The identities of two young children have been revealed almost seven decades after they were brutally murdered in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
The case is one of the city’s oldest unsolved murders, known as the Babes in the Woods.
“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,” Insp. Dale Weidman, commanding officer of the Vancouver Police Department’s major crime section said Tuesday.
“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.”
Police said the children were brothers Derek and David D’Alton.
In 1953, their skeletal remains were discovered by a groundskeeper near Beaver Lake in Stanley Park.
The children’s skulls had been bludgeoned by a hatchet, which was found nearby, and they’d been covered by a woman’s coat. Police believed the children, aged six and seven, were killed in 1948 and had lain undiscovered for five years.
In 2021, investigators obtained a DNA sample from each of the boys’ skulls and enlisted the help of Redgrave Research Forensic Services, a Massachusetts-based forensic genetic genealogist company.
The Redgrave team was able to identify the maternal grandparents of one of the boys and construct a family tree by comparing the victims’ DNA to people who had submitted their own DNA to private companies for genetic testing.
“We knew there were good odds of finding a living family member out there somewhere,” leader investigator Det. Const. Aida Rodriguez.
“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.”
Police found a distant relative of the boys living in a Vancouver suburb.
Investigators also uncovered more details about what may have led to their murders.
They said they believe Derek and David were descendants of Russian immigrants who came to Canada at the turn of the 20th century. They lived in Vancouver and had a family member who lived near the entrance to Stanley Park.
Police said they believe the person who killed the brothers was likely a close relative who died approximately 25 years ago.
“After seven decades as a cold case, we presumed that the person who killed Derek and David had likely passed away,” Weidman added.
“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.”
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