Living DNA provide closure on lifetime search for biological father

At only 9 months old, Anthea Ring was discovered abandoned in a blackberry bush on the South Downs with her hands bound on August 26, 1937.  A family walking in the area heard a baby cry and started searching through the scrubland. Minutes later they found a blonde child hidden deep in a blackberry bush. She was wearing a pink dress and looked about one year old. She had scratches and insect bites. Her hands were tied tightly in front of her.

In 1961, Anthea learned she had been discovered by Arthur Dodd on a hillside near Worthing on 26 August 1937. Scotland Yard had launched an attempted murder investigation and made a nationwide appeal for information, but never discovered how she came to be there or who her parents were. 

Although happily adopted, Anthea then searched for many years to learn of her biological origins.

Anthea’s story made headlines in 2016 when a combination of a DNA sample and DNA matching database enabled her to discover her deceased mother’s identity and roots in County Mayo, Ireland. Lena O'Donnell was Anthea's biological mother and got married in Ireland in 1945, seven years after Anthea had been found, and had given birth to four more children. Anthea's birth certificate was found and revealed she was born on 20 November 1936, just five days after the date her parents picked for her birthday. Her birth name was Mary Veronica.

At that point her father had still not been identified, but Anthea and DNA Detective, Julia Bell, had narrowed down the search to six brothers. Four of them - Michael, Martin, Patrick and Phillip Coyne - had been working as labourers in London in 1936. Martin's daughter agreed to be tested and the results revealed she was a first cousin. This confirmed one of the other three would be Anthea's father. Michael's granddaughter Anne Marie was tested and the result also ruled Michael out.

This left just Patrick and Phillip, but as neither had direct descendants the only thing that could prove paternity would be a sample of their DNA - hard to find years after their death. Shortly after this, the discovery of letters sent by Patrick Coyne to a first cousin in the early 90's, meant that Anthea’s biological father could finally be tested through 30-year-old saliva.

Using the latest forensic technology to analyse small areas of the stamps and seal, Living DNA was able to forensically match the saliva to Anthea’s DNA, conclusively naming her father as Patrick Coyne and ending a life-long search. Living DNA took a sample of Anthea's saliva and compared it to small sections cut from the letters. The DNA in the first three samples was too degraded to use. However, on the fourth, more than enough DNA was found. The test, which has a degree of accuracy acceptable in UK courts, proved Patrick Coyne was Anthea's biological father.

“I’m delighted to have found the final piece in the puzzle of my family history. Who would have thought that stamps from decades-old letters were the key to unlocking my story? I can now finally tell my children and grandchildren about their roots and where they came from.” Anthea Ring

Do you have a similar story, or would you like to find out more?

DNA analysis of stamps, hair and other samples is offered to customers on an individual basis alongside the wider offer of Living DNA’s 3-in-1 ancestry test.

If you would like to get in touch about these services, please email help@livingdna.com and a member of the team will get back to you.