Australian Story: Sept 6

Was he murdered... was he a Russian spy? Who was Adelaide's 'Somerton Man' in 1948?

Monday’s Australian Story looks at the unsolved death of Adelaide’s ‘Somerton Man’ in 1948.

This episode is introduced by ABC journalist Fiona-Ellis Jones.

“It’s one of the most incredibly interesting unsolved cases in our state’s history.” Vickie Chapman, SA Attorney General.

More than 70 years after an unidentified body was found on an Adelaide beach, a solution may be in sight to the long running mystery of the “Somerton Man” case.

South Australian Attorney General Vickie Chapman oversaw the decision to exhume Somerton Man’s remains in May from an Adelaide cemetery, in the hope that modern DNA testing may finally reveal the mystery of his identity.

“This is a breakthrough that the Attorney General wants solved,” says Professor Derek Abbott, an Adelaide University academic who has become one of the world’s leading experts on the case.

“I’ve been working and studying this case since about 2007. There’s so many strange things about it that nothing about it ever surprises me anymore.”

On the first of December 1948, two young jockeys exercising their horses found the body of a well-dressed man on Somerton Beach in Adelaide.

Police assumed that somebody would soon come forward to identify the body, but nobody ever did.

The case has since become famous as one of Australia’s most baffling unsolved mysteries.

Bloggers and amateur sleuths around the world have posted their own theories about who the man is, why he was on the beach, and how he died.

Was he murdered? Was he a Russian spy? Was it suicide? Or was he the victim of a love triangle?

DNA testing may finally unearth the truth.

“I would be very confident that after 70 years, we would likely be able to recover some DNA from the body,” says Associate Professor Jodie Ward, a DNA expert who works with both NSW Health Pathology and UTS.

“I would like to see this case resolved, as I would all of our unresolved, unidentified remains cases in Australia.”

Viewers interested in learning more about the case can tune into the ABC Somerton Man podcast, available now.

Airs Monday September 6 on ABC.

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