One of the most symbolic pieces of history from the Titanic may have been uncovered almost a century after the ill-fated liner sank.
It is thought the missing violin played by the Titanic’s bandleader as the stricken vessel slowly sank has been found and now tests are being carried out to establish its authenticity.
Wallace Hartley and his seven fellow musicians have become an enduring part of the Titanic story — heroically playing on until waist-deep in freezing water as the ship disappeared below the waves.
According to some reports, Hartley’s violin — a precious gift from his fiancee Maria Robinson — was found strapped to his chest in its case when his body was recovered from the icy Atlantic.
But it was never returned to his family and has been missing ever since.
Now, in a remarkable twist of fate — and just weeks before the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the famous liner — experts believe they have unravelled the mystery surrounding the violin.
They are so sure they have found the instrument that they are planning to take it on a world tour before putting it up for sale next year where it could fetch in excess of £1m.
“Other than retrieving the bow of the ship, this must be the most symbolic artefact of the Titanic sinking ever likely to be sold,” said Titanic author Steve Turner.
“Everyone concerned has been sworn to secrecy.
“Other than admitting to me the violin exists and that the photos I saw were genuine, the auctioneers won’t be giving out any more information until an announcement is made about its sale.”
All eight members of Hartley’s band played on as the ship sank 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada, on April 14, 1912.
Reports at the time said 33-year-old Hartley, from Lancashire, did not have his violin listed among his personal effects after he was found dead.
It was also not given to his father, Albion, who collected his son’s body in Liverpool.
It his believed a relative of Ms Robinson has come forward regarding the violin’s whereabouts.
Among evidence is a draft letter to the Nova Scotia authorities in Maria’s 1912 diary.
It says: “I would be most grateful if you could convey my heartfelt thanks to all who have made possible the return of my late fiance’s violin.”