Derek Abbott’s research into Somerton Man’s identity rules out link to wife Rachel Egan, but uncovers new coincidence – Michmutters

Derek Abbott’s research into Somerton Man’s identity rules out link to wife Rachel Egan, but uncovers new coincidence

A coincidental link between the Somerton Man and the professor who claims to have uncovered his identity has emerged, as previously held theories are debunked.

Adelaide researcher Derek Abbott has been working on the Somerton Man case — one of Australia’s longest-running mysteries — for decades.

Last week he announced DNA and forensic genealogy had unearthed the unidentified man found slumped on an Adelaide beach in December 1948 as Carl “Charles” Webb, a 43-year-old Victorian electrical engineer and instrument maker.

In making the breakthrough, Professor Abbott has also ruled out his own theory: that his wife was the man’s granddaughter.

Decades of research has created deeply personal links for Professor Abbott, who met his now wife, Rachel Egan, through his investigations.

a man and a woman stand holding hands in a graveyard.  The woman is holding flowers
Rachel Egan and Derek Abbott at the grave of Somerton Man.(Australian Story: Ben Cheshire )

Professor Abbott wrote to Ms Egan, asking to meet after discovering she shared multiple links with the Somerton Man.

In addition to her biological grandmother’s phone number being found among the Somerton Man’s possessions, Professor Abbott also found her biological father shared two rare genetic anomalies with the man.

The pair quickly fell in love, married and went on to have three children.

But the link that brought them together has now been ruled out.

“We’ve also been able to now eliminate suspected possibilities in the past … including the one that my wife is related to the Somerton Man,” Professor Abbott told the ABC last week.

“[We] can totally rule that out now, her DNA does not match at all.”

The body of the unknown man found on the beach at Somerton.
The unknown man was found at an Adelaide beach in 1948.(Supplied: Derek Abbott)

But in a bizarre twist, another link between the family has been discovered.

Professor Abbott and Charles Webb share the same occupation of electrical engineers.

“That’s a coincidence, there’s lots of coincidences,” Professor Abbott said.

Typed writing in a column on a newspaper page
The public notice published in The Age newspaper on October 5, 1951. (Source: Trove)

In 1951, Mr Webb’s wife Dorothy Jean Webb put a public notice in The Age newspaper in Melbourne, publicizing that she had started divorce proceedings against her husband on the ground of “desertion”.

“Unless you enter an appearance in the Prothonotary’s Office of the Supreme Court of Melbourne on or before the 29th day of October, 1951 the case may proceed in your absence and you may be ordered to pay costs,” the ad states.

Their marriage certificate shows that Carl Webb and Dorothy Jean Robertson were married on October 4, 1941 at St Matthews in Prahran.

At the time, Mr Webb was 35 years old and his wife 21.

According to the certificate, the couple lived on Domain Road in South Yarra.

A small excavator in Adelaide's West Terrace cemetery.
An excavator in Adelaide’s West Terrace cemetery works on the exhumation of the Somerton Man’s remains in May last year.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

Professor Abbott’s research into the case has been conducted separately from a police investigation, which included an exhumation last year with the Somerton Man’s remains taken from an Adelaide grave to a Forensic Science SA lab in the hope of harvesting DNA.

In a statement on Wednesday, SA Police said they were still “actively investigating” the coronial matter.

“We are heartened of the recent development in that case, and are cautiously optimistic that this may provide a breakthrough,” it said.

“We look forward to the outcome of further DNA work to confirm the identification which will ultimately be determined by the coroner.”

Professor Abbott said he will continue to “take an interest” in the case, as more questions needed to be answered about the man’s life and death.

“It’s not the end of the story by any means,” he said.

“Finding his name is really just the beginning of the story because now we’ve got to find out more about this man and his history and what he was doing and fill in all the gaps.”


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