Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Quake victims identity process plea

Cars lie under rubble in the central business district in Christchurch, New Zealand (AP)
A New Zealand Urban Search and Rescue worker during a search of earthquake damaged buildings in Christchurch (AP)

A senior British detective helping to identify victims of the New Zealand earthquake has warned that the process of naming the dead must not be rushed.

Metropolitan Police Commander Nick Bracken insisted accuracy could not be compromised for speed as the authorities in Christchurch ruled out finding any more survivors.

Four Britons are thought to have died in the devastating 6.3-magnitude quake that struck the city at lunchtime on February 22.

Another two who were injured are expected to be released from hospital in the next week, according to a spokesman for the British High Commission in New Zealand.

New Zealand prime minister John Key has criticised "farcical" delays in naming those killed in the disaster.

But Mr Bracken, leader of a 10-strong British disaster victim identification team, said there could be no repeat of previous errors which led to the wrong bodies being flown back to the UK.

He told New Zealand's Waikato Times newspaper: "One mistaken identity can cast doubt in the minds of everyone.

"We saw it after the 2004 Thailand tsunami and in 1997 following the Luxor massacre in Egypt, where 12 bodies were repatriated to the UK when they were in fact Swiss nationals - we cannot let that happen."

Referring to a popular TV programme about police forensic work, he added: "People watch CSI and think the process can be done instantly but that is not reality - you simply can't compromise accuracy for speed."

The only British victim confirmed so far is chef Gregory Tobin, 25, from Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, who was on a round-the-world trip when he was killed.

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