The identity of the boy remained a mystery for nearly a century until a group of forensic experts gradually pieced it together, using breakthroughs in DNA technology and the discovery of a pair of tiny shoes, which had been kept by a Halifax police sergeant tasked with burning all the victims’ clothing in 1912. He just couldn’t bring himself to destroy what remained of the youngest victim recovered by the sailors.
35 years ago this week, the Titanic’s wreckage was found in the Atlantic. The ship got a lot of popular attention over the years for its tragic end – and of course because of the mega hit Hollywood film. Kieran Cuddihy was joined by Rory Golden, the very first Irish diver to ever go to the iconic ship’s wreckage – and he shared his experience.
In 2004 genetic testing on the remains of a child thought to be Gösta Leonard Pålsson resulted in the child’s identity as Eino Viljami Panula, a 13-month-old Finnish boy. Doubts lingered as two young Titanic victims were very close, Panula and Sidney Goodwin. But it was a pair of leather shoes that led researchers to question the identification. According to news article at msnbc.com, the story of the shoes is quite fascinating:
The shoes had been saved by Clarence Northover, a Halifax police sergeant in 1912, who helped guard the bodies and belongings of the Titanic victims, according to the museum’s website. A letter from Northover’s grandson, Earle, recounts how the victim’s clothing had been burned to stop souvenir hunters. Clarence Northover couldn’t bring himself to burn the little shoes, and when no relatives claimed them, he put the shoes in his desk drawer at the police station. In 2002, Earle Northover donated them to the museum. These shoes were too large for a 13-month-old to wear.
So with more through testing and the assistance of the U.S. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, it was determined with a 98% certainty the child is in fact Sidney Goodwin. Goodwin’s parents and five siblings all perished when Titanic went down.