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Bodies Found In Swiss Glacier Believed To Be Couple Missing Since 1942

Shoes and clothing are visible at a glacier in southwestern Switzerland where two bodies were found.
Keystone via AP
Shoes and clothing are visible at a glacier in southwestern Switzerland where two bodies were found.

On a summer day in August 1942, Swiss couple Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin set off on foot in the Alps. They never returned.

Now, two bodies have been discovered in a shrinking glacier by a worker from a ski lift company, according to Swiss media, and they are believed to be the couple who disappeared some 75 years ago.

Local police said in a statement that the pair was discovered on Friday at the Tsanfleuron glacier at an elevation of more than 8,500 feet. They appear to be victims of an accident "decades ago," the Valais police said, and were found with a number of objects such as a backpack, a watch and a book.

"It was a mummified man and a woman wearing clothes dating from the pre-war period," Bernhard Tschannen, the director of the ski lift company, tells Le Matin.

"Everything suggests that they were trying to reach the canton of Bern on foot, as people sometimes did at the time. It was the shortest route."

Authorities say it will take a few days for DNA evidence to formally confirm the identities.

But the couple's youngest daughter, 79-year-old Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, tells Le Matin that the news is already bringing her immense relief.

"We have spent our lives searching for them, relentlessly. We did not think we could ever give them the funeral they deserved," she said. "I must say that after 75 years of waiting, this news calms me deeply."

When the shoemaker and teacher disappeared, teams from the village searched the nearby mountain for 2 1/2 months before they gave up the search, Udry-Dumoulin told the newspaper.

She and her six siblings were split up with different families. "We all lived in the area, but we did not know each other anymore," she said.

She wants to finally give her parents a funeral, she tells the newspaper. "I will not put on black. I think white will be more appropriate. This represents hope, which I have never lost."

Swiss news site The Local details other recent discoveries of long-missing persons found as glaciers shrink:

"In 2012 the remains of three brothers who disappeared in 1926 were found on the Aletsch glacier in the Valais.

"In 2015 the bodies of two young Japanese climbers who disappeared in 1970 were found at the foot of the Matterhorn glacier, also in the Valais.

"And last year the remains of a 36-year-old German skier who went missing in 1963 were uncovered at the Morteratsch glacier in the Graubünden."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: July 18, 2017 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story misspelled Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin's last name as Dumolin.
Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.