KUALA LUMPUR - The managing of bodies of MH17 victims in Kharkiv, Ukraine was the "most important job" of his career, said Deputy Supt Mohd Hakim Hashom, who has worked in victim identification for years.
"It was a heavy responsibility for me but I did my work because I went there with a feeling of sincerity for the Malaysian victims. Moreover, this involved my country's airline.
"I guess I was there not just as a policeman but as a Malaysian doing a duty for the nation and to the families of the victims," said DSP Hakim, who is Bukit Aman's DNA databank officer.
DSP Hakim led a 12-member team who sifted through and documented the horrifying multitude of body parts, luggage and belongings collected from the Donestk crash site before sending them to Hilversum, Netherlands where another forensics team performed the post-mortem.
The team, comprising officers from the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) unit from Bukit Aman, returned home after 22 days on Sunday.
They could barely contain their tears when they walked out of the special lounge of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport's arrival hall on Sunday to find their families waiting for them.
"In Kharkiv, we worked with an international team to process and document the victims, to try and identify their nationalities."
"There were times we could see the victims were Malaysians. And we documented the belongings of the plane's crew. We said a prayer for them and the team observed a minute of silence when their bodies were brought in," DSP Hakim said.
He said the hardest part for the team was being away from home and missing their families as they worked through the Ramadhan month and Hari Raya season.
"We had tomatoes, bread and cucumbers for Raya!" he laughed. "And we drank mineral water. The thing about Ukraine is there're not many Malays, so they don't understand what we can eat."
Welcoming the second batch of returning police officers was Bukit Aman CID director Comm Datuk Seri Mohmad Salleh, who applauded the team for performing their duties under extraordinary circumstances.
"The incident is a tragedy for all of us, more so for them whose job was to identify the 43 Malaysians and the other victims," he said.
Comm Mohmad said another 26 officers of the forensics unit were expected to return from Ukraine in a week.
MH17 was enroute to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam on July 17 when it crashed in Ukraine, believed to have been brought down by a ground-to-air missile. All 298 people on board were killed.