On the 12th of December 1948 on the beach in Somerton, Australia a man’s body propped up next to a wall was found by two men. No one seems to know how he got there or who he was. As we will find out answering these seemingly simple questions will prove to be an impossible mystery.
When the body was found investigators were puzzled to find out that the man had no form of identification on him but he didn’t seem to be robbed an even stranger, all the tags on his clothes were torn off. To make things just another step even odder when the coroner performed an autopsy they couldn’t find any reasonable cause of death but they would say that he was most likely poisoned. When they checked his finger prints and dental records no match came up in Australia. When both the FBI and Scotland Yard were asked no information was found. The only thing on him that gave police any hope was a unused rail ticket in one of his pockets.
Investigators thought they would start getting answers when a suitcase turned up a few weeks later at the railroad station. Inside the suitcase was some clothing including a red dress and a tie with the name T.Keane on it. Unfortunately that name didn’t seem to match the man but could have been a previous owner. Also in suitcase was a knife, screwdriver, and a stenciling brush. Police were stumped as to why he would have such a strange set of items especially the red dress.
It was 7 months later when another break through was made. In a secret pocket sewed into the man’s pants was a piece of paper torn from a book with the words Taman Shud written on it. It was discovered that these were the last two words of the Rubaiyaht by Omar Khayyam a famous book of poems and words translated to “it is finished”. Detectives hunted for the matching copy only to find it in the back of a cab. In the back of the book was a short message written in some kind of code and a phone number.
The number was that of a nearby women named Jessica Thompson. When police asked her if she knew the man she said no. Based on later interviews and the fact she asked police not to record her name it’s likely that was a lie after all why would he have her number. She was asked to look at the body but again claimed she didn’t know the man. She did admit that she had owned a copy of the Rubaiyaht but had gave it to an army officer named Alf Boxall. Investigators thought they had their man until they found out that Boxall an ex-service men was still alive and that he still had the copy of the book.
Many speculate that the Somerton man may have been a spy based on the code in the back of the book and the extreme lack of identification on him. Some may point to the fact that Boxall the friend of Jessica Thompson had worked for Australian intelligence in the past. Other speculate it was a strange form of suicide. Weirdly In the 1950’s the Somerton man’s copy of the Rubaiyaht has gone missing form police storage and in 1986 the suitcase and it’s evidence were destroyed.
It’s more than likely that we will never know the identity of the Somerton man. It’s possible that we are never meant to either by his own hand or that of others. The code in the back of the Rubaiyaht has been poured over by expert cryptographers all of which say the message is just too short to solve. Despite the lack of answers one thing we do know is that this case will endure as one of the strangest in Australian history.