TIL a 4 yo kid named Bobby Dunbar disappeared on a family trip, 8 months later they rescued him and reunited him with his family and they lived happily ever after. Nearly a hundred years later, DNA proved conclusively that the kid they rescued wasn't Bobby Dunbar.

Not conclusive, sure. But a "big leap of logic" it is not.

I mean, what is the more likely conclusion, using Occam's Razor:

  1. A child is lost on a fishing trip. Eight months later the police just happen to find him. The man with him was known to be seen with the child before his disappearance, so he must have had another, similar looking child with him before, then replaced that child with the new one. There was a woman who claimed to be the current child's mother, but she was just in on the scheme, despite no obvious financial benefit.

  2. A child is lost on a fishing trip and dies, unfound. Eight months later the child of a lower class, unwed mother, being looked after by a lower class man, is taken by the police and claimed by the family. The unwed mother attempts to prove that the child is hers, but she hasn't seen him in over a year and the difference between a three year old and a four year old is pretty big, so identifying him on first sight is difficult. On closer inspection she identifies the child as hers, but a 1913 jury doesn't view the testimony of an unwed, lower class woman in the same way it does the testimony of a married couple wealthy enough to go on a country fishing trip and own a car in 1913. The lower class man is also convicted, despite testimony to the contrary, because he doesn't have the money to mount an aggressive defense. The unwed mother continues to talk about her lost child to her children and grandchildren for decades, with no clear scheme or benefit to her.

Even without the DNA evidence, it seems unlikely that the child that was recovered was Bobby Dunbar, especially seeing as this was not the only case from that period of time in which police, under pressure from public reaction, returned the wrong child to upper class parents demanding they do something.

Conclusive? No. But it's still the most straightforward explanation of events.

/r/todayilearned Thread Parent Link - en.wikipedia.org