List of facts we do know about the Somerton Man

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Here is a list of facts and things we can infer about the Somerton Man.

Physical characteristics

  • We know he was male.
  • He was 5 ft 11 inches (180 cm) tall.
  • Regarding his ears, his cymba was bigger than his cavum. This is a characteristic possessed by only 1-2% of the Caucasian population.
  • He has attached rather than hanging earlobes.
  • He had grey eyes.
  • His hair was a mousy ginger colour, turning grey on the sides and behind the ears.
  • His hair was receding at the front.
  • His hairline did not have a widow's peak.
  • His hair was wavy and fairly coarse.
  • His age was estimated between 40 and 50.
  • He had normal sized feet (approx. size 8 shoes) and yet his hands were unusually large.
  • He was clean shaven.
  • We assume he still had his appendix, as no appendix scar is reported.
  • We don't know if he had tonsils or not.
  • He had broad square shoulders, with a narrower waist, and was physically fit.
  • He had well-developed high calf muscles.
  • His toes were wedged as if he had worn pointed shoes (perhaps riding boots).
  • He had very large hands.
  • Estimating from his height and build, his weight would be approximately in the 75 kg - 80 kg range (165 lbs - 176 lbs).
  • He was uncircumcised.
  • In terms of body hair, we know he was not very hairy. Chest hair and leg hair minimal.
  • His teeth were natural, but he had 9 teeth missing from the top, and another 9 teeth missing from the bottom. Most of the missing teeth were back teeth.
  • Two of his missing teeth were lateral incisors. This is quite possibility due to genetic anodontia, ie. he didn't grow those teeth in the first place. It is unlikely that he lost these two teeth by decay or accident. This is supported by Dwyer's statement if one was talking to the Somerton man one would not notice missing teeth.
  • He had 3 pre-existing small scars on the inside of his left wrist. A one-inch curve scar on the inside of his left elbow. A one-inch scar (that had the appearance of a boil mark) on his upper left forearm.
  • He had nicotine stains on his fingers.
  • He had no tattoos.
  • We assume he did not wear glasses (though if he did, he probably would have lost them at the same time as his hat and wallet).
  • We don't know if he was right or left handed. But the fact an unfinished cigarette was found on his right collar and that John Lyons observed him raising his right arm, is a probable indication of right handedness. But we cannot be totally certain.
  • There was mark on his left arm that was too faint to say for certain if it was a vaccination mark. Some people do not have pronounced vaccination marks. If he had served in the war (which is likely), he certainly would have been vaccinated. This also points to him being right handed. His handedness can be determined by disinterring the body and measuring the arms. It is known that your handedness results in 2% extra bone growth in that arm.

Genetic profile

  • Sex? (XY male type, XX female type, XO Turner type, XYY type, XXY Klinefelter type, or XXX type)

XY (male).

  • Blood group? (A, B, Rh+ are dominant. Rh-, O are recessive)

Unknown, but can be determined.

  • YDNA haplogroup?

Unknown, but can be determined.

  • mtDNA haplogroup?

Unknown, but can be determined.

  • Eye colour? (Brown is dominant to everything, hazel is dominant to everything but brown, then green. Blue-grey is recessive and dominated by other colours).

Grey (recessive).

  • Hair colour? (Red hair is recessive to all colours, black hair is dominant to all colours, and all other colours have incomplete dominance)

Mousey with red tinge (incomplete dominance).

  • Hair type? (Curly = dominant, Wavy = heterozygous, Straight = recessive)

Straight (recessive).

  • Hairline? (Widow's peak = dominant, No peak = recessive)

No widow's peak (recessive).

  • Hairy ears? (Hairy ears = recessive, No hair = dominant)

No hair on ears (dominant).

  • Hair on mid-segment of fingers? (Hair = dominant, No hair = recessive)

Unknown, though probably no hair.

  • Can he taste phenyl thiocarbamide? (Taste = dominant, No taste = recessive)


  • Can he taste sodium benzoate? (Taste = dominant, No taste = recessive)


  • Does he have a Darwin's ear point? (Ear point = dominant, No ear point = recessive).

He does not have an ear point (recessive). There is possibly a slight point, but it is not very pronounced.

  • Is his lower ear hollow (cavum) bigger than his upper ear hollow (cymba)? (If no, then you have a trait possessed by 2% of the population)

No (he is in the 2% group).

  • Are his ear lobes hanging or attached? (Hanging = dominant, Attached = recessive)

His lobes are attached (recessive).

  • Has never had lateral incisors since birth? (Missing incisors since birth is a trait possessed by 2% of the population)

They are missing, and this possibly since birth (2% of population)

  • Did he have cheek dimples when smiling? (Dimples = dominant, No dimples = recessive)


  • Can he roll his tongue? (Can roll = dominant, Cannot roll = recessive)


  • Does he have a long palmar muscle? (Long on both arms = recessive, long on one arm = heterozygous, short on both arms = dominant)


  • Does the tip of his little finger bend towards his ring finger? (Bent pinky finger = dominant, Straight pinky = recessive)

Unknown, but can be determined via examining his skeleton.

  • Does he have facial freckles? (Freckles = dominant, No freckles = recessive)


  • Does he have a cleft or dip in the centre of his chin? (Cleft = recessive, No cleft = dominant)


  • Does his thumb have a backward curve or is it straight? (Straight thumb = dominant, Back-curved thumb = recessive)

Unknown, but can be determined via examining his skeleton.

  • Can he fold the tip of the tongue upward and backward, without touching the upper teeth or the roof of the mouth? (This is quite rare and is inherited as a phenotypically dominant trait)


  • Does he have an epicanthic eye fold? (Fold = dominant, No fold = recessive)

No (recessive).

  • Is his ring finger shorter than his index finger? (If your ring finger is shorter this is recessive for men, but for women it is dominant)

Unknown, but can be determined via examining his skeleton.

  • Let him clasp his hands together without thinking about it. Is it his left or right thumb that is on top? (Left on top of right = dominant, Right on top of left = recessive)


  • Can he do the Vulcan salute?


  • Is his second toe longer than his big toe? (Longer big toe = recessive, longer second toe = dominant)

Unknown, but can be determined via examining his skeleton.

  • Is he left or right handed?

Unknown, but can be determined via examining his skeleton. The dominant side has 2% extra bone growth.

  • Is he right or left eye dominant?


  • Does he have joined eyebrows? (Joined = dominant)

No (recessive).

  • Is he colourblind? (Colour vision = dominant, colour blindness = recessive)


  • Is he tone deaf? (Tone deaf = recessive)



  • His shoes were particularly well polished and clean.
  • Finger and toenails were clean and cared for.
  • We don't know if he was vaccinated or not.
  • His hands were soft and showed no sign of callouses or manual labour.
  • His feet showed no signs of callouses, showing he had the means to buy good quality shoes.
  • He was a heavy smoker judging from his stained fingers.
  • He wore his hair brushed back without a parting.
  • The clothes in his suitcase were well kept and tidy.
  • The autopsy showed that the man had eaten a pasty.
  • He shaved.
  • He did not appear to wear a dental plate to compensate for his lack of rear teeth.
  • He wore clothes with removed labels.

Background and location

  • He wore a jacket on top of a pullover on a very warm day. This almost certainly indicates he was not a local. It probably also rules out the theory that he was a stockman from Queensland. A Queenslander would not be accustomed to overdressing so warmly.
  • His fingerprints did not match any known records. This may be a sign he had no criminal history. Though it could be simply due to lost records over the war period.
  • His teeth did not match any known records. It could be simply due to lost records over the war period. It could also mean that his teeth were not correctly recorded and that we should now double check his teeth via disinterment of the body.
  • The ginger tinge of his hair plus large limbs could point toward a Scottish ancestry. This means the probability of a Scottish ancestry is a little higher, but by no means certain.
  • He obviously had a certain degree of education. He was clean, tidy, had no tattoos, and had the means to survive without signs of manual labour. It appears he understood the meaning of "Tamám Shud", which would appear to put him in a fairly high bracket of cultural education. Also these factors would suggest he would fit into the upper middle classes of the time.
  • The fact the his feet had no callouses, is quite significant as it indicates he had the means to buy well fitting shoes. This together with his soft hands, weighs against inferring that his occupation was cargo stenciling. Firstly, he seems to have higher status than that and secondly if he worked everyday with a stenciling knife one would expect nicks and marks on his hands. The presence of what appears to be stenciling equipment was either a 'cover' or perhaps an occasional hobby.
  • It seems likely he was able to read English. His spoken English was proficient enough to travel to Adelaide without being overly noticed.
  • He had sufficient money to travel, had respectable clothes, new shoes, and a new suitcase.
  • His cleanliness and shoes indicate that he was certainly not destitute.
  • No one reported him missing. This could either mean he was originally an orphan with no family; or perhaps as it was 1948 it is not inconceivable that he lost all his family in the war.
  • Also the absence of a wedding ring, together with the lack of anyone claiming him suggests he was single rather than married.
  • Given that he appeared to have a certain amount of discipline, tidiness, kept his shoes spit polished, and was physically fit, points towards the likely possibility of him having served in an army during the war.
  • The fact he was uncircumcised probably rules out him being Jewish. Around 1900, general infant circumcision was taken up in America and Australia as it was believed to be healthy. In the UK, it was not generally practiced but was more of a status symbol for the upper classes to be circumcised at birth. Thus, if the Somerton Man was a native English speaker it is more likely he was from the UK than Australia or the USA. However, as circumcision rates in the USA and Australia were under 50% pre-1930s, the possibility that he was American or Australian cannot be totally ruled out.
  • The fact he had airmail stickers in his suitcase indicates that he probably had overseas contacts and certainly had the intentionality to communicate with someone overseas.


  • He died of unnatural causes, most probably due to an undetected poison. On death there were no signs that he had vomited. Though it is possible he might have vomited just before sitting on the beach. But then why was there a pastie in his stomach? We can assume he did not defecate or urinate on death, as these details would have been reported at the autopsy.
  • When he died he was wearing: coat, shoes, shirt, pullover, jockey underpants, singlet, pair of trousers made of Crusader Cloth, socks, and a tie.
  • He did not seem to have a hat. Yet he wore a suit and traveled. This is a little strange for 1948. Usually a hat was always worn if you were wearing a suit. The possibility that it blew off at the beach, is inconsistent with the fact a half-smoked cigarette was balanced on his shirt collar. Whatever happened to his hat probably occurred at the time he parted with his wallet.
  • On the 30th November 1948, the maximum temperature was 72 F (or 22 deg C), and it was a warm evening. This is inconsistent with the need for the man to wear a pullover and coat at the beach. This strongly indicates that he was a stranger to the area.
  • The shoes he was wearing looked new and the suitcase looked new.
  • The items he was carrying at the time of death were: (1) an Army Club cigarette packet containing Kensitas cigarettes, (2) a box of Bryant and May matches (quarter full), (3) a packet of Juicy Fruit chewing gum (half full), (4) two combs, (5) a piece of paper bearing the words "Tamám Shud", (6) a used bus ticket to Glenelg, and (7) an unused second-class rail ticket to Henley Beach.
  • The Kensitas cigarettes were more expensive than Army Club. A custom of the time was to put your cigarettes in a better packet. However, he put his in a cheaper packet. Could the cigarettes be the mode of poisoning?
  • He arrived in Adelaide and proceeded to the suburb of the former nurse Jestyn who's number was in the poetry book. He died only half a mile away from her residence. This indicates a certain amount of intentionality that he was there to see her for some reason.
  • One blade of barley grass was found inside one of his socks that he was wearing. For a tidy man this does seem a little strange.
  • He had had a haircut possibly within 4-2 weeks of death. We know this because when Paul Lawson made a plaster cast of his ears, the hair was neatly trimmed back and it did not get in the way of the mould. If the man had been contemplating suicide for several weeks, one might expect that he would have taken less care of his hair.

Contents of the suitcase

Note that the following is based on the Coronial Inquest report and it doesn't quite match what we see in photographs from the 1978 ABC documentary showing these items:

  • Dressing gown and cord.
  • Laundry bag with the name "Keane" written on it.
  • One pair of scissors in a sheath.
  • One knife in a sheath (apparently a cut down table knife).
  • One stencil brush.
  • Two singlets.
  • Two pairs of underpants.
  • One pair of trousers (with dry cleaning marks), with a 6d coin in the pocket.
  • One sports coat.
  • One coat shirt.
  • One pair of pyjamas.
  • One yellow coat shirt.
  • One singlet bearing the name "Kean" (without an "e" on the end).
  • One singlet with name torn out.
  • One shirt, without name tag.
  • Six handkerchiefs.
  • One piece of light board.
  • Eight large envelopes, one small envelope.
  • Two coat hangers.
  • One razor strap.
  • One cigarette lighter.
  • One razor.
  • One shaving brush.
  • One small screwdriver.
  • One toothbrush.
  • Toothpaste.
  • One glass dish.
  • One soap dish containing a hairpin.
  • Three safety pins.
  • One front and back collar stud.
  • One brown button.
  • One teaspoon.
  • One broken pair of scissors.
  • One card of tan thread.
  • One tin of tan boot polish.
  • Two airmail stickers.
  • One scarf.
  • One towel.
  • An unspecified number of pencils, mostly Royal Sovereign brand. Three pencils were H.

Evidence the suitcase belonged to the Somerton Man

  • The suitcase was deposited in the Adelaide Railway Station cloak room at 11am on 30th November 1948. Thus it lies in the correct time frame.
  • It contained brown shoe polish. The man was wearing brown shoes.
  • The clothes in the suitcase fit the man.
  • The clothes in the suitcase mostly had missing labels, which fits with the man's habit of wearing no labels.
  • Orange colored linen thread was in the suitcase. This microscopically matched with thread used sew buttons on the trousers and coat collar of the deceased. The warm sepia tone of the orange thread was rather unusual and so there was confidence in the match.

The book

Unfortunately it appears the police lost the book containing the code, but this is what we know about the book:

  • The book was the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
  • A photograph of the front cover and last page of the book still exists.
  • It was published by Whitcombe and Tombs, New Zealand.
  • It was one of Edward FitzGerald's translations.
  • The poem on the last page uses the word "shining" instead of "silver" that is use in some editions. The last poem does not use the word "saki," as in some editions.
  • It was a first edition.
  • It had some sort of secret code lightly penciled in the back. A photo of the code still exists.
  • The code was in such light pencil that the police needed an ultra-violet lamp in order to read it. This suggests an intentionality to made the code hard to decipher.
  • The back of the book had Jestyn's unlisted phone number written inside the back cover.
  • The book was not the same edition that Alf Boxall had in his possession that was given to him by Jestyn.
  • The book had the phrase "Tamám Shud" ripped out of the back page.
  • The phrase "Tamám Shud" was in a specific font, in black type on white paper. It had no print on the reverse side.
  • The actual "Tamám Shud" piece of paper exists. The tear marks don't match. However, the police were able to make a match based on paper colour and texture.
  • It appears this edition of the book is very rare, as many attempts at finding any similar copy have failed so far.

Circumstances that fit with the spy hypothesis

  • He was fit, tidy, and organized. These are ideal characteristics of a spy.
  • He died in mysterious circumstances.
  • He died of a poison uncommon enough to be undetected. This implies someone had access to specialized knowledge.
  • His death is linked to what appears to be a secret code. The fact the lettering was written in such light pencil that an ultra-violet lamp was needed to read it, indicates an intentionality of concealment. If these were random jottings, the need for visual concealment would be unnecessary.
  • He died with no identification and with his clothing labels removed. Having no clothing labels is a well-known spy trait. For example, in 1941 the actual spy Ulrich von der Osten died in a car accident and was found with no clothing labels. There are so many other examples that it has entered popular culture, for example, a spy without clothing labels is featured in the Hollywood movie Burn After Reading.
  • The late 1940s was the height of Cold War spying in Australia and Operation Venona revealed that intelligence was being leaked to Moscow.
  • He appeared to have no close ties, which is a good trait for a spy.
  • He had no identifying marks or tattoos, which is a good trait for a spy.
  • He had an unusual fob pocket in his trousers that was particularly hard to find.
  • In 1994, John Haber Phillips re-examined the evidence and wrote, "there seems little doubt it was digitalis." If the poison was digitalis, it does have a precedence for being linked to various Cold War spy cases, eg. US Assistant Treasury Secretary Harry Dexter White, died suddenly in August, 1948, of a reported digitalis overdose. He was identified as a spy under Operation Venona. This is only 3 months before the death of the Somerton man!

See also