Left and Right: William circa, 1927
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: February 11, 1927
Missing From: Brooklyn, Kings County, New York
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: circa, 1923
Age: 4 years old
Height and Weight: 3’0″ and 40 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Male, Brown hair, Blue eyes, William has a scar on his lower lip and a birthmark on his abdomen, William May use the nickname “Billy”, he had a thin build at the time of his disappearance and a pale complexion
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A gray middy blouse, shabby navy blue knickers, black stockings and black shoes
Details of Disappearance
William Gaffney was last seen on February 11th 1927 while playing with two boys who were his neighbors. The boys were aged 3 and 12. They were last seen playing in the hallway outside their apartments. The older boy returned to his apartment for a brief amount of time and when he returned, both William and the younger boy were gone.
Soon after the boys vanished, the younger three year old boy was found on the roof of the apartment buildings. He was questioned in regards to Gaffneys whereabouts and he said that a “boogey man” had taken William.
Investigators initially believed the child had simply wandered away. They searched the surrounding areas and canals but found no trace of the child. After the searches turned up no sign of the boy, authorities then concluded that Gaffney was the victim of an abduction.
Later in the day after William vanished, a streetcar motorman, Joseph Meehan, stayed that he saw an elderly man attempting to calm down a small child. The boy did not have any winter attire on even though it was cold and he kept saying he wanted to go home and see his mother. Meehan later said the boy was William.
Authorities and investigators initially believed that serial killer, Peter Kudzinowski, may have been involved in Gaffney’s abduction. They did not have any evidence to connect him to Gaffney’s disappearance. Peter did commit many of his crimes during the time that William vanished and he also murdered children.
Williams case received media attention but his kidnapping remained a mystery until 1934, 7 years after he was taken. Albert Fish, a cannibalistic, pedophile, killer lead authorities to the remains of another child he killed in 1928, Grace Budd. When his picture made the newspapers, Joseph Meehan, stayed that Albert was the man he saw with William the day he vanished.
Fish confessed to kidnapping, torturing, and killing Gaffney. He stated he cannibalized a portion of Gaffney’s remains and disposed of the rest in a coastal area in northern NY. He is also a suspect in the killings of other children.
Williams case was originally investigated by the New York authorities but the case has since been closed following the confession Fish gave to authorities. Williams mother remained doubtful that Albert killed her son but the evidence against Fish was strong. Williams remains were never found.