The Somerton man died alone on a beach in 1948. Now Australian scientists are close to solving the mystery
Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT) June 1, 2021
(CNN)The children know the man whose portrait hangs above their playroom door as Mister S or Mister Somerton.
His real name remains a mystery more than 70 years after he was found dead in a smart brown suit on an Australian beach, a half-smoked cigarette resting on his collar.
The kids assume he's a distant relative, but he could just be a stranger whose story has fascinated their father for more than a decade.
University of Adelaide professor Derek Abbott first heard about the Somerton man in 1995, and has spent several years campaigning for his body to be exhumed so scientists can analyze his DNA to determine his identity.
The exhumation finally happened last month in the city's West Terrace Cemetery, where the Somerton man was buried in 1949, under a headstone marked "the unknown man".
At the grave site, South Australia Police Detective Superintendent Des Bray told reporters the exhumation was about much more than closing the file on one of Australia's most-intriguing cases.
"It's important for everybody to remember the Somerton man is not just a curiosity, or a mystery to be solved. It's somebody's father, son, perhaps grandfather, uncle or brother, and that's why we're doing this and trying to identify him," Bray said.
"There are people we know that live in Adelaide, they believe they may be related," he said. "And they deserve to have a definitive answer."
Those people include Abbott's wife, Rachel Egan, who he met after sending her a letter to explain why he thought she may be the Somerton man's granddaughter. After a single dinner dominated by talk of death and DNA, the pair decided to marry. They now have three children, a girl aged 8 and twins aged 6, and they are all are waiting to find out Mr S's true identity.
"Whether he's related to one of us or not, we've kind of adopted him into our family, anyway, because it's him that has brought us together," said Abbott. "His cause of death isn't really what is of interest anymore. It's more who was he and can we give him his name back."
A smartly dressed corpse
The man was found lying on his back in the sand, his head and shoulders propped up against the seawall on Somerton Beach, in Adelaide's southwest, on December 1, 1948. He was smartly dressed with freshly polished shoes, and looked out of place on a beach where the city's early risers were starting their day with a walk.
Two apprentice jockeys stumbled upon the body, but several other people told police they'd seen someone of a similar description lying there the nigh