MH17: 60 cases processed to date

MH17: 60 cases processed to date

UTRECHT, Netherlands -It is hoped that the disaster victim identification (DVI) process at Hilversum will be completed in around two to three weeks time with around 60 cases processed so far, said Malaysian team leader Dr Mohd Shah Mahmood.

However, he stressed that the actual process of identifying the victims was not done at the medical military base there but by a specialised team at The Hague.

He explained that forensic experts at Hilversum were responsible solely for obtaining victims' post-mortem information, including fingerprints, dental and DNA samples.

"The process of reconciliation, which is matching the post-mortem data with ante-mortem (before death) data will be done at central headquarters in The Hague," he told reporters here on Sunday.

As such, Dr Mohd Shah stressed that the team at Hilversum had no way of identifying the victims at the site itself.

Regarding the examination process, he explained that the international team was broken up into five separate teams according to the countries involved, meaning that five cases could be processed at any one time.

He said that the forensic process involved four stages, beginning with fingerprinting; assessment of personal belongings; pathology, physical anthropology, DNA sampling; and forensic odontology.

"How fast the process goes depends on the condition of the body. So far, we have observed a mix of fresh remains and those in moderate to advanced stages of decomposition," he said, adding that this depended on how soon they had been retrieved from the crash site and stored in refrigerated train cars at Torez, Ukraine.

Dr Mohd Shah said one of the biggest challenges was that some of the bodies were not intact, meaning identification would take longer as DNA profiling, amongst other data, was needed to match the parts together. 

He said the Malaysian team here would stay on until all the procedures were done and would request additional assistance from back home, if needed.

"We are trying our level best and it is our hope we will be able to speed things up," he said.

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