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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
UK experts offer forensics help
Manhattan rubble
It could take years to identify some victims
A British expert in disaster investigations has offered to send a team to the US to help in its attempt to identify the victims of the terror attacks.

Professor Peter Vanezis runs the Centre for International Forensic Assistance at Glasgow University, which was set up to in July to create a pool of experts in disaster scene evidence gathering.

The professor, a forensic pathologist, said he could bring together a range of experts in disciplines from identifying bone parts to forensic dentists and mortuary technicians.

And he warned that identifying the victims of the attacks could take years.

Professor Peter Vanezis
Prof Vanezis: Forensic pathologist
The professor, who has worked at war crime atrocity scenes in Kosovo and at numerous air crashes and other disasters, said he was assembling a team of scientific experts to help in the aftermath of the tragedy if needed.

The centre has offered assistance to the American authorities, and has been in touch with the Foreign Office, Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch, and New York's chief medical examiner.

"The feedback we have had has been positive from everyone," Prof Vanezis said.

"They are very grateful we are trying to help in this way, and it's a question of putting our staff on standby and waiting to see how things develop."

Identification and repatriation

He said: "Once the authorities over there realise the enormity of what it means to try to identify this number of people, I would be very surprised if they don't ask for outside help."

Professor Vanezis said the centre was willing to help in any way it could, either on the investigative side or the identification and repatriation of remains.

"I think realistically, from our point of view we would probably be more interested in repatriation, although we would obviously help, if they need it, in the actual investigation of causes of death and so on," he said.

However, he added it was also possible, as many British were among the casualties, that the team could be used to help with those identifications in particular.

World Trade Center on fire
The World Trade Center was destroyed
Prof Vanezis compared the scale of the disaster to the wartime London blitz.

He said merely identifying the victims would not be enough for experts working at the American crash scenes.

They would also be trying to identify the role each victim played in events, whether they were on the ground or on the planes, and if they showed any knife or gunshot injuries.

Prof Vanezis said the work of identifying all the victims could take years, and it was difficult to estimate how long it would be before bodies were returned to relatives.

He said in some cases remains could be released fairly quickly.

But he added: "The problem is where you are going to get a part of a body, and also whether relatives are prepared to accept an incomplete body for burial."

He added: "I would suggest that in some cases, it could be years before some of them are properly identified - if indeed ever identified."

See also:

14 Sep 01 | Scotland
Silent tribute to US victims
14 Sep 01 | Scotland
A day of remembrance
14 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scots families wait for news
14 Sep 01 | Scotland
Transatlantic flights to resume
12 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scotland's leaders united in sorrow
11 Sep 01 | Americas
US rocked by terrorist attacks
03 Jul 01 | Scotland
War crimes unit launched
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