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Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006, 16:09 GMT
DNA tests before a burial at sea
DNA samples could be taken from bodies before they are buried at sea, in order for remains to be more easily identified if they wash up on shore.

The idea has been put to the government by an Isle of Wight coroner who saw six cases in four years of unidentified bodies found washed onto the island.

John Matthews said this could save time and money spent identifying remains.

Sea burial sites off the Needles and between Hastings and Newhaven, East Sussex, are currently Defra designated.

If remains wash up on the island's shores, Mr Matthews said the identification bill is currently about 8,000 and this is paid each time by the Isle of Wight council.

'Distress to relatives'

Mr Matthews has written to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), suggesting that taking a DNA sample from a dead body to be stored on a database would cost only 200 - 300.

A spokeswoman for Defra, who is considering the proposals, said: "Arranging for DNA samples to be taken is likely to have cost implications for the estate of the deceased.

"There is yet to be much evidence to support any claim that bodies buried according to licence do in fact regularly reappear.

"Sampling would probably cause extra distress to the relatives of the deceased and possibly unduly heighten their concerns that the body may reappear after burial."

About 15 people are currently buried at sea every year under licences granted by Defra.

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