web sleuths started taking the case apart trying to discover the identity of the Somerton Man.
Derek Abbott, a professor at the Adelaide University was really intrigued by the case as well that he started his own research.
Derek found himself deeply involved in the story as he was looking into the life of Jessica Ellen Thompson. Even though she passed away by that point, he learned that Jessica had a son named Robin Thomson.
The professor believed that Robin was the Somerton Man’s son as he had very distinctive features such as the oddly shaped ear and two missing incisors that were similar to the features of the Somerton Man. Another discovery was that Robin was a professional ballet dancer which is another similarity to the Somerton Man who had a very athletic build with highly built calves that resembled calves of a professional dancer.
Unfortunately, Robin passed away before professor Derek was able to reach him – but he discovered that Robin had a daughter.
Professor Derek was able to get in touch with Robin’s daughter Rachel, and before anyone knew where the professor’s research would get him – he and Rachel fell in love and got married.
It looks like Derek is getting really close to solving the identity of the Somerton Man as the comparison of now Derek’s wife Rachel, can prove whether Rachel’s dad Robin was in fact Somerton Man’s son. If the result is positive, this would mean that Jessica Ellen Thompson did indeed knew the Somerton Man and she took the secret to the grave.
Only when it looked like Derek and Rachel were getting really close to solving the mysterious identity of the Somerton Man – they hit the roadblock as no state agreed to the exhumation – ONLY UNTIL NOW!
Vickie Chapman, the attorney-general agreed to support the exhumation under one condition – only if someone was able to come up with the funds for the process.
The plan and cost of the exhumation were made and even though the cost is only nearly $20,000 – the previous crowdfunding didn’t make enough funds.
It looks like Robin and Rachel are very close to finding whether the Somerton Man has ties with Rachel’s family or not. Robin plans on starting a new crowdfunding campaign and he’ll definitely need our help!
Hopefully, the next campaign will be a success which means that we might possibly have an update on the Somerton Man’s identity. But this doesn’t mean this will ultimately solve his mysterious death – which is the second part of the mystery.
What do you think happened to the Somerton Man and do you think he has ties to Rachel’s family?