Vancouver – Nearly 70 years after skeletal remains were discovered in Stanley Park, the Vancouver Police Department has finally identified the victims in the city’s oldest unsolved murder case.
“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,” says Inspector Dale Weidman, commanding officer of the Vancouver Police Department’s Major Crime Section. “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.”
The children, now confirmed to be brothers Derek and David D’Alton, were discovered in 1953 by a groundskeeper who was clearing brush near Beaver Lake in Stanley Park. The children – David was age six and Derek age seven at the time of death – had been bludgeoned by a hatchet. They were covered by a women’s coat, and concealed by thick brush that had grown around their bodies after death.
No homicide case is ever closed until it is solved, and for the past 70 years VPD investigators have regularly revisited the cold case to review evidence and examine new leads. In 2021, investigators obtained a DNA sample from each of the boys’ skulls and contracted Redgrave Research Forensic Services, a Massachusetts-based forensic genetic genealogist company. The Redgrave Research team was able to identify the maternal grandparents of one of the boys, and constructed 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,” says Detective Constable Aida Rodriguez, VPD’s lead investigator. “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, VPD investigators met with a distant relative who lives in a Vancouver suburb, informing the family member of their findings. At that time, investigators were also able to gather additional information about the boys.
VPD now believes Derek and David were descendants of Russian immigrants who came to Canada at the turn of the 20th century. The victims, who lived in Vancouver, had a family member who lived near the entrance to Stanley Park at the time of their death. Investigators theorize the person who killed Derek and David 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,” adds Inspector 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.”