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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2006, 14:38 GMT
'How gang stole father's bones'
The bones were replaced with plastic piping

The daughter of celebrated broadcaster Alistair Cooke has spoken of the horror of discovering her father's bones were stolen by a gang peddling human body parts.

Susan Cooke Kittredge told BBC One's Real Story, "It's a violation of the families who's loved one has been stolen."

Her father, who broadcast his Letter From America for 58 years on Radio Four, died aged 95 of lung cancer that spread to his bones in March 2004.

The broadcaster's bones were stolen and sold to two tissue banks.

Bones stolen from other dead people in the USA were sold in an alleged racket that has seen more than 40 people receive body parts in the UK.

Law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Atlantic have investigated allegations that a criminal gang stole bones from corpses in a secret operating room in a New York mortuary.

Late last year, the US Food and Drug Administration ordered a recall of the potentially tainted products and warned many patients could have been exposed to HIV and other diseases, but insisted the risk of infection was minimal.

New York investigators said death certificates were doctored, suggesting that people were younger and healthier when they died.

Susan Cooke Kittredge
The real victims in this case are I believe the people who have received erroneous tissue
Susan Cooke Kittredge, Alistair Cooke's daughter

Skin, bone and tendon tissue was later sold for use in procedures such as dental implants and hip replacements.

Plastic piping replaced the bones in the bodies so relatives visiting their loved ones would not notice any problem.

Four people arrested as a result of the investigations have denied the charges.

Ms Cooke Kittredge was informed by the Brooklyn District Attorney a year after her father's death, that they had receipts from two tissue banks that had bought Mr Cooke's bones.

"He never expressed during his lifetime that he wanted his body donated for transplant or scientific research.

"His direct request was that he be cremated."

She added: "The real victims in this case are I believe the people who have received erroneous tissue.

"It cannot be removed and I just cannot imagine how awful that must be."

In September the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency revealed 25 NHS Trusts had bought body parts allegedly stolen in the USA, following a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.

At least two UK patients are now considering legal action.

See the full story on BBC One: Real Story Wed 29 Nov 1930GMT.

Stolen body parts 'sold to NHS'
11 Sep 06 |  Health
Four charged over US bones theft
23 Feb 06 |  Americas
Alistair Cooke's bones 'stolen'
22 Dec 05 |  Americas

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