The Somerton Man or the Taman Shud Case

This case is considered one of the most mysterious in the history of forensic science. There is a lot of speculation about the identity of the deceased and the factors that led to his death. Despite the remoteness of the events, public interest in this incident remains very significant due to a number of confusing details of the case. In addition, for more than half a century, the investigation has not succeeded in either establishing the identity of the deceased, or precisely determining the method of killing him. Well, first things first ...

In 1948, the body of an unknown man was found on a beach in Adelaide, who died under unknown circumstances. This case still remains one of the most mysterious in the history of Australia.

On the evening of November 30, 1948, a man named John Lyons was walking along Somerton Beach in the Australian city of Adelaide with his wife. When the couple were next to a boarding school for disabled children, Lyons noticed a man lying with his feet to the sea a meter from the stairs leading to the breaker wall. A passer-by noticed that the man made a movement with his right hand, as if trying to light a cigarette. The couple thought he was drunk and walked by. Half an hour later, another young couple walked along the boardwalk at the top of the wall and stopped at a bench next to the stairs. The girl saw the man's left hand on the sand and wanted to see what was wrong with him, but the young man stopped her. For half an hour that the couple spent on the bench, the lying person did not move and did not react to the mosquitoes circling around him, from which the lovers concluded that he was sleeping.

Lyons returned to the beach early in the morning for a swim with friends. The man was still lying against the wall in the same position in which he had been seen the night before. Deciding that he was dead, Lyons ran home and called the police. A constable who arrived at the scene examined the body for signs of violence or injury, but found nothing. The deceased was well dressed, with his left arm lying along his torso and his right arm bent.

The body was taken to a local hospital by ambulance. Doctors established that the death of the man occurred at about two in the morning on December 1, after which the corpse was sent to the morgue. It was assumed that soon there will be people who will be able to identify the deceased.

An autopsy was performed two days later. Pathologists assumed that the life of the unknown was cut off for natural reasons, but they could not be established - the man was in excellent physical shape. He was about 45 years old and had no scars or other markings on his body. The stomach filled with blood gave rise to the version of poisoning, but there were no traces of poison in the blood and organs of the man.

In the pockets of the deceased's clothes, police found an unused train ticket to Henley Beach, a half-empty pack of gum, a narrow aluminum comb, a pack of Army Club cigarettes containing Kensitas cigarettes, a half-empty box of matches, and a used bus ticket to Glenelg. The man did not have a wallet, and all the labels from his clothes were cut off, which greatly complicated the identification of the body. The growing mystery of this case has attracted the attention of the press. Photos and fingerprints of the unknown were circulating throughout Australia and New Zealand, but no one recognized the man as an acquaintance.

In mid-January 1949, an abandoned suitcase without a tag was found in a locker at the Adelaide station, which was handed over on November 30. Inside was a red robe, slippers, underwear, pajamas, trousers, a shaving kit, and a screwdriver. The size of the garment was the same as that of the "Somerton Man, " and there was no label on any item. The suitcase also contained a screen-printing brush, a sharpened knife, and sharpened scissors - tools used by the third mates responsible for marking cargo on merchant ships. By the pattern of the stitching on the man's coat, it was safe to say that it was made in the USA.

The only clue for the police was a dry-cleaner's mark and T. Keene's name on three pieces of clothing. But this information could not help the investigation in any way, as if the culprit of the death of the unknown was aware that this information would not make it possible to establish the identity of the deceased. Crowds of people came to look at the embalmed body, claiming that they knew his face, but this was just a manifestation of curiosity.

In April, Professor John Burton Cleland took another close look at the clothes and body of the "Somerton Man." He found in a secret pocket, sewn into a regular pocket of his trousers, a rolled up strip of paper, on which was two words: "Tamam Shud" (Tamam Shud). With the help of specialists, the police determined that these were the last words from the Rubayat collection by the 11th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam, meaning “finished” or “completed”. The work containing this expression says that you need to live life to the fullest and not regret what you have done when it comes to an end.

The strange find gave a new twist to the investigation - now the police were looking for a copy of "Rubayat", which would not have the last page. Since the Australian press widely covered the progress of the case, the owner of the coveted book was soon found - it turned out to be a doctor from Glenelg. He told the investigation that he had found the book in the front seat of his car parked next to his house on November 30, 1948, but he had not previously attached much importance to this. A piece had been torn from the last page of his copy of the Rubayat. Despite the fact that the found piece of paper was neatly cut off at the edges, the examination established that it was taken from this particular volume.

On the back of the book, detectives found faint pencil marks. They consisted of five lines written in a column of capital letters, the second of which was crossed out. Nobody succeeded in unraveling this cipher. In addition to the lettering on the back, the phone number of a former nurse from Glenelg who lived near the place where the body was found was recorded.

She asked not to disclose her name to the public, so in the case materials she was held under the pseudonym Jestine. The woman denied any connection with the deceased and was unable to identify the "Somerton man" by a plaster copy of his head and shoulder girdle, made before the burial of the corpse in West Terrace Cemetery. However, Jestine admitted that the Rubayata specimen dropped by the doctor belonged to her until she gave it to a lieutenant named Alfred Boxall in 1945. The police version that the deceased is the same lieutenant received a refutation after he was found alive. Moreover, Boxall still had a copy of Rubayata, and the last page was intact.

Since the body was found during the Cold War and the blockade of West Berlin by the USSR, the investigation had a version that the unknown was a Soviet spy. This assumption was supported by the fact that one of the largest land-based guided missile ranges was built near the city of Voomera, located in South Australia.

Over the decades that have passed since the discovery of the body of the "man from Somerton, " attempts have been made to link his death to several other mysterious murders, but none of these assumptions has been documented.

Jestine died in 2007, but her real name remains one of the most compelling leads in the investigation into the death of an unknown man. In November 2013, the alleged daughter of Justine Keith Thompson, on the American television show 60 Minutes, revealed that her mother, whose real name was Jessica Powell (after marriage, took the last name of Prosper Thompson's husband), was a Soviet spy. It was she who could be the real killer of the "Somerton man" who, with a high probability, was also an agent of the USSR. According to Kate Thompson, her mother lied during interrogation, because in fact she knew the unknown, but did not want the police to find out about it. From another man, Jessica had a son, Robin, who was involved in the case under the pseudonym Leslie. He died in 2009, and his widow Roma Egan and daughter Rachel are sure that Robin's father was unknown. This is indirectly indicated by the coincidence of the structure of the auricle of the unidentified deceased and Robin, which occurs only in 1–2% of the Caucasian race. Modern technology can resolve this issue through DNA analysis, but for this, the body of the "man from Somerton" will have to be exhumed, which requires permission from the authorities.

To date, the Tamam Shud case remains unresolved. It is not known for certain who the deceased man was and how he died, whether he committed suicide or was killed, what could have caused him to commit suicide, whether he was poisoned with poison and, if so, how, and, finally, why so much effort was made to keep him anonymous. A copy of "Rubayat" with a torn page was lost back in the 1960s, and in 1986 the investigation got rid of the suitcase and all its contents, considering this evidence to be of no interest to the investigation. The police file was also destroyed.

In the fall of 2011, South Australia's chief attorney, John Rau, denied the exhumation, saying it required "a public interest based on more than curiosity or broad scientific interest."