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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Long haul for tsunami ID officer
Det Supt Derek Forest
Det Supt Forest: Attention to detail is vital
The UK police officer in charge of a unit identifying Asian tsunami victims says the job will take more than another six months to complete.

A team of 150 forensic experts started work in Phuket, Thailand, soon after the disaster on 26 December.

About 1,700 victims from 36 nations have been traced, but there are another 2,000 bodies, said Det Supt Derek Forest of the West Midlands force.

Identification has centred on dental, fingerprint and DNA matching.

"It will take as long as it takes and I do not expect it to be over anywhere before the first anniversary of the tsunami," he said.

"Attention to detail is vital and the delivery of correct identifications is paramount to the families involved."

The total death toll from the tsunami is more than 180,000 and tens of thousands across Asia are still listed as missing.


DNA identification can be made through access to a profile from the person, such as a blood sample, or the recovery of personal items, said Det Supt Forest.

The international team at the Incident Management Centre is now also involved in the "more difficult" and time-consuming task of comparing DNA samples from relatives of victims for possible links.

Map highlighting Phuket, Thailand
The hundreds of child victims that died in the Tsunami has proved more of a challenge
Det Supt Derek Forest

Det Supt Forest said some countries record fingerprints for national identity cards and these are "proving invaluable".

But, where reference sets of fingerprints are not available, staff have travelled to the addresses of those reported missing across the world to look for matches.

"The hundreds of child victims that died in the Tsunami has proved more of a challenge due to the fact they have very little dental history and, in the case of very small children, fingerprints have also been problematic," he added.

Det Supt Forest, the West Midlands' force's scientific support manager, works between three and four weeks at a time in Thailand, with a week off in the UK to visit his family.

He has recently become involved in raising money for the orphans, especially children with special needs.

He said he is also sponsoring a couple of children through their education "which actually doesn't cost that much for us but means everything to them".


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