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The Somerton Body Case – where are we?

The only difference between what we’ve known for seventy-four years and what we know now is the Somerton Man was Carl Webb, a Victorian gentleman of suburban means who had a standard education, played football, liked a bet on the ponies and was one of a large family. He deserted his wife in 1947 – leaving her childless – and managed to avoid war service possibly due to owning an exemption by having a trade ticket as a electrical fitter / instrument maker.

Webb was found to be packing some of his nephew’s clothes and he unusually repaired his own with a heavy-duty wax thread. He wrote letters but if he ever received responses he didn’t keep them. It is said he enjoyed poetry, had a sullen disposition and would sulk even in his mature years. He dressed well for the times including a pullover despite the season, though Professor Derek Abbott insisted he wore a cardigan when found, an item of apparel he went on to say indicated Webb was of a better social class than most.  Webb kept his over-large un-calloused hands clean, fingernails free of dirt and shoes highly polished. His physique was described as remarkable, having broad shoulders, a deep chest and highly developed thigh and calf muscles. He was also missing eighteen teeth. An examination of his remaining ivory showed they had no signs of having had to support dentures. The diet he pursued to achieve such an impressive physique despite only having half the teeth he was born with has yet to be determined.

Carl Webb is suspected to have been the owner of the Freeman Rubaiyat as part of its back page was found rolled up and tucked away in his fob pocket. The code written on the back cover was at one time thought to be evidence of his involvement in espionage however the failure of a succession of experts to decipher said code has now convinced many that it is an acrostic of unknown origin. The years-long online insistence by Gordon Cramer that the code was an example of steganography, ie; hidden micro-writing within the code has been proved to be a theory born of a flight of his own paerodolic imagination and it is no longer taken seriously, though he perseveres with it. Cramer’s current position is that Webb could have been a spy schooled in steganographic techniques whilst working his trade in a protected and secret industry connected to weapons making.

When Pigs Fly

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Latterly we have been led to believe the code is some kind of tipster sheet, though it would surprise many if the progenitor of this awkward proposition, Professor Derek Abbott, has ever wagered a dollar on a horse other than buying a sweep ticket in the race that stops the nation – The Melbourne Cup.

So, all up this Webb fellow looks pretty much run of the mill stuff as far as middle-aged Australians go in 1948, yet many have been convinced he had the literary sophistication to not only know what the Persian Tamam Shud meant, he also had the ability to carefully plan the circumstances of his own demise by disposing of the book it was torn from in a car which fortunately happened to be parked with its back window open near to where he was found dead and only hours after he enjoyed a relaxed supper wherein he apparently made short work of a vegetable pasty, and, encouragingly for the investigating police, the book had two telephone numbers written on the back according to detective Brown, one that partly furthered their investigations, the other they disregarded as not worth following up, this despite Professor Derek Abbott’s insistence that the second phone number was in fact a bank account number and is urging his followers to chase it down.

As an aside, this unsecured car scenario might test those theorists who believe Adelaide was a mecca for (car) thieves at the time, particularly as some believe Webb’s missing wallet and money were lifted from his corpse by an opportunist who happened to be passing by.

The witness who came forward in 1959 to say he saw a man carrying a man along the beach on the night before Webb’s body was discovered has been discounted by Professor Derek Abbott as fanciful, his opinion being that a man’s memory is too capricious to be taken as an accurate repository of past events. This statement is known to have irked ex-detective Gerry Feltus who found the witness ‘reliable.’

The fact that PC Moss is on record as saying it was not possible for Webb to light the half-smoked cigarette found wedged under his chin has also been discounted by Professor Derek Abbott, who thinks Moss missed finding a box of matches in his search of the body despite him finding the much smaller and flatter train and bus tickets in a trouser pocket.

Interest in the Somerton Body case has been kept alive for years courtesy of the original work undertaken by Professor Derek Abbott’s diligent UoA students and was enlivened in 2010 by his sudden proposal of marriage to a woman only one day after they met and who he believed at first glance to be Carl Webb’s granddaughter. This ancestral bonding theory is now considered moribund given the results of a recent DNA investigation and is a matter Professor Derek Abbott no longer wishes to either discuss or pursue.




10 Comments Post a comment
  1. thedude747 #

    Let’s not forget that Prosper was , during this particular period in time, advertising his services as an all purposes driver for hire with vehicle in small adds under x3239.
    He was fined for his flea cab weeks before Carl arrives in Adelaide. So it safe to say PT was engaged in driving randoms around SA for cash during the time of Carls ill fated visit to Adelaide.

    So just imagine how cranky GC and the conspiracy/SPY/CPA/ illegitimate father theorists would be if it was as simple as this.

    Carl has business in Adelaide and needs transport. He jots down the number x3239 out of a small add in the advertiser in his little poetry book. and there’s the Mosley st connection. NO Jestyn , No micro writing , NO Robyns baby daddy , NO CPA association ……….. Carl just needed a driver.

    True the small adds for driver don’t appear in the days close to Nov 30 BUT he could have either got in from a previous visit and jotted it down in his pocket size ROK he liked to carry or been given it by an associate who had visited SA recently used PTs services on a previous visit.

    September 13, 2022
  2. cattledoggirl #

    Very plausible, Dude747. But it deprives our Pete of an opportunity to mix fact with flights of fancy, the kind of creative activity that suits his literary style. But there should be other avenues to explore even if your hypothetical scenario happens to be the true one (an elusive issue).

    September 14, 2022
  3. dude47 #

    Flight of fancy; PT takes a call from Carl who had PTs number as a reliable driver off the books with car for hire and arranges to pick him up.

    They spend the afternoon carrying out various errands/visits/ chasing leads on Doff whatever. They get along ok and late in the arvo Carl advises he’s getting peckish and feels a little wiped out. Being down Glenelg way PT takes Carl to Wenzels on Jetty rd who he promisees do a decent pasty.

    After a bite to eat Carls starting to feel a bit off due to his various well documented health issues and unexpectedly expires or , looks like he’s about to , right there in PTs unlicensed passenger car.

    PT , who was only in front of a magistrate and convicted in August for his unlicensed driving scam, panics. He drives to 90 A Mosley st runs in to Jess in a frenzy hoping Jess’s with her nursing skills may be able revive Carl but alas she pronounces him dead in right there in the car parked at the Mosley st maisonette.

    Over the next few hours they go through all the scenarios about reporting him dead in his unlicensed cab and the trouble and attention from the plods this potentially brings to PT in general. The last thing PT needs is another conviction so close to the previous one and or worse the unwanted questions about Carl, would they point the finger at him? how did this guy get your number? what exactly do you do for a living?
    Eventually they decide to strip him of any identifiers that may lead them back to PT and wait till nightfall when PT dumps him down at the beach tossing out the book on the way back to Mosley.
    They justify it by thinking that they did all they could for Carl and its not their fault the poor bloke died. There’s the slip to account for and Ive some ideas there but maybe go there later.

    September 14, 2022
    • em #

      @dude , sounds about and fits with all we know.

      September 26, 2022
  4. Clive #

    dude47, Good scenario of what could have actually happened, just Carl & the two at 90a involved. As you mention, the slip of paper is something else, perhaps Carl used it as a means of i.d. when he met Prosper? Jessie had the book, gave it to Prosper, after tearing out the slip, and dumped the book into the car after all was done and dusted.

    September 14, 2022
  5. dude47 #

    The use of the slip and book between the two parties an identifier is a possibility for sure.
    In the above scenario you’ve also got the possibility of Jess sticking it in his pocket before laying him to rest as some kind of symbolic gesture. Slipping the words meaning “is finished” into his pocket kinda sounds like her style , like her gifting the ROK to Boxall as a parting gift.

    September 14, 2022
    • That makes sense, she was familiar with the Rubiayat after all.

      September 14, 2022
  6. Clive #

    dude47, Jessie placing the slip into Carl’s pocket, would, I imagine be something she would relish doing, if only to confuse any investigation once found.

    September 14, 2022
  7. dude47 #

    My thoughts exactly Clive.

    September 14, 2022
  8. Steve H #

    Your old mate John Sanders came up with a theory a while back that Doff, the Keanes and Doff’s second cousin Dr John Barkly Bennett conspired with or without Carl’s consent to do away with the latter and then have the murder/assisted suicide covered up via a peremptory first examination of the body and a misleading time of death provided by Dr Bennett. The Colonel stated that Doff’s father and Bennett’s father, who were cousins, met at Gallipoli and this indeed appears to be true from bios on WikiTree.

    I thought this might be a tad far-fetched but I did a little research myself and came up with a very interesting find which could link the Thomsons into this scenario. Dr Bennett married one Nan (Nadine) Sparrow, a nurse, in 1950. Guess where Nan lived with her parents before the marriage. In fact she lived at 105 Moseley Street, Glenelg. A quick look on Google Maps will show you that 105 Moseley Street is DIRECTLY opposite 90a Moseley Street. What a strange coincidence.

    As a nice little extra factoid Nan as a child was friends with Don Dunstan, future premier of SA, and his uncle and aunt lived just up the road in Moseley Street, Glenelg – indeed they held a pre wedding party for the couple. From the Adelaide News of 9 Feb 1950: “70 guests at buffet Dr. John Bennett, of Fullarton, and his fiancee, Miss Nadine Sparrow, of Glenelg, will be guests at a pre-wedding party tonight given by Mrs. Howard Dunstan at her Glenelg home, They will be married in St. Peter’s College Chapel on Saturday week. Most of the guests will be university and medical friends of the bridegroom and old Woodlands [her school] and nursing friends of the bride-to-be. Miss Sparrow trained at Royal Adelaide Hospital. Mrs. Dunstan has invited 70 to her 6.30 p.m. party, which will begin with buffet tea. Reception rooms will be decorated with large cream urns filled with pastel hydrangeas roses, and dahlias.”

    One wonders if Jo Thomson was invited to this happy gathering?

    Mrs Dunstan gave bridge parties at her home as well. For example from the ’tiser 12 Nov 1942: “A bridge party will be held at 2 p.m., on Wednesday at the home of Mrs. Howard Dunstan, Moseley street, Glenelg, the proceeds being for the work stall at the Children’s Hospital fete on November 28. Donations for the trading table will be welcome.”. As we know Carl Webb was a bridge fan, answering correctly several bridge puzzles in the Melbourne Argus in 1937 whilst he was living in Springvale. Just saying!

    September 14, 2022

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