UK & World News
Body Parts Of Troops Kept Without Permission
Body parts of 30 soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been kept by the Ministry of Defence without the permission of their families, officials have said.
About six body parts and more than 50 tissue samples were retained by the Royal Military Police (RMP) without relatives of the servicemen being notified.
The remains were discovered last month when a new manager was appointed at the Military Police's Special Investigations Branch (SIB).
The MoD said it would confirm the identities of those involved on Thursday and write to families offering a formal apology and details of the material held.
An urgent investigation has been launched and a helpline for concerned relatives has been posted on the MoD website.
The body parts were reportedly found at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, while the tissue samples - which make up 90% of the material and were kept on laboratory slides for matching or identifying the dead soldiers - were discovered at the SIB's headquarters at Bulford Garrison in Wiltshire.
Major General James Everard, Assistant Chief of the General Staff, told Sky News the samples relate to 30 service personnel dating back to 2002 and confirmed that two families have so far been informed.
He said: "We owe a huge apology to the families involved and those who will now be feeling stressful even if it doesn't affect them."
Maj Gen Everard blamed a "failure of process" for the tissue samples being kept.
He said: "There was some suggestion that the tissue samples were being held for wider purpose. They weren't.
"These were just tissue samples that we had failed to recover post-inquest and deal with in line with the families' wishes.
"It's a failure of process, nothing more than that, but we absolutely recognise this will cause distress and we're deeply sorry."
A Royal British Legion spokeswoman said: "The Royal British Legion is deeply concerned that the wishes of bereaved families were ignored in these cases and urges the MoD to take corrective action urgently and to ensure that this never happens again.
"Human remains must be treated with utmost respect and accountability, not only to protect the dignity and feelings of service families, but also to preserve the integrity of the inquest process.
"We will be following this matter with interest.
An Army spokesman said: "There are occasions when it is necessary for the RMP Special Investigations Branch to retain slides of forensic material from individuals killed on operations as part of their investigation - this is standard practice.
"However, the RMP identified there were a small number of cases where this had been done without the correct processes being followed to inform families."
The MoD said a change in the way the SIB liaised with families was to blame for the consent not being achieved, adding that when the oversight came to light in July the procedures were immediately changed.