Boys Identified 70 Years After Bludgeoning by Hatchet

David and Derek D'Alton named as Vancouver's 'Babes in the Woods'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2022 10:05 AM CST

(Newser) – For almost 70 years, they've been known as the "Babes in the Woods." Now, thanks to DNA, police in Vancouver, Canada, say they finally know the names of two young victims who were found bludgeoned to death by a hatchet in Vancouver's Stanley Park in 1953. They were 6-year-old David D’Alton and his 7-year-old half-brother Derek D’Alton, CBC News reports. The brothers, who lived in poverty, are believed to have descended from Russian immigrants. They were never reported missing. In fact, authorities believe they were killed by a family member—perhaps their mother, who died in 1996 at age 78, per the Vancouver Sun.

A relative lived near the entrance to Stanley Park when the murders are believed to have occurred in 1947. It would be years before a groundskeeper discovered skeletal remains, hidden by a woman's coat and thick brush. Experts in Ontario recently extracted genetic material from some of the bone samples not buried at sea in 2008, and scientists in Alabama were able to sequence Derek's DNA. Once the DNA was matched to a relative, "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," lead investigator Det. Const. Aida Rodriguez tells the CBC.

Investigators met with a relative living in a Vancouver suburb—a granddaughter of the brothers' elder sister—who had been told that the boys were removed from their home by child protection officials, per the Sun. The granddaughter had uploaded her DNA to a genealogy website with the goal of finding out more as "the only response they got from family was silence," Rodriguez says. "The absence of the boys was never discussed." In an interview with author Eve Lazarus, the granddaughter notes detectives said there were no records to show the boys were ever in the custody of child protection services. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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