A mystery around the remains of a little boy found washed up on the coast at Karmøy, western Norway last winter was finally solved on Monday. The Sør-Vest Police District identified him, after a five-month investigation, as Artin Irannezhad, the youngest member of a family of five who all drowned while being smuggled in a boat over the English Channel from France to Great Britain last autumn.
“This story is tragic, but now it’s at least good to be able to provide the child’s relatives with an answer,” stated Camilla Tjelle Waage, who led the investigation and tracing of the child’s DNA.
The child’s remains were found on New Year’s Day by a local fisherman, who led police to the site of what was first thought to simply be a child’s winter playsuit. The remote location for such a discovery had raised questions, though, and police could soon determine that more than just clothing had washed ashore.
There had been no reports of a missing child on Karmøy, in the surrounding Rogaland region or in all of Norway. Speculation rose that the child must have been swept ashore, even though the nearest land across the North Sea is either Great Britain, Shetland or Greenland.
The dead child was in fact the youngest of three being smuggled with their parents and other refugees in a boat over the English Channel, when a storm arose and the boat capsized on October 27, 2020. The family was Kurdish, fleeing oppression in Iran, and had made it as far as Calais in France. The bodies of the four others were recovered but not little Artin’s.
After an autopsy, DNA testing, cooperation with Norway’s state police unit Kripos and Interpol, police were able to connect Artin to the family and also discover that he had a great-aunt living in the Oslo area, who had fled Iraq 11 years ago. With the help of photos, including one showing Artin in the navy-blue and red playsuit, police made a positive identification. His body had been carried on currents for more than 1,000 kilometers, and been in the water for 67 days.
State broadcaster NRK has produced a documentary (external link with photos of the family, in Norwegian) on the tragedy that’s not unique. The body of a Syrian refugee in a wetsuit who also tried to cross the English Channel from France to England was found washed up on a beach near Lista on Norway’s southern coast in 2015. Newspaper Dagbladet reported he had tried to swim from France to England.