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Victims Of Vancouver’s 1953 ‘Babes In The Woods’ Murders Finally Identified
The bodies of two young boys were discovered five years after someone beat them with a hatchet and hid them under a woman's coat in the woods. It took another 70 years to figure out they were Derek and David D'Alton.
Nearly 70 years after two boys were found murdered in the woods, authorities in Canada say they’ve finally identified the victims.
The skeletal remains of two boys were discovered by a groundskeeper near Beaver Lake in Vancouver's Stanley Park in 1953, lending locals to refer to them as the "Babes in The Woods" murders, according to Vancouver Police. It was determined that the children were bludgeoned in their heads with a hatchet, which was found on the scene, then covered with a woman’s coat and concealed under thick brush, which grew around their small bodies over time.
Authorities believed that the victims had been killed in 1948.
On Tuesday, Vancouver Police formally announced that they’d identified the children as brothers Derek and David D’Alton, ages 6 and 7.
“These murders have haunted generations of homicide investigators, and we are relieved to now give these children a name and to bring some closure to this horrific case,” Vancouver Police Major Crime Section Inspector Dale Weidman stated. “Although significant folklore has surrounded this case for years, we must not forget that these were real children who died a tragic and heartbreaking death.”
For decades, the children’s remains had actually been displayed as an exhibit at the Vancouver Police Museum, according to The Globe and Mail. Photos displayed with the children's skeletons provided visitors with a glimpse into the crime scene, showing a lunch box, a leather aviator’s cap and a woman’s shoe found near the victims. In the 1990s, the boys' bones were finally cremated and scattered in the waters off Kits Point.
Last May, police announced that they had formed a partnership with Redgrave Research Forensic Services, a Massachusetts-based company specializing in genetic genealogy. Investigators used DNA samples collected from the boys’ skulls, and the lab matched one of the samples to a maternal grandparent, according to police. Those results led the company to create a family tree and connect the boys with relatives who’d already voluntarily submitted their DNA to private companies for genetic testing.
“We knew there were good odds of finding a living family member out there somewhere,” Detective Constable Aida Rodriguez, the lead investigator on the case, said. “But once we discovered that DNA match, we still had a significant amount of work to do to locate family members, check school records, and confirm specific details about the victims so we could be absolutely certain about their identities.”
Earlier this month, investigators visited a distant relative of the boys who lives outside of Vancouver. According to the CBC, that relative submitted their DNA for the sole purpose of finding out what really happened.
“The story that had been handed down to them was that the boys had been removed from the residence by the ministry,” said Rodriguez. “Even though this family member did their best to talk about the boys and try to get the story, the only response they got from family was silence. The absence of the boys was never discussed.”
According to the CBC, authorities claim they're looking into the validity behind theories that children’s protection services were involved with the family. Police confirmed with the outlet that the boys lived in poverty and were never reported missing.
Thanks to the relative’s information, authorities believe that the boys were descended from Russian immigrants who came to Canada at the turn of the 20th century, according to police; the family changed its name in the 1950s after the boys disappeared, police added. Although police didn’t reveal a suspect in the boys' death, they believe “the person who killed Derek and David was likely a close relative who died approximately 25 years ago.”
Journalists and law enforcement have long speculated that the children might have been killed by their own mother, as reported in the CBC and The Globe And Mail.
For now, those working the case are proud to give these boys their names.
“After seven decades as a cold case, we presumed that the person who killed Derek and David had likely passed away,” said Weidman. “But at this stage in the investigation, it was never about seeing someone charged for these crimes. It was always about giving these boys a name and finally telling their story. I’m proud to be part of the team that has done that.”