Hundreds of body parts have been stored by police for years after suspicious death cases were solved, an audit showed today.
Police forces have apologised to grieving families as it was revealed that 492 major organs and limbs dating back as far as 1960 had been preserved without the families knowledge.
Brendan McAllister from the Commission for victims and survivors has welcomed the release of the information:
Some body parts retained by police in Northern Ireland were disposed of without the consent or knowledge of their families, according to Northern Ireland's Justice Minister.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) kept human tissue samples relating to 63 suspicious and unexplained deaths between 1960 and 2005.
Stormont Minister David Ford said:
The state pathologist has clarified to me that there were, in the past, occasions when human tissue was taken without the families' knowledge and subsequently disposed of without family consent or knowledge.
To many that may seem a shocking statement
In England the following forces have admitted keeping body parts:
- The Metropolitan Police kept 39 major body parts
- Merseyside stored 37
- Cambridgeshire found 35
- West Yorkshire recorded 31
- A total of 13 forces said they did not hold any body parts
The partner of a man murdered by loyalists 20 years ago has said she will take legal action against police in Northern Ireland after the force retained part of his skull.
Married father-of-one Tony Butler, 40, was shot in the head after answering the door to two Ulster Defence Association gunmen in south Belfast in January 1993.
According to Mr Butler's partner Maureen Jameson, officers left her with a decision on whether to bury his skull or incinerate it.
I am in total shock and very angry. I have been receiving counselling for years and have only just recently come to terms with losing Tony 19 years ago.
John clements reports: