Police are trying to identify almost 1,000 bodies that have been found across England and Wales over the past 50 years, in one of Britain’s biggest reviews of unsolved cases.
Officers say they want to “put an end to the story” for thousands of families and friends bereft by the disappearance of loved ones who have never been traced.
Police in England and Wales are launching the £50,000 (US$77,000) review using the latest scientific techniques and public appeals to identify bodies — most thought to be involved in non-suspicious deaths.
In the first stage of the scheme, launched yesterday, police issued sketches of the faces of 20 men and women found on or near the railway and the London underground network over the past 35 years.
Peter Neyroud, head of the National Policing Improvement Agency, which is leading the review, said police had not always offered a “terribly good service” when faced with relatives of missing people.
“What we are trying to do here is create stories with endings for families who have been grieving and simply have not got an end to their story,” he said. “Many of these cases go back almost as long as I have been around. A lot of this is to do with the fact that technology and methods of identification we have now were not available.”
Neyroud said colleagues attempting to clear up cases involving unidentified bodies were faced with a mountain of old paperwork, some of which was badly compiled and in a poor condition. However, he said advances in DNA testing included a new technique which could yield a result in 45 minutes, without the need to send a sample to a laboratory.
“It is extraordinary how many people know somebody or have somebody in their family who has gone missing,” he said. “We want to work with forces across the country to find the end of some very sad stories.”
The national missing persons database holds the names of 44,000 people who have been missing for more than 72 hours. Some date back 50 years.