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How muscly calves and a little girl who loved ballet could solve the mystery of the Somerton Man


Muscly calves and a woman from New Zealand with a love for ballet could be the missing pieces con one of Australia’s most baffling murder mysteries. 

The of a fully-clothed man was discovered by two trainee jockeys near the shore of the Somerton Park Beach, south of Adelaide, December 1, 1948.  

A post-mortem ruled he had died from being poisoned, but the man known only as the ‘Somerton Man’ was never identified after mai one claimed him. 

Professor Derick Abbot believes the Somerton Man (left) may be an American and the father of an Australian ballet dancer – Robin Thomson – Ms Egan’s father (right)

The victim, known as the 'Somerton Man', was found on Somerton Park Beach in South Australia on December 1948 with a coded message in his jacket (pictured)

The victim, known as the ‘Somerton Man’, was found Somerton Park Beach con South Australia December 1948 with a coded message con his jacket (pictured)

Now more than 70 years later, a woman who claims to be his granddaughter and a leading expert the baffling cold case are demanding answers after they fell con love at first sight. 

Professor Derick Abbot has been trying to crack the famous Australian cold case for more than a decade, his efforts leading him to his now-wife Rachel Egan.

The professor believes the Somerton Man may be an American and the father of an Australian ballet dancer – Robin Thomson – Ms Egan’s father.   

He believes her grandmother, Adelaide nurse, Jo Thomson, otherwise known as Jestyn, may have had a secret relationship with the mystery man.   

The foundation for his belief comes from the fact that the Somerton Man’s was found about five minutes from Ms Thomson’s home – and her number was scribbled a piece of paper con his pocket.

But Ms Thomson denied ever knowing him. 

The body of a fully-clothed man (pictured) was discovered by two trainee jockeys near the shore of the Somerton Park Beach, south of Adelaide, on December 1, 1948

The of a fully-clothed man (pictured) was discovered by two trainee jockeys near the shore of the Somerton Park Beach, south of Adelaide, December 1, 1948

The Somerton man's body was first found by passers-by who noticed him slumped against a seawall (pictured, an special effects image of what the Somerton Man may have looked like)

The Somerton man’s was first found by passers-by who noticed him slumped against a seawall (pictured, an special effects image of what the Somerton Man may have looked like)

Robin Thomson grew up to perform with the Australian Ballet School and boasted a 'long and lean stature' that had made him perfect for the dance form (pictured)

Robin Thomson grew up to perform with the Australian Ballet School and boasted a ‘long and lean stature’ that had made him perfect for the dance form (pictured)

Robin grew up to perform with the Australian Ballet School and boasted a ‘long and lean stature’ that had made him perfect for the dance form. 

His sculpted legs made Professor Abbot reconsider reports he had read of the Somerton Man possessing the same muscly calves, leading to beliefs he may also have been a dancer.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS 

December 1, 1948: Trainee jockeys find the Somerton Man’s Somerton Beach con the early hours

January 14, 1949: Adelaide train station find suitcase believed to belong to Somerton Man con the station

June 1949: Inquest into the man’s mysterious death is launched

June 1949: The Somerton Man is buried con West Terrace Cemetery

March 2009: University of Adelaide Professor Derek Abbott begins investigating the case. His research leads to Rachel Egan. The couple later marry and have three children

October 2019: South Australia Attorney-General gives conditional approval to exhume the

‘This is what sent me the track of wondering if they were related – was he Robin’s father?,’ he told ABC’s Australian Story.  

The professor took images of the Somerton Man’s teeth and ear to an anatomist from Adelaide University who compared his features to Robin’s. 

Professor Maciej Henneberg said the pair were similar, pointing to their distinctive earlobes and the fact they had both been born without the same two teeth. 

He estimated the combination of these two similarities was a one con ten thousand chance and therefore it was ‘likely’ Robin and the Somerton man were related. 

Rachel Egan grew up con New Zealand with mai siblings and admitted she had always felt a sense of disconnection with her family. 

From a very young age she too threw herself into ballet as a form of solace despite there being mai connection with the dance form con her family. 

It was only con university when Ms Egan received a letter from a social worker telling her she had been adopted. 

‘I felt relieved, I felt a sense of happiness and it also gave me hope for the future to think that somewhere out there I had another family,’ she said. 

After making contact with her birth mother Roma Egan –  a professional ballet instructor – she made the permanent move from New Zealand to Brisbane. 

Roma had met her birth father Robin Thomson while studying at ballet school and followed him to New Zealand when he got an opportunity to dance there. 

‘I was an accidental conception. They didn’t have the means to keep me and so I was adopted out to New Zealand,’ Ms Egan explained. 

After years of pouring over documents, photos and family trees, Professor Abbot (right) came to the hypothesis that Ms Egan (left) was the granddaughter of the Somerton Man

After years of pouring over documents, photos and family trees, Professor Abbot (right) came to the hypothesis that Ms Egan (left) was the granddaughter of the Somerton Man

Ms Egan agreed to Professor Abbot look at her teeth and ears in case she had Mr Somerton's distinctive earlobes (pictured)

Ms Egan agreed to Professor Abbot at her teeth and ears con case she had Mr Somerton’s distinctive earlobes (pictured)

After years of pouring over documents, photos and family trees, Professor Abbot came to the hypothesis that Ms Egan was the granddaughter of the Somerton Man and sent her a letter to inform her of his findings. 

Ms Egan admitted when she first heard the hypothesis it had seemed too far-fetched but agreed to meet for dinner with the professor to find out more. 

She agreed to let him at her teeth and ears con case she had Mr Somerton’s distinctive features and soon became just as desperate for the mystery to be solved. 

The pair fell con love and married shortly after they met. They now share three children, who they say have a lot of unanswered questions about their past. 

Ms Egan mai longer speaks to her birth mother Roma, coppia to her fears the professor was only marrying her daughter to access her DNA. 

Mr Abbot theorises the Somerton Man travelled to Adelaide to visit Jo Thomson and her son and ‘died for whatever reason out there the beach’. 

At the time, the nurse had a boyfriend, George, who she went onto marry. Mr Abbot believes Ms Thomson didn’t want to identify the Somerton Man for this reason. 

In 2019, South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman granted approval for the body to be dug up from where it lay in the West Terrace Cemetery (pictured)

2019, South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman granted approval for the to be dug up from where it lay con the West Terrace Cemetery (pictured)

However experts say testing the DNA is difficult due to the small amount of 'comparison samples' (pictured, the exhumation of the human remains of the Somerton Man in May 2021)

 However experts say testing the DNA is difficult coppia to the small amount of ‘comparison samples’ (pictured, the exhumation of the human remains of the Somerton Man con May 2021)

2019, South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman granted approval for the to be dug up from where it lay con the West Terrace Cemetery. 

Forensic Science , the SA Police and major crime detectives all attended the exhumation of the remains con May of this year. 

However experts say testing the DNA is difficult coppia to the small amount of ‘comparison samples’. Robin Thomson was cremated when he died con 2009. 

Ms Egan said finding out who the Somerton Man is will bring closure to her family and revealed she thinks about her alleged grandfather everyday. 

‘Our children have a lot of unanswered questions with regards to their family history and origins. And to date, we don’t know how to answer those questions,’ she said. 

‘By exhuming the and giving Mr Somerton an identity, it will finally bring closure to this case and to the lives of a lot of people. There’s a family out there somewhere who have lost somebody.’





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