Henri le Masne: French skier who died in the Alps in 1954 is finally identified following social media appeal

Investigation reveals Frenchman went missing on his birthday, skiing in region where he had survived previous accident

Jon Sharman
Monday 30 July 2018 10:30
Henri le Masne, a French skier who went missing in the Alps some 64 years ago
Henri le Masne, a French skier who went missing in the Alps some 64 years ago

The mystery of a nameless skier who died in the Alps decades ago has finally been solved.

Italian police resorted to posting on social media after other efforts to identify the man, whose remains were found 3,100m above sea level in 2005, failed.

Last month, following an investigation by Turin’s scientific police unit, state authorities revealed he had died some time after 1950 and was probably not Italian, a conclusion reached thanks to items found alongside his remains on a glacier in the Valtournenche resort.

In their Facebook post, state police detailed the watch, eyeglasses, pocket change and skis – a pair of high-end Rossignol Olimpiques – found by the body of the man they believed was about 30, and 165cm tall.

A breakthrough came after the online appeal was widely shared and picked up by newspapers and radio stations, when a French woman called Emma Nasem pieced together the clues.

Her uncle, Henri le Masne, had gone missing in the area during a violent storm in 1954, she said.

A DNA test using the saliva of Ms Nasem’s father, Mr Le Masne’s brother, proved the link, state authorities said in a statement on Sunday.

Mr Le Masne went missing on his birthday, 26 March 1954. He was a keen skier and had survived a previous accident in the Alps some years prior, Italian police said.

His brother Roger told police in an email that Mr Le Masne was “a bachelor and quite independent. He worked in the finance ministry in Paris”, according to the Agence France Presse news agency.

Investigators had roughly dated his body using the items with which he was found.

A five-lire coin he was carrying had been minted between 1946 and 1950, they said, while his wristwatch, carrying a distinct serial number, had been sold in February 1950. The model was French and designed for export.

It explained why previous identity appeals inside Italy had not borne fruit.

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