If you have any information pertaining to this case, you may contact the above. At about 6:30 AM on 1st December 1948, the lifeless body of a man was discovered just opposite the Crippled Children’s Home on Somerton beach, near Glenelg in Adelaide, South Australia. The body was oddly positioned; his head and shoulders were supported by the seawall, with his legs extended towards the sea and his feet crossed, though his left arm was straight his right arm was bent double. The sand around the body was dry and undisturbed. Dr John Barkly Bennett pronounced him dead at 9:40 AM after a brief examination in a police ambulance outside the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and estimated the time of death as around 8 hours prior, based on the state of rigor mortis. It appeared as though he had died in his sleep. The body was cold, stiff, and dry. The initial post-mortem, performed by Dr John Matthew Dwyer the morning after the body was found, concluded that the death was unnatural, and the immediate cause was heart failure, possibly the result of poisoning. There were two perimortem abrasions present in the hollows of his right knuckles. The police believed that he had committed suicide as there were no other indications of violence or a struggle. Sir John Cleland, a pathologist who examined his embalmed body in June 1949, was “quite convinced the death could not have been natural…the poison [he] suggested was a barbiturate or a soluble hypnotic”. The decedent was Caucasian, reportedly of British appearance, and was thought to be between 40 and 50 years old, he stood at about 5 feet 11 inches tall, was in “top physical condition”, weighing between 165 and 175 lbs, and was clean-shaven, with grey eyes, coarse, wavy fair, ginger, auburn, or mousy-coloured hair that was slightly receding and grey around the temples, minimal chest and leg hair, broad shoulders and a narrow waist, unusually large hands that showed no signs of manual labour, clean fingernails and toenails that seemed to be well cared for, nicotine stains on his fingers, size 8 feet, wedged big and little toes like those of a dancer or someone who wore shoes with pointed toes, high calf muscles like those of someone who regularly wore high-heeled shoes or danced ballet, a faint scar or “boil mark” on his upper left arm, three small scars inside his left wrist, a curved inch-long scar inside his left elbow, he was slightly sunburnt at the time of his death, his cymba was larger than his cavum, which is an incredibly rare feature affecting only 1-2% of the Caucasian population, he had attached earlobes, he was uncircumcised, he had hypodontia of both lateral incisors, and several other teeth were missing, though there was no evidence of him ever having worn a denture. His last meal was a pasty, eaten about three to four hours before death. It’s not thought that the pasty was the source of poison, and contemporary tests failed to identify any foreign substances in the body. The pathologist found no evidence of a hypodermic needle being used, either. He was found wearing clothes of “fairly good quality”: a grey and brown double-breasted suit jacket of American tailoring, a brown knitted v-neck pullover, a white shirt, an American-style red, white, and blue tie, brown trousers, a pair of jockey underpants, brown socks (inside one of these socks was a single blade of barley grass), and a pair of brown shoes which had the cobbler’s number “206B” embossed on the inside leather. All the labels had recently been cut out of his clothes, he wasn’t carrying any money, and he wasn’t wearing a hat, which was unusual for 1948. He probably wasn’t local to the area in which he was found since he was wearing all these layers on a warm day. On his person was an unused second-class rail ticket from Adelaide to Henley Beach that had been issued between 6 AM and noon on 30th November, a used bus ticket from Adelaide to Somerton, an aluminium American comb, another undescribed comb, a handkerchief, a half-empty packet of ‘Juicy Fruit’ chewing gum, a quarter-full box of ‘Bryant & May’ matches, an ‘Army Club’ cigarette packet containing seven ‘Kensitas’ cigarettes, and there was an unlit cigarette behind his ear. An additional, half-smoked cigarette was found on the right lapel of his jacket, held in place by his cheek, though his jacket was not burnt nor was his cheek. There are post-mortem images available. They may be disturbing to some but are being shown for identification purposes only. If you are sensitive to seeing images of a deceased person, you may want to look away now. Do be warned that if you do a Google search for this case, these images are very likely the first you’ll be greeted with. The post-mortem images have now been replaced. Several people came forward to claim that they had seen the man on the beach the evening before his death on 30th November. A man drinking at the Glenelg Hotel on that evening asserted to the police that he had spoken to an individual resembling the deceased man, who he claimed had shown him a military pension card bearing the name “Solomonson”. A couple who claimed to have seen him on Somerton Beach at around 7 PM said that he was lying in the same position in which he was found; they saw him extend his left arm fully before dropping it limply. Another couple saw him between 7:30 and 8 PM. They said that he was lying with his back against the seawall, his legs were stretched straight out – not crossed at the feet as they were when the body was found – and his left arm was also straightened out and resting against the sand. By the time they left, his left leg had been drawn up slightly. They thought it odd that he was not reacting to the mosquitos around him, but figured that he was either drunk or asleep. Another witness reportedly saw another man, about 50 years old and dressed in a navy suit and a grey hat, who was standing at the top of the stairs leading to the beach, looking down at the seemingly unconscious individual. In 1959, more than a decade later, another witness came forward to claim that they and three others had seen a “well-dressed” man carrying another man on his shoulders along Somerton beach at about 10 PM the night before the body was found. On 14th January 1949, a brown suitcase with the luggage label removed was discovered by staff in the cloakroom at the Adelaide railway station. This suitcase had been checked in around 11 AM on 30th November 1948. Authorities believe, for several reasons, that this suitcase belonged to the unidentified man. In it was found a size 7 red-checkered dressing gown, a pair of well-worn red felt slippers, four pairs of underpants, a pair of pyjamas, a tartan-patterned scarf, two vests, a tie, a sports coat, two coat shirts; one yellow in colour, a pair of light brown trousers bearing the dry-cleaning marks 1171/7, 4393/7, and 3053/7; with sand in the cuffs and a single sixpence coin in the pocket, six handkerchiefs, a towel, a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, several shaving items, including a razor strop with “Kent St, Sydney” embossed in the leather, a jar of shoe polish, a length of wax thread, a lighter, a single brown button, a teaspoon, a glass dish, an electrician’s screwdriver, a table knife that had been cut down into a shorter sharp instrument, a pair of scissors with sharpened blades, a small square of zinc that was used as a sheath for the blades, a stencilling brush – the type used by third officers on merchant ships, three safety pins, a soap dish containing a lady’s hairpin, several pencils and unused stationery, nine envelopes, two air mail stickers, two coat hangers, another tie; this one reading “T. Keane”, a laundry bag reading “Keane”, and another vest; this one with a tag reading “Kean”. No one by the name of “T. Keane/Kean” was ever reported missing from any English-speaking country. Police believed that whoever removed the most of the tags from the deceased man’s clothes purposely left the tag on his vest, knowing that the man’s name was not T. Keane. They also believed, based on the decedent’s possessions, that he may have been employed as a station hand. The stitching on the suitcase revealed that it had been manufactured in the United States. Following the discovery of the suitcase, police checked train records. They believe that the man had boarded an overnight train to Adelaide station from either Melbourne, Sydney, or Port Augusta. He would’ve arrived in Adelaide between 8:30 and 10:30 AM. The police speculated that he then washed and shaved at the adjacent City Baths, a public swimming pool, before returning to the station and purchasing a ticket for the 10:50 AM train to Henley Beach, which he then either purposely missed or didn’t manage to catch. It is presumed that he boarded the bus to Somerton at 11:15 AM, after checking his suitcase in. He would’ve purchased this ticket somewhere between the railway station on North Terrace and the intersection of West Terrace and South Terrace. It is unknown where he was and what he was doing before he was next sighted on the beach 8 hours later. On 17th June 1949, the inquest into his death was carried out, and the body was re-examined. The pathologist noted that the man’s shoes were very clean for someone who had been walking around all day, indeed they looked as though they had been recently polished. This supported the theory that the man’s body was dumped on Somerton beach after death, which would account for the lack of any signs of vomiting and/or convulsions, the expected reactions to poisoning. It was noted, early on in the inquest, that if the man was poisoned, the poison was likely a glucoside and it was not administered accidentally. Whether the deceased himself or another party administered the poison could not be ascertained. Just before the inquest, a slip of paper reading “Tamám Shud” was found sewn into the deceased man’s fob pocket. “Tamám Shud” means “finished” or “ended” in Persian. This specific slip of paper is thought to have been cut out from a copy of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam. Following an appeal, the exact book that the slip had been torn from was located. The man who turned the book in to the police stated that someone had tossed it into the back seat of his car around the same time that the unidentified man’s body was found. Contemporary reports put the exact date at either a week or two before the body was found, or just after the body was found. Inside the back cover of the book, five lines of code were written. To this day, the code has not been deciphered. In 1978, a group of cryptographers studied the code, who concluded that the text could have simply been the “meaningless product” of a “disturbed mind” In the back of the book was the phone number of a bank, and a phone number belonging to one Jessica Ellen Thomson, a 27-year-old woman who lived around 400 metres north of where the man’s body was located. The police interviewed Thomson, who asserted that she knew nothing of the deceased man. When shown the plaster cast of the man’s face, she looked “completely taken aback, to the point of giving the appearance she was about to faint”, then averted her eyes and refused to take another look. It should be noted that though she told the police that she was a married nurse, she wasn’t legally married until 1950 and had not completed her final nursing exams due to a pregnancy. One thing she did state truthfully, however, was that she had owned a copy of the Rubáiyát, which she gave to an army lieutenant named Alfred Boxall in 1945. Boxall turned out not to be the unidentified man, he was found alive in Sydney in late July 1949 still in possession of his copy of the Rubáiyát, which was entirely intact. Thomson was interviewed again in 2002 by detective and author Gerry Feltus, who stated that she was acting evasive and seemed as though she didn’t wish to talk about this case. Both Feltus and Thomson’s own daughter believe that Thomson was perhaps not being truthful when she stated that she knew nothing of the decedent. It has been theorised over the years that perhaps Jessica Thomson’s son Robin, who was born in 1947 and died in 2009, could have been the biological child of the Somerton Man. Much like the Somerton Man, Robin Thomson’s cymba was larger than his cavum and he had hypodontia. The chance that this is a mere coincidence has been calculated as somewhere between one in 10,000,000 and one in 20,000,000, given the rarity of these features which are passed down by genetics. Reportedly, Jessica Thomson decided to take Robin to dance lessons in his youth, with him eventually becoming a professional ballet dancer. If you recall, the Somerton Man had features that suggested he too may have been a ballet dancer. DNA testing is likely the only method that can prove or disprove this theory, by comparing the DNA of the Somerton Man with Robin Thomson’s living biological daughter. Luckily enough, in October 2019, the Attorney General granted conditional approval to exhume the Somerton Man’s body, “provided the costs are met by those who apply”. Another popular theory is that perhaps he was a spy. His death coincided with the reorganisation of Australian security agencies, and two sites nearby to Adelaide would have been of particular interest to spies at this time. Several missing people have been ruled out as being this decedent. A list of these rule-outs will be in the description. Before I bring this video to a close, I would like to thank GrungeKid for suggesting that I cover this case. I admit, I was a tad hesitant at first, given its antiquity. If my voice sounds off, it’s because I’ve been ill recently, which is why this video has been delayed. Also, I have recently set up a Twitter account, on which I will be giving updates as to what videos I’m working on and when I’ll upload them. If you want to follow me on there, please, feel free. As always, if you believe you have any information that may aid in the identification of this decedent, you are urged to contact the above. Thank you very much for giving the case of the Somerton Man a moment of your day.

2 thoughts on “John Doe, “Somerton Man”, Glenelg, 1948”

  1. I must admit, I always found it a bit creepy that his post-mortem photographs were the ones that were so widely circulated and released to the public. I guess facial reconstruction and such was in its infancy back then.

    Thank you for covering this. Hopefully Mr Tamam Shud will get his name back one day. Or at the very least, we'll find out if he fathered a child with Jestyn. xx

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