Sunday 18 September 2022

Somerton Man Update

See here for essential background:
After so many years of being a cold case, the mystery of the Somerton Man has been reignited. Amazingly, the clues which has led to its reopening were there for the very beginning. Flowers were left on the grave of the unknown man as soon as he was buried and this continued for many years. Local people were seen visiting the grave in a manner suggests more than mere curiosity. In 2007 "Jestyn", real name Jessica Thompson, died and her family did an interview with the press. Kate, Jessica's daughter, said that her mother had told her she lied to the police and that she knew the identity of the Somerton Man. Jessica was an English teacher who worked with many Russian immigrants; she could speak Russian herself. This is a profile that makes it likely that she was a Soviet spy and that so was the unknown man. Not only that, but possibly she had had a relationship with this man and that he was the father of her son Robin. Robin's widow, Roma Egan, and their daughter Rachel lodged permission to have the Somerton Man's body exhumed and DNA testing carried out, a technology that did not exist in 1948. If the family are correct then Rachel is the mystery man's granddaughter. Kate Thompson has opposed this. I expect the secrets it might unveil would cause a lot of family strife, even though it is connected to something so long ago. I know from experience that time is not always a healer in family matters, and even the passing of generations sometimes fails to bury conflicts. Kate also claims that the man's identity is already know secretly to higher-ups in government, which would be consistent with many espionage practices. In May 2021 the body was exhumed. A fresh coffin was brought in and it was carried respectfully by police pallbearers to a van and driven off to be tested by forensic pathologists.
At the same time an independent investigation has been running since 2009 led by Prof. Derek Abbott at the University of Adelaide. He has gathered the Somerton Man's DNA from the death mask made of him when his body was found. A few tiny hairs from his skin were left embedded in the plaster. It showed that the man's ancestry came primarily from Iberia and the Caucasus, the south-western and south-eastern extremes of Europe. It is a rare DNA signature among white people in general and more common in the Middle East, even though the man is clearly white. Then, just a couple of months ago in July 2022, Abbott made an astonishing announcement. He knew who the Somerton Man was. His name was Carl "Charles" Webb, a man who had been born in 1905 in Melbourne. Abbott has found this out by doing DNA tests on Webb's living relatives and matching them with those from the death mask. There are no known photographs of Carl Webb when he was alive, but there are some of his brother Roy who does resemble the mystery man. There is also a link to the name "T Keane" which is on some of the man's belongings. Carl's brother-in-law was called Thomas Keane and lived a short distance from him in Melbourne. He might have sold or given Carl some of his things. Interestingly there is no record of what happened to Webb after April 1947 when he was divorced from his wife. We don't know why the divorce happened; maybe because he was in a relationship with Jessica Thompson. After that he just seems to have vanished. He would be extremely old if he were still alive today, a hundred and seventeen plus, which alone would make him a celebrity; but he has never been issued a death certificate. The police have yet to publish their own analysis of the exhumed body. After the forensic study is done, the Somerton Man will be returned to the cemetery and reburied in the same grave, possibly with a name on the tombstone this time. Source: Along with no death certificate, there was no missing person's report ever filed for Carl Webb. He just seems to have dropped off every paper trail just under two years before the body was found. None of his living relatives ever met him and everything they know about him is second-hand from the intermediate generation. I agree with Kate Thompson; probably Carl Webb was some kind of secret agent. The mission he was on when he died may well one day be revealed to the public, but I suspect the government already know about it and want to keep it quiet, which may be the reason why the police have not yet published their own results. My guess is that his job was something to do with the Cold War which dominated the political world at that time. Nothing in his profile indicates which side he was spying for, apart from his connection to Jessica Thompson, although any real spy worth his salt would never carry around the phone numbers of his contacts unencrypted. His link to her is more likely to be simply personal. He may have been inserted by the KGB, but alternatively he may have been a counterintelligence officer for MI6, the CIA or Australia's own undercover network. His task may have been related to the Emu Field nuclear tests which, unknown to the public at the time, were being planned by the UK and Australia at a site close to Adelaide. The first detonation took place five years later in 1953. Even today, some secrets of the Cold War remain classified, especially those relating to human intelligence. This could be because the methodology and personnel is still relevant to modern operations; but it also could be because of the legal or political ramifications of anybody's cover being blown, as happened with Anthony Blunt, see: It could be we'll find out more information in the future, in which case I will immediately report on it.
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