, 2022-07-26 04:46:00,
Derek Abbott, from the University of Adelaide, says the body of a man found on one of the city’s beaches in 1948 belonged to Carl “Charles” Webb, an electrical engineer and instrument maker born in Melbourne in 1905.
South Australia Police and Forensic Science South Australia have not verified the findings of Abbott, who worked with renowned American genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick to identify Webb as the Somerton man.
Forensic Science SA declined to comment and referred CNN to SA Police, who said there were no updates and that police would provide further comment “when results from the testing are received.”
Using DNA sequencing, Abbott says he and Fitzpatrick were able to locate the final piece of a puzzle that has captivated historians, amateur sleuths, and conspiracy theorists for more than 70 years.
Last May, South Australia police responded to Abbott’s calls to exhume the Somerton man’s body and experts at Forensic Science SA started work to try to find the best way to analyze his DNA.
But in the end, Abbott, a professor in the Adelaide University School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, claims it was strands of the man’s hair trapped in a plaster “death” mask made by police in the late 1940s that provided him with what he says is proof of the man’s identity.
Police gave Abbott strands of the hair a decade ago as he continued what had become a personal quest to solve the Somerton man mystery. The hair was examined for years by a team of DNA experts at the University of Adelaide, who provided the DNA information that allowed Abbott and Fitzpatrick to further narrow the field.
By March, Abbott said he had already established Webb’s name through years of painstaking work with Fitzpatrick to build a complex family tree of around 4,000 names that led to Webb, whose date of death had not been recorded.
“By filling out this tree, we managed to find a first cousin three times removed on his mother’s side,” said Abbott. And on July 23, they matched DNA obtained from the hair to DNA tests taken by Webb’s distant relatives.
“It’s like one of these folklore mysteries that everybody wants to solve and we did it,” said Fitzpatrick, who has investigated other cold cases including the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in 1937 and the 1948 crash of Northwest Flight 4422.
“It just felt like I climbed and I was at the top of Mount Everest,” said Abbott of the moment they made the apparent DNA match.
While the discovery appears to close the file on the Somerton man…
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