Murders, rapes and more cases like the Somerton Man could be solved with more use of genetic genealogy technology, expert says
, 2022-07-27 15:09:45,
Hundreds more mysterious cases like that of the Somerton Man — along with murders and rapes — could be solved if Australian police forces more commonly combined forensic DNA results with ancestry databases, an expert says.
- The Somerton Man case has been an enigma since his body was found on an Adelaide beach in 1948
- Researchers say they have identified him by comparing a strand of hair with DNA samples shared on ancestry websites
- An academic says the same technique could be used much more widely in Australia to solve crimes
University of Newcastle forensic anthropologist and criminologist Xanthe Mallett says Australian police forces have been slow to embrace genetic genealogy technology, unlike in the United States, where the case of the Golden State Killer highlighted its potential back in 2018.
In the Somerton Man case, University of Adelaide professor Derek Abbott and American genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick compared DNA from hair without a root stuck in a plaster bust of the unnamed man’s head with samples uploaded by millions of people around the world in online databases used to create family trees.
On Tuesday, they announced that they had identified the body of the man found on an Adelaide beach in 1948 as Carl “Charles” Webb, although the match still has to be formally confirmed by South Australia’s coroner.
The pair connected DNA from the hair sample with a distant cousin in Victoria and then built out a family tree to find Mr Webb, whose date of death had never been identified.
This case had baffled police and online sleuths and was extra intriguing because of details like a slip of paper with the words “Tamam Shud” that was found on him, and a code later found in a book the paper had been torn from.
It is still not known how the Somerton Man died nor if anyone else was involved.
Call to follow US lead in comparing DNA
Police generally compare DNA they find at crime scenes with samples from parents, children or siblings — if victims or perpetrators have them — to solve crimes and identify bodies.
The Australian Federal Police said earlier this year that it would go ahead with using genetic genealogy techniques to identify bodies but not yet to solve crimes.
It can use information from the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database that is made of samples from convicted criminals,…
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