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Thursday 18 September 2014

Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: drunk rebels guard victims’ bodies that were ‘dragged around’ and robbed

Family members mourn as victims’ bodies removed from the crash site by rebels

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith

Published 20/07/2014 | 12:47

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The family members of those killed in the Malaysian Airlines MH17 crash have been dealt a new blow at reports that their loved ones’ bodies have been guarded by drunk rebels, looted, left exposed to the elements and even dragged around, before they were unceremoniously removed from the site on Sunday.

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International anger is rising at the lack of dignity with which the bodies have been treated, while families of the victims continue to call for the bodies to be returned home.

Mementos placed at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 are pictured near the settlement of Rozspyne in the Donetsk region July 19, 2014
Mementos placed at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 are pictured near the settlement of Rozspyne in the Donetsk region July 19, 2014

Ukraine’s emergency services said on Sunday that separatist rebels have taken away all the 196 bodies that workers recovered from the crash site to an unknown location, after journalists saw the rebels putting bagged bodies onto trucks on Saturday and driving them away.

Twenty-seven more bodies have been found along with 20 fragments of bodies at the site where a Malaysian airliner crashed, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said.

He told a news conference that the bodies of 192 of the 298 people killed when the plane plunged into the steppe in eastern Ukraine on Thursday had been placed in refrigerated train wagons before being sent home for burial.

Nataliya Bystro, a Ukrainian spokeswoman, said the emergency services were working under duress and that they “don’t know” where the bodies were taken to, nor do they know what has happened to the 101 bodies that have yet to be found.

For days the bodies from the crash scene were reported to have been left to rot in the sunshine, exposed to nearly 30C heat and occasional downpours of rain after their plane was shot down on Thursday.

An emergency worker pauses in a truck loaded with bodies of the victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, July 19, 2014. World leaders demanded Friday that pro-Russia rebels who control the eastern Ukraine crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 give immediate, unfettered access to independent investigators to determine who shot down the plane. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
An emergency worker pauses in a truck loaded with bodies of the victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, July 19, 2014

“Some of the body bags are open and the damage to the corpses is very, very bad – it is very difficult to look at,” said Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the investigators at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Saturday.

“It basically looks like the biggest crime scene in the world right now, guarded by a bunch of guys in uniform with heavy firepower who are quite inhospitable,” he told reporters at the time.

On Friday Mr Bociurkiw said the officials, who have made on-going efforts to recover the bodies, were continually hampered with some of the rebels guarding the scene appearing drunk.

Ukraine’s officials had already accused the rebels of destroying evidence at the site and of allowing the victims to be robbed of their cash and credit cards, while the fighters stand accused of failing to provide full access to the scene to international observers, and of tampering with crucial evidence.

The Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans condemned reports of how the dead have been treated, 193 of which were Netherlands nationals. 

“We are already shocked by the news we got today of bodies being dragged around, of the site not being treated properly… People are angry, furious,” he said on Saturday.

But it is little comfort to the families left behind, and the relatives of the 10 Britons who died on the flight. Speaking to the Telegraph, Barry Sweeney, 52, from North Tyneside, whose 28-year-old son Liam was one of the passengers on the plane, said: “I am sickened by reports of what has been happening over there and I just want Liam home.”

On Sunday Malaysia Airlines released a full list of the passengers on Flight MH17, though the names of the Britons on the flight had already been released. John Allen, a lawyer and Andrew Hoare, a banker, died on the flight with their wives and five children. Robert Ayley, a father of two who lives in New Zealand and was travelling alone, was also on board.

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