Anthropologist criticized for showing images of MH17 victims

AP News
Posted: Apr 23, 2015 9:40 AM

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An anthropologist and pathologist who is part of the international team working to identify people killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was brought down over Ukraine was publicly rebuked Thursday for discussing the case and showing photos of victims in a lecture to students.

Arie de Bruijn, head of the Dutch police forensics unit that is leading the international identification team, criticized Prof. George Maat for making comments that de Bruijn said were "speculative, untrue and partly outside his area of expertise."

Evert van Zijtveld, who lost his son, daughter and parents-in-law in the crash, said he was appalled at news of the lecture.

"This is terribly shocking. It just causes extra grief for relatives," Van Zijtveld said in a telephone interview. "Information from the identification process cannot be used as study material."

De Bruijn said it was "unacceptable" that Maat showed students confidential images during the lecture. The images included photos of victims' body parts.

De Bruijn called Maat's actions "extremely serious" and apologized if they had offended relatives of the dead. He said that experts who are part of the team are allowed to share certain information with colleagues, but a recent lecture by Maat was open to people other than only medical students.

Maat said in a statement he regretted it if he had upset next of kin. He said he had given a number of lectures to students of medicine and forensic science and didn't realize that people other than students also had attended.

Forensic experts are still working to identify remains of the 298 people killed when flight MH17 was brought down July 17. Only two victims remain unaccounted for. The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it came down.

An international team is investigating the exact cause of the downing, widely believed to be a surface-to-air missile in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russia rebels had been battling Ukrainian troops. Dutch police are running a criminal investigation in an effort to bring to justice those responsible for the tragedy.

A team of investigators is in Ukraine this week collecting wreckage, personal belongings and human remains from the crash site. The team leader says he hopes that remains of the last two victims can be recovered.