Cold case investigators exhume body of mysterious stranger who washed up on Australian beach 70 years ago

Cold case investigators exhume body of mysterious stranger who washed up on Australian beach 70 years ago
Experts hope to retrieve DNA that could help answer decades-old questions

Australian police have exhumed the remains of a mysterious stranger who washed up on a beach in Adelaide more than 70 years ago, in a new bid to identify him.

The so-called “Somerton man” was found dead on 1 December 1948 with no identifying documents, and the circumstances of his demise remain unexplained.

He was, however, carrying a cryptic note bearing the Farsi words Tamam Shud, meaning “it is finished”. He also had a book of poems by the Persian writer Omar Khayyam and a suitcase carrying clothes with the labels removed.

Amateur sleuths have proposed numerous hypotheses to explain his origins, including that he was a Cold War secret agent, or perhaps a spurned lover.

South Australia’s attorney general approved his exhumation, which took place on Wednesday at West Terrace cemetery. In a statement, Vickie Chapman said: “For more than 70 years people have speculated who this man was and how he died.

“It’s an story that has captured the imagination of people across the state, and, indeed, across the world – but I believe that, finally, we may uncover some answers.”

Investigators from South Australia Police’s cold case team hope that DNA techniques will help solve the decades-old questions surrounding the man.

Detective Superintendent Des Bray said: “If a DNA profile can be obtained, and subject the amount and quality of the DNA a forensic case meeting will be held to formulate the most appropriate DNA strategy which will then require considerable investigation work to have any chance of identifying the man or where he originated from.”

However, Dr Anne Coxon, one of the state’s top forensic scientists, warned that retrieving intact genetic information could prove difficult.

She told ABC: “The fact that the remains have also been embalmed adds another complication, and that’s because the embalming fluid can break down the DNA.”

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