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.
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.