THE body parts and tissue from soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been kept without permission from their families, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.
• MoD failed to inform famiiles of dead soldiers that body parts were being kept
• Six major body parts and more than 50 tissue samples secretly retained by Royal Military Police
Around six major body parts and more than 50 tissue samples were secretly retained by the Royal Military Police without any notification to the victims’ families.
The remains were uncovered when a new manager was appointed at the police’s Special Investigations Branch. The SIB is now trying to identify and inform families affected as soon as possible and an investigation has already been launched.
An Army spokesman said there had been “a small number of cases” where procedure had not been followed.
The body parts were found at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, while the tissue samples, kept on laboratory slides for matching or identifying the dead soldiers, were discovered at the headquarters of the SIB at Bulford Garrison on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.
It is understood the number of families affected is likely to be less than 60 because multiple samples were taken in some cases.
MoD sources revealed that on occasions it is necessary for the SIB to retain slides of forensic material from individuals killed on operations as part of their investigations. The MoD is blaming the mistakes on a change in the way the SIB liaised with families.
The Army spokesman said: “There are occasions when it is necessary for the RMP Special Investigations Branch to retain slides of forensic material from individuals killed on operations as part of their investigation – this is standard practice.
“However, the RMP identified there were a small number of cases where this had been done without correct processes being followed to inform families.”
The MoD said approximately 90 per cent of the 60 forensic items were histology slides, and procedures have since been changed again following the discovery last month. Former head of the Army, Lord Richard Dannatt, said: “Allegations like these are very serious and there must be an investigation. Everything must be done to see that this type of thing cannot be allowed to happen.”
The body parts are understood to have been retained during the tenure of Sergeant-Major Andrew Bishop, who was made an MBE for services to forensic science.
MoD officials said he is now leaving the Army on a medical discharge having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after attending multiple post-mortem examinations at Bulford.
The MoD would not say whether any disciplinary action has been taken.