Second World War conspiracy theory which suggested Nazi deputy fuhrer Rudolf Hess had escaped justice after being replaced with a doppelganger, has finally been debunked after new DNA evidence came to light.
Hess was arrested in 1941 after parachuting in to Scotland to broker peace with Britain, later tried at Nuremberg and incarcerated in Spandau prison Berlin until his death in 1987.
But British doctor Hugh Thomas who worked at Spandau insisted the prisoner purporting to be Hess did not have the correct scars, prompting four inconclusive investigations by the British government.
Now the mystery has finally been solved after a retired military doctor from the US Army and a forensic scientist from Austria tracked down a blood sample from Hess and compared it to relatives still living in Germany.
The results show there is just a one per cent chance that the blood did not belong to the eminent Nazi.
Dr Sherman McCall was working in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington when he first learned that colleague Rick Wahl had once worked at Spandau and had brought back a smear of Hess’s blood to use as a teaching aid.
Yet it was not until years later that McCall discovered there was doubt over Hess’s identity and asked to use the sample to learn the truth.
Jan Cemper-Kiesslich, a molecular biologist in the DNA Unit at the department of legal medicine, University of Salzburg, Austria, extracted DNA from the dried blood and the pair then hunted down a relative to see if it was a match.
Statistical analysis of the results suggests a 99.99 per cent likelihood that the blood sample on the slide comes from a close family member of the living relative of Hess.
The research, published in the journal Forensic Science International Genetics concludes that it is virtually certain “that prisoner ‘Spandau #7’ was indeed was Rudolf Hess, the Deputy Führer of the Third Reich”.
“The conspiracy theory claiming that prisoner ‘Spandau #7’ was an impostor is extremely unlikely and therefore disproved,” the authors added.
“Due to the lucky event of the presence of a biological trace sample originating from prisoner ‘Spandau #7’ the authors got the unique chance to shed new light on one of the most persistent historical memes of World War II history.”
Dr Turi King, the geneticist at the University of Leicester, UK, who led the forensic examination of the body of Richard III said: “They’ve got a perfect match with the Y chromosome and a living male Hess relative.
“If this person was a doppelgänger, you wouldn’t get that match, so from that point of view it’s a good sign.”
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