Forensic scientists analyze DNA from blood trails left at the scene.
In 1934, King Albert l of Belgium died after a fall from the rocks in Marche-les-Dames, located in Belgium’s Ardennes region. Because he was known to be an expert climber, conspiracy theories soon developed suggesting that the king did not fall, but was murdered. Some even believed the king was murdered elsewhere and that his dead body was never actually in Marche-les-Dames.
After his death, relics bearing what was believed to be the king’s blood began turning up at Marche-les-Dames and were collected by people living in the neighborhood.
One of these relics — blood-stained tree leaves — fell into the hands of forensic geneticist Maarten Larmuseau and his colleagues from the University of Leuven, Belgium, providing an opportunity to put some of the conspiracy theories to the test.
The scientists located two living relatives of Alberts l: King Simeon II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the last tsar and former prime minister of Bulgaria who is related to Albert I on his father's side, and Anna Maria Freifrau von Haxthausen, a German baroness who is related to Albert I on her mother's side. Both relatives donated DNA samples that were compared with the DNA of the blood trails.
Genetic tests confirmed that the blood on the leaves was that of Albert l.
“The authenticity of the trails of blood confirms the official account of the death of Albert I,” Larmuseau stated in a press release. “The story that the dead body of the king has never been in Marche-les-Dames or was only placed there at night has now become very improbable.”
Since the king’s untimely death, more than 80 years ago, everyone involved in the case and most of the material found at the scene is gone. “This study was one of the last possibilities to gather additional data,” he said.
The details of the forensic investigation have been published in Forensic Science International: Genetics.
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