Police face some awkward apologies over victim body parts

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Nearly five hundred organs, including brains and limbs dating back as far as 1960, had been preserved in hospitals and laboratories. Photo:

Police have today apologised for having to tell relativesof people who died violently or in suspicious circumstances that theyunnecessarily retained some body parts.

Nearly 500 organs including brains and hearts have beenfound after a two year audit by forces across England and Wales.

None of them were so important to the criminal justiceprocess that they needed to be kept - either to assist police investigatean unsolved crime or to help someone convicted prove their innocence.

But deciding what to do about it was not easy for theAssociation of Chief Police Officers, who were well aware that telling the bereaved theyhad not completely laid their loved ones to rest would cause fresh anguish.

In some cases relatives may not have been told if the death was many years ago and the body part relatively minor.

But other forces have had to knock on the door once more, dredging up the most painful memories imaginable.

Some have picked up the bill for what has been a second funeral and offered their profuse apologies.

It seems part of the problem has been the lack of communication, a relic of an era when police 'shielded' families from the unpleasant facts during an inquiry.

But in an age where family liaison is at the heart of a murder investigation it seems cold hearted and uncaring.

Recommendations include detectives regularly assessing what body parts they need to keep and making sure someone knows what organs are on the books long after those who handled the inquiry have retired.