Body found in 1953 identified as missing Dutch sailor
A body who washed up on Terschelling in 1953 has been identified as missing Dutch sailor Johannes Garstenveld, born in Den Helder in 1922. The police were able to identify him after a previous DNA identification of Andries Penning, captain of the Westland - the ship Garstenveld sailed on when he disappeared.
Both Penning and Garstenveld are buried in the General Cemetery on West-Terschelling, which contains the remains of unidentified persons buried between 1953 and 1987. Last year, Penning was identified after his son gave a DNA sample to the police. It was known that the person buried in the adjacent grave washed ashore three weeks before Penning, giving rise to the suspicion that he may have been a crew member on Penning's ship.
Over the past months, detective Miranda Wahle searched for the family members of Westland crew. "This is more difficult than you might think at first. I got bogged down in all kinds of complicated family tree constructions," she said. Until she finally managed to get in touch with relatives of a number of crew members and asked them to give a DNA sample.
Among those who gave DNA were Garstenveld's nieces and nephews. Their samples partly matched with the DNA from the unidentified grave, but for a confirmed match the DNA from the "female line" was required, Miranda said. "We came into contact with the son of the sister of Garstenveld's mother." He agreed to give a sample and the match was confirmed. The body was identified as Johannes Garstenveld from Den Helder.
There are still many unidentified remains that need to be identified. The police call on people with missing relatives to give a DNA sample. "Sometimes people think that a missing person case is too old. But even now it appears that a person missing 67 years can be identified with current DNA techniques," Miranda said.