somerton man | 

Suspected cold war spy unidentified since 1948 could be Irish man

The man mysteriously died almost 70 years ago
A digital image of what Somerton Man looked like during life

A digital image of what Somerton Man looked like during life

The code found written in the book

The code found written in the book

Tamam Shud

Tamam Shud

Clodagh MeaneySunday World

An unidentified man who died in mysterious circumstances on a beach near Adelaide, Australia almost 70 years ago could have Irish links.

‘Somerton Man’, as he is known, has long been suspected of being a cold war spy after a coded message was found among his belongings.

But now, Professor Derek Abbott from the University of Adelaide who has been a researcher on the case since 2009 says that he believes that the dead man could be Irish.

"It's very possible there's some Irish blood in there," he told ABC Australia.

Not only did he have flecks of ginger hair, but many of his belongings were inscribed with the name ‘Keane’.

"It was spelt K-E-A-N-E on all the items except for one — one had the 'E' missed off the end," Professor Abbott said.

"But there was a little note in the inquest saying that, possibly, that E had faded as that item had been laundered."

Keane is an Irish surname and remains common throughout Ireland and in countries where Irish people have settled, such as Australia.

If the Somerton Man’s surname was Keane, Professor Abbott believes he could have been an Australian of Irish descent who had travelled to Adelaide from another area.

"I've been looking at different Keane families throughout Australia and looking at if I can construct their family trees and seeing if I can find a missing Keane — but no luck to report as yet,” he explained.

"It's possible he is a Keane or connected to a Keane family in some way — or it could just be a random find: he's picked up some clothes in a second-hand shop."

The man was found dead on Somerton Park Beach in Adelaide on the morning of December 1st 1948.

He was lying on his back with his head resting against the sea wall and it is believed the man died while asleep.

Somerton Man was dressed in a suit, and there were no obvious signs of injury.

Tamam Shud

Tamam Shud

The cause of death could not be determined, with authorities branding it an “unparalleled mystery”.

The coroner noted that he had strong, muscular legs, like that of a dancer.

A search of his pockets found various items including cigarettes, matches, a comb and an unused second-class rail ticket from Adelaide to Henley Beach.

Six weeks later, staff at the Adelaide railway station discovered a brown suitcase that was checked into the station cloakroom on 30 November 1948, just one day before the man’s death.

It was confirmed to be his and in the case, authorities found the clothing marked with the name ‘Keane’.

Months after his death, a small rolled-up piece of paper with the words ‘Tamám Shud’ was found in a pocket sewn into his trousers. The text, which means “ended” or “finished” in Persian is included on the final page of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

The code found written in the book

The code found written in the book

After a public appeal, the exact book in which the phrase was torn from was found.

The book had been found not far from the location of the man’s body in an unlocked car parked nearby.

In the back of the book, a coded message was found, fuelling a theory that the man was a spy.

While cryptographers said that they could not provide "a satisfactory answer" to what the code meant, they added that if the text were an encrypted message it had "insufficient symbols" from which a clear meaning couldn’t be established.

They further said that the code could be "meaningless" or the "product of a disturbed mind”.

“I don't think there's compelling evidence [to say he was a spy], just these scattered circumstantial things that can be explained in different ways," Professor Abbott said.

Author of ‘The Unknown Man’ and Retired Detective Gerry Feltus added: "A lot of people were hanging their hats on the fact that it was a good line to look at, simply because of what was termed a 'code'.”

"From there, the spy theory started to develop because no one could work out… these lines of letters.

"The climate in that time 1948 was at the end of the Second World War, and Russia was coming to the fore."

"You know how I answer the question, 'Was he a spy?' I get a coin, and I flip it up in the air," he said.

The man’s body was exhumed last May and taken to a forensic lab in the hope of obtaining DNA to carry out testing to identify him.

However, there has been no further update on the case from the Major Crime Investigation Branch.

"Police will provide further comment when results from the testing are received,” they said.

The case has been compared to that of Peter Bergmann, an unidentified man who was found dead on a beach in Sligo in 2009.

Despite extensive investigations, the man who went under the pseudonym has never been identified.


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