Austrian experts may need months to identify murdered Mexican students

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 16, 2014 11:40 AM

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian forensic experts will need at least two months to determine whether they can identify the victims of an apparent massacre of 43 Mexicans, they said on Tuesday, but said the chances were slim because of damaged samples.

Mexico has said mounting evidence and initial DNA tests confirmed that 43 trainee teachers abducted by corrupt police 10 weeks ago were incinerated at a garbage dump by drug gang members.

The attack has sent shockwaves through Mexico, shining a spotlight on the nexus between impunity, corruption and drug gangs that has blighted the country for years. President Enrique Pena Nieto is facing his deepest crisis over his government's handling of the investigation.

Austrian forensics experts who helped solve the mystery of Russia's murdered imperial family identified one student earlier this month using samples sent to Innsbruck's Medical University.

The remaining samples, however, are in such a bad state that even time-consuming specialist analysis, focusing on so-called mitochondrial DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), might take months, if it yields any good data at all.

"We hope for results in the next two to three months," molecular biologist Walther Parson, a leading expert at Innsbruck Medical University's forensics institute, who is working on the Mexican case, said.

"The chances for useful results even with mitochondrial DNA are very slim, but we will try everything to create more potential DNA profiles."

Parson's team has been sent biological samples of relatives of the missing students which can be matched to genetic information from the samples collected in Mexico.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Janet Lawrence)