Missing and Never Forgotten
Missing since February 11, 1927 from Brooklyn, Kings County, New York
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: 1922-1923
Age at Time of Disappearance: 4 years old
Distinguishing Characteristics: White male. Brown hair; blue eyes. Thin build. Pale complexion. He has a scar on his lower lip and a birthmark on his abdomen.
Clothing: Shabby navy blue knickers, a gray middy blouse, black stockings and black shoes.
Circumstances of Disappearance
Billy Gaffney was last seen playing in the hallway outside his apartment with his three-year-old neighbor, and a twelve-year-old boy, in Brooklyn, New York on February 11, 1927. The older boy went inside his apartment and when he returned, both Gaffney and the three-year-old were gone.
The three-year-old was found alone up on the roof of the apartment building. When questioned about Gaffney he stated that a "boogey man" had taken the child. Later that day in Brooklyn, a streetcar motorman noticed an elderly man attempting to pacify a small boy. The boy, who did not have a coat on, was crying and saying he wanted to go home and see his mother. The man later identified the child as Gaffney.
Investigators originally doubted the three-year-old's story and thought Gaffney had simply wandered off. They searched neighborhood factory buildings and local canals without result, and concluded that the child had in fact been abducted. The three-year-old described the "boogey man" as a slender, elderly man with gray hair and a gray mustache.
Gaffney's case was highly publicized but remained a mystery until 1934, when Albert Hamilton Fish was arrested. He was charged with the murder of ten-year-old Grace Budd, who was abducted in 1928. During his trial, the motorman identified him as the man he saw with Gaffney the night the child disappeared.
Fish confessed to Gaffney's murder, Budd's, and the slayings of several other children. He pleaded insanity at the Budd trial, but was convicted and sentenced to death. He was not charged in any other cases.
Gaffney's case was considered closed after the identification and Fish's confession. It is no longer being investigated by law enforcement. His remains have never been found, however.
The Crime Library
The Charley Project