New Mission: Carl Charles Webb.
There’s a scene in Sicario: Day of The Solodado where Josh Brolin realises a young girl he’s transporting has gone missing and he calls out his team of mercenaries to say that they have a new mission.
Same here with Carl Charles Webb, once known as The Somerton Man.
Webb was thought to have arrived in Adelaide in November 1948 carrying various tools in his suitcase that were perfectly suited for gaining entry to motor vehicles and starting them without using a key (see previous post).
He was later found to have had two tickets in his pocket that indicated that he had two destinations in mind after arriving, settling for Glenelg rather than Henley Beach.
At the time Prosper Thomson was using a Moseley Street Glenelg phone number in his business of buying and selling used cars and his girlfriend Jessica Harkness was living there with her young son, Robin, his father unknown. She had arrived in Adelaide from Melbourne pregnant the year Webb deserted his wife. They had also lived in Melbourne.
Webb deserted his wife Dorothy Jean (nee Robertson) in 1947 after a childless marriage lasting almost six years. She then moved to Bute in South Australia, a town 144 kilometres distant from Adelaide.
It is not known if Webb visited Bute before lodging his one suitcase at Adelaide Station on November 30th and buying the tickets to Henley Beach and Glenelg as no train tickets were found on his body, similarly, no lodging stub for his suitcase was found either.
Webb was found dead on Somerton Beach a short distance from the Moseley Street address the following morning and the only signs of violence found on the body was an abrasion between the knuckles of his right hand. Any identification he might have carried was removed.
Three medical witnesses called to the inquest were of the opinion that his death was not natural. The coroner could not say where he died. The two Persian words printed on a slip of paper found in his pocket took six months for the police to translate. The book it was torn from was handed in after the inquest was adjourned and it was found to have Prosper Thomson’s Moseley Street phone number written on the back cover together with series of lines of capital letters which have yet to be deciphered.
The labels on some of his clothes were noted by the coroner as being ‘carefully removed’, which may indicate they were bought second-hand from a clothes dealer who removed them prior to sale.
In the month before Webb deserted his wife, Prosper Thomson was advertising for a partner for an Adelaide used car business as well as placing several wanted ads for weapons (rifles).
In the month after Webb deserted his wife Thomson was advertising for a building suitable as a workshop.
The police were of the strong opinion that Webb was known to Prosper’s girlfriend, Jessica Harkness. Prosper Thomson was never interviewed by the police and as a result it is not known if he too knew Carl Webb.
As of yet no photographs of Carl Charles Webb have been unearthed other than the one taken of his body and none of his sizeable family is on record as having recognised him from his image reproduced in the many newspaper reports printed over the past seventy years.
Newspapers published in every city and major town in the country.
It is also noted that despite Webb being of a suitable age and having a very strong physique, there is no record of him as having any war service, unlike his brother Roy who died in a POW camp in ‘43.
Roy Webb’s Will was witnessed by his sister Freda KEANE and her husband Gerald Keane of East Brunswick, Victoria.
They are tearing their collective hair out over at Domes place like DA on Carls plaster doppelgänger looking for a death notice for “Doff Webb” and turning up squat diddly. Has anyone considered wether Doff may be still alive at a spritely 101? Lawsons still cuts decent figure and he’s 2 years older. Doubtful I guess but possible
Do we care? Personally, I’d rather look for a motive for murdering Webb. The blackmarket game in Adelaide wasn’t played on Mafia turf, besides, their method of disposal was a bullet in the head. So who had it in for him, how did they know he was coming and what was their gripe?
I agree. What value would a death notice for Doff web be to anyone. Ive no doubt she was young enough to have re married and had a family under a new married name.
As was the fashion at the time things like previous marriages were put in the vault and never discussed. Hence if any new contacts were to be revealed from a death notice such as living children I would wager that they would be totally shocked to hear Doff had a previous marriage.
That said as much as the odds are ridiculous a living, cerebral and willing to chat Doff , well that would be a worthwhile conversation.
Pete, the following suggests that Carl’s siblings thought (hoped?) that he was deceased by 1955.
The Argus 4th July 1955. page 12
SCOTT. — On July 3, at her residence, 9 Peterleigh Grove, Essendon, Gladys May, dearly beloved wife of Leslie William, loved sister of Dot (Mrs. Martin) and Freda.
Whist C Webb and J Harkness may not have a child in common they do share one frustrating similarity that just makes life that little more difficult. They can’t seem to decide on a consistent monicker.
In no particular order Jessica became Jestyn Jess and for reasons known only to her Jo whist C Webb has been listed in family notices as Charlie, Charles and signed Carl on his marriage certificate !! WTF
Here’s a curly idea to hoist up the flagpole (no pun intended) at least while we wait to see what turns up with the burrowers going hammer and tongs.
Carl separates from Doff in April 47 after a childless and un successful marriage he entered into at age 35. Despite being in excellent condition ,handsome and dapper no other wife relationships are apparent before or after and anything with Jess now less likely.
His marriage breaks down in April 47 It seems to be assumed that Carl moves out , Doff having claimed desertion in 1951 but who knows what went down.
Maybe Carl stayed in Bromby st.
Interesting that small ads for second hand cars bob up from 63 Bromby both before and after 47 however AFTER 47 same address but they now list “D George” as the contact.
We know Prosper went by George professionally. We know George lives in Melbourne in 47 and even after moving to SA later continues to travel to Melbourne in his car business.
Prosper and Jo’s marriage was described as loveless and in fact reportedly they slept in seperate rooms. It has been described as a marriage of convenience with Jess pregnant and un wed.
We know one theory raised in the early days by detectives when the suitcase showed up was that the owner may have been a homosexual apparently because the dressing gown and slippers were considered rather flamboyant for the day. Presumedly also the well groomed body and high calves which it was commented by detectives amongst other theory’s could have come from wearing high heals.
We know how difficult it was for same sex relationships in 1940s Australia. Some of these poor dudes were disowned by their own families and countless suicides.
We’ve got Carl having somehow not serving in WW2 despite being of age and in perfect physical condition.
He’s a ghost. No nieces and nephews, children of his older siblings remember uncle Charlie?
So was there another love story that’s been missed here along. Was there more to the relationship with George and Carl the lover of poetry and was Jess the unwed mother prepered to turn a blind eye . What was her realisation when she saw the bust and knew exactly who it was and maybe who was responsible. Just putting it out there.
Now, that boat floats!
When Prof. Abbott announced the identity as Carl Webb we got as you say, a ghost.
A black sheep, as far as his family were concerned. All contact broken, and name never mentioned again.
Jessica’s reaction when shown the plaster bust could well have been her shocked into connecting a lot of dots very quickly.
I think your scenario still works if there is no murder or suicide. A natural death, but no-one willing to explain the circumstances.
Was the Tamam Shud slip of paper placed into the fob pocket out of sorrow, regret or guilt?
the dude747, Well, I must say your theory is something I have never considered. Perhaps Dorothy wanted children, she was the ‘right’ age, but if Carl had eyes for the same sex only, it could well be the reason Carl was cranky etc. There was a 14 year age gap between them and, is it possible that Carl’s family may have ‘encouraged’ him to marry, even if they had some ideas of his sexual orientation?
Clive From what we can gather there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that is precisely the type of thing that went on back in the day. We’ve heard about young lads being sent off to treatment clinics and worse . Just get married and you’ll grow out of it. Homaphobia was the preferred attitude . Perhaps the family assumed Carl had just flown the coop for good so he could persue his evil desires and sickness so wrote him off. Once again I’m just sayin it may explain a bit
Perhaps Dorothy talked to Carl’s family and they simply shut him out of their lives? A kind of black sheep of the family etc. Thinking about Carl’s demise, I wonder if he had a falling out with Prosper over a job that Prosper asked him to do, The job didn’t work out and Prosper had to pay someone else to finish the job, or perhaps, it was about money?
Carl was 35 years old when he married the 21 year old Dorothy in 1941. He was 42 when he arrived in Adelaide as a single man and Jessica was 27. I’m seeing a pattern here, Clive, one that Prosper may not have welcomed.
Competition for Prosper, especially if Jessie was home alone?
….. and here’s Carl with what looked like evidence he landed at least one punch before everything went pear shaped and his ticker gave out.
And Jessie, looking aghast at the Moseley Street living room scene, telling Prosper to get rid of him?
I hate to say it, Clive, but this is looking more like a bloody soap opera.
Perhaps you’re not far off the mark, Pete. Was it simply a love triangle, 2 men & 1 woman, Prosper won, if that’s the correct word. No Fedosimov, Russians, Micro-writing, spies, etc., etc.
Clive, do we know when Jessica first moved into Moseley Street?
No, I don’t have a date. She did advertise using the Belair address on 5 Apr 1947 in “The Advertiser” Page 2 “Woman for washing, cleaning-no children”. Prosper’s last advert from Belair was on 26 Jul 1947, so did they both move back to Melbourne from Jul 1947-Late 1947? or, did they live somewhere else from Late Jul 1947-Oct 1947 in SA?
I’ve got PT advertising from Moseley St in July ‘47 ..
What newspaper/date? PT also advertised in “The Advertiser” 16 Apr 1947 Page 17 c/o 32 Grote St.
In 1947 there were quite a few car ads in “The Advertiser” for ‘All Cars” at 32 Grote St, TeL: C2229-Owners name not mentioned, perhaps PT had a share in this business?
Clive, what’s the chance of collecting all the ads Jessica placed when she was in Adelaide? She may have been unable to work full time with young Robin …
Well, apart from Jessie’s ad on the 5 April 1947, All the other ads were placed by PT, either as Thomson or McTaggart. However, I did see one ad for I think, “nursery nurse for a young child” I always remember this ad as, it stated the applicant had to contact/speak to Mr Thomson, which I think, and still do, rather strange if it was supposed to be for a nurse to look after Robin, surely Jessie would have interviewed the job seeker? I’ve searched high and low for this ad, but can’t find it, aargh!
Thanks Clive, appreciated.
“The Advertiser” 11 Dec 1948 Page 16: For sale: ‘Oak table with 4 chairs and Child’s playground”. Mrs Thomson, 90a Moseley St, Glenelg. No contact number given
How can that be? Ten days after Webb was found dead just down the road, thought to have been carried there from 90a by some, and here she is flogging furniture in the classifieds.
Perhaps Carl damaged the table?! The odd thing about the advert is why no phone number? All any interested buyer had to do was to look in the phone book for a Thomson at that address. And why not give an indication when she would be at home?