Scientists in Perth have breathed life into a decades-old German mystery of the body of an unknown man found floating in the North Sea, using the adage “you are what you eat” to discover he may be from Australia.
The man, dubbed “The Gentleman” by investigators in 1994 after his body was found by police off the coast of Heligoland, a German archipelago, was weighed down by cast-iron shoemaker’s feet.
He earned the nickname The Gentleman because of his smart clothes; a wool tie, British-made shoes, French-made trousers and a blue long-sleeved shirt.
The case has baffled German police for 28 years, but criminologists and forensic scientists at Murdoch University may have helped unravel the mystery after conducting new tests.
They found that the man spent most of his life in Australia. Researchers in the 1990s determined that he was 45 to 50 years old.
The discovery marks Saturday the last day of National Missing Person’s Week in Australia.
Scientists made the discovery by following the principle of “you are what you eat” by performing an isotope ratio analysis of The Gentleman’s bones.
Differences in climate, soil and human activity around the world alter the isotopic compositions of food, water and even dust – reflected in the isotopic compositions of human tissue.
Analysis showed that the man probably spent most of his life in Australia.
Researchers from foreign universities were also recently able to obtain a TBEN profile of the man.
There is hope it matches TBEN being collected as part of Missing Person’s Week, where authorities have called on Australians to come forward for tests to resolve some of the country’s coldest cases.
Brendan Chapman, one of the directors of the Cold Case Review team at Murdoch University, said it was an incredible discovery.
“What are the odds that from this small collection of universities working on this case, one is from the country the man comes from!” he said.
Detectives have slowly matched The Gentleman’s past for years.
The iron tools he was charged with were only recently revealed by police, his shoes are expensive and his signature green, yellow and blue striped tie may indicate he belonged to a specific organization.