FAMILIES whose loved ones were killed in action in Afghanistan say they are horrified after the Ministry of Defence admitted keeping soldiers’ body parts without relatives’ permission.
The MoD has apologised after six body parts and more than 50 tissue samples were reportedly retained by the Royal Military Police without relatives of the servicemen being notified.
Ray Graham, unit manager at Blackpool’s Supporting Our Brave shop, which assists grieving families of servicemen, said the controversy would come as a shock to all families in the Armed Forces.
He said: “It is a very delicate situation. If they name the individuals, that’s where the hurt would be.
“It would be quite horrific for families to know part of their son or daughter was missing when they got buried.
“It will be a shock to all the Forces families.”
The remains were discovered last month when a new manager was appointed at the Military Police’s Special Investigations Branch (SIB).
An Army spokesman said officials are trying to identify and inform the families affected while an urgent investigation has been launched.
The body parts were reportedly found at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, while the tissue samples – which were kept on laboratory slides for matching or identifying the dead soldiers –were discovered at the SIB’s headquarters at Bulford Garrison in Wiltshire.
South Shore mum, Diane Whiteside, whose 20-year-old son Christopher was killed when he was struck by a bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2009, said the Army had always been open and honest with her family.
She said: “Nothing was held from us but for the families affected by this it will rake it all back up. It is still so raw.
“They are still our babies. It must be like grieving all over again. It’s going to open so many wounds.
“It would just be horrific.”
It is believed because multiple samples were taken for each case, the number of families affected is likely to be less than 60.
The Army spokesman added: “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 the correct processes being followed to inform families.
“Investigations are being carried out urgently into this matter. The RMP has also taken swift action to ensure this cannot happen again.”