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ABC News reports that Adelaide University researcher Derek Abbott has cracked the Tamam Shud case wide open after discovering the identity of the man left on Adelaide’s Somerton beach 73 years ago.
After the man’s body was discovered in 1948, investigators found a scrap of paper in his pocket with the Persian phrase ‘Tamam Shud’, meaning ‘is over’ or ‘is finished’.
The mystery has stumped police for decades and has even sparked some wild theories about espionage, codes and teeth; just to name a few.
But last year, South Australia Police responded to Abbott’s request to exhume the man’s remains, leading him to work on his own independent case while trying to find the best way to analyse the DNA.
Finally, Abbott got a breakthrough in the cold case after observing strands of the man’s hair trapped inside a plaster ‘death’ mask made by police in the 1940s.
Abbott was able ‘to build out a family tree containing over 4,000 people’ through GEDmatch, a genealogical research site, according to The New York Times.
He also enlisted the help of US investigator Colleen Fitzpatrick to narrow down the search.
In March this year, they landed on Webb, who raised suspicion after discovering he ‘had no death record’.
“You find out who some of them are, you play with their details — it’s like Sudoku,” Dr Fitzpatrick said.
“You try and find the top match.”
Webb was a 43-year-old Melbourne engineer and instrument maker, born in Victoria in 1905.
However, they still needed to work with the evidence to confidently confirm the man’s identity.
Last week, they matched DNA with a distant relative traced through the man's maternal lineage, leading to a living relative who was compatible.
Dr Fitzpatrick said: “You really kind of narrow it down so much it could be any one of Carl’s siblings — but Carl is the one with no documented death.”
While researchers say this has given them a break in the case, many questions still loom, like the cause of death and how Webb ended up on Somerton beach.
"Now there's the historical work of actually digging further and finding out about the man's life and his circumstances and what might have exactly led to this particular situation," Dr Abbott said.
"So there's still work to do."
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