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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 12:38 GMT
New research on Elephant man
Joseph Merrick
Joseph Merrick was exhibited as a circus freak
Researchers in Leicester are celebrating a major new discovery about Joseph Merrick - also known as the Elephant Man.

They have managed to trace his sister and found she also suffered from a crippling disease.

Marion Eliza Merrick died of mylitis, a spinal disease, aged just 24.

The research was sparked off by a New Zealand television crew trying to discover exactly what caused Merrick's deformities.

Merrick, who was born in Leicester, became famous because of his appearance during the late 19th Century.

His tragic early life and subsequent rescue by the surgeon Sir Frederick Treves formed the basis of director David Lynch's film, The Elephant Man.

Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society says it is a major new discovery.

Peter Cousins
Peter Cousins says Merrick was not a freak
Society chairman Peter Cousins said: "It's an important because it means he wasn't really a freak.

"Obviously he was deformed but there were other deformities in his family.

"There was also a cousin who was a cripple from birth."

Although historians knew Merrick had a sister, Eliza, they had failed to find any official record of her.

Persistent research found that she was actually named Marion Eliza.

Her story appears to only add to the harsh picture of Merrick's life.

Her death certificate shows she died of the spinal disease aged 24.

She apparently lived alone in Leicester's Justice Street as her body is recorded as being found by a neighbour.

The history society have passed their work onto the documentary team.

But they will also be presenting a talk on their findings at their open day on 16 March at Beauchamp College, Oadby.

Elephant man's descendant found
20 Nov 02 |  England

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