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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK


World: Europe

Eyewitness: Investigating the killings

The investigation procedure is the same as for any murder

By BBC Newsnight's Robin Denselow, with the British team investigating alleged war crimes in Velika Krusa (also known as Krusha-e-Mahde)


Watch Robin Denselow's report
This village, like so many across Kosovo, is almost completely destroyed and still largely deserted. The scale of the destruction is horrific.

The British team is here because the village is one of those singled out in indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Newsnight
The investigators are hoping to prove a massacre did take place. Without proof, it would be impossible to take an evidential prosecution case before the court in The Hague.

There are indeed bodies and they have been badly burned. The team is told some have been dragged away by dogs.

The war in Kosovo
Detective Chief Superintendent John Bunn from Scotland Yard says: "The information varies from witness to witness, but what we're going to try and do is examine the scene and try and corroborate the eyewitness accounts."

Several sites

One Kosovo Albanian who had lived next door to the site says he escaped from the Serb attacks and then returned to the village.


[ image: The team is told of bodies that had been dragged away by dogs]
The team is told of bodies that had been dragged away by dogs
"There were 28 men in my family; 25 escaped. When I returned I saw two dead bodies in the street, one in that house, two others in my neighbour's house. One man had his head split open and half was missing," he says.

At a second site on farmland on the edge of the village, a larger massacre site has been cordoned off.

Here the team is preparing for its vital but distressing task. The delegation is made up of specialists in pathology and forensic science, including 12 police.

"The main thing is to record everything that is on the crime scene, photograph it and then take each step, one at a time, very, very slowly," Mr Bunn says.

The investigation uses experts that are "at the top of their field in the particular discipline", he says.

The findings are dealt with like murders or terrorist incidents on a massive scale.

Mass killings

The bodies are assembled from the mass of burned bones and examined by the pathologist Professor Peter Menaziz, who is experienced in mass killings from Rwanda to Bosnia.


[ image: Most appear to have been killed at close range]
Most appear to have been killed at close range
He says the victims had been herded into a close place.

"There's evidence on the walls of machine-gun fire as well, so they've been sprayed.

"There are obviously a great number of fragments still left to find in those bodies, which we're going to be looking at later on," he says.

Professor Menaziz compared the events with those of other wartime mass killings.

"It's just as bad. They are all horrendous - massacres, executions of people," he says.


[ image: The buildings are also used as evidence]
The buildings are also used as evidence
"In no cases did we find anywhere that people had been killed in combat. They were all killed as a result of being executed at close range," he says.

The team knows it will be difficult to find out who carried out the killings, but in terms of the indictment, there will now be conclusive evidence.

The massacre at Velika Krusa was horrific, but it will, at least, be painstakingly documented as the War Crimes Tribunal attempts to bring those responsible to justice.

But it is just one of dozens, perhaps hundreds of similar sites across Kosovo and there is new evidence still emerging of further killing.

It is believed that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, died during the conflict.

Some killings even took place even after Nato had entered Kosovo.



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