Chaos as second Luxor body goes missing

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The Independent Online
Attempts to bring home the bodies of victims of an Egyptian tragedy descended into farce yesterday, with the revelation that a second body from a family of victims had disappeared. Esther Leach and Jojo Moyes report on the agony facing relatives.

The Foreign Office was yesterday urgently attempting to stop further funerals of the victims of the Luxor massacre, as a coroner admitted he had "no idea" what had happened to the body of Karina Turner.

A body flown back to Halifax, West Yorkshire, was believed to have been that of the 24-year-old air stewardess. But James Turnbull, the assistant deputy coroner for West Yorkshire, said yesterday that dental records proved the body was not Ms Turner's. He said it was possible that her body might already have been buried or cremated.

It followed a similar mix-up earlier this week, when it emerged that the body identified as that of Ms Turner's mother, Mrs Joan Turner, was in fact that of a Swiss citizen. Her body has been located in Zurich. Yesterday Mr Turnbull described the situation as "total chaos" and said relatives were suffering "indescribable distress". "I find it very hard to imagine the feelings of the Turner family ... I can't express deeply enough my concern and sympathy for them. I will move heaven and earth to get the body of Joan Turner back to this country and to locate that of Karina Turner." He added that he had known nothing like it in his 30- year service as a coroner.

"Very urgent attempts are being made by the Foreign Office to prevent funerals of younger women until the body of Karina Turner is located."

Ms Turner, her mother and her five-year-old daughter Shaunnah were all killed last week when militant Islamic gunmen opened fire on tourists visiting ancient monuments at Luxor. Mr Turnbull said there was no doubt about the identification of the body of Shaunnah Turner.

He added he had no idea of the identification of the two bodies now under his care but that he would be investigating.

The funeral of all three members of the Turner family was to have taken place last Thursday at St Bartholomew's Church near their home in Ripponden, west Yorkshire.

Mr Turnbull said because of the international nature of the investigations, it could be weeks before relatives of the Turner family could lay their loved ones to rest. The Foreign Office said its first step would be to establish the whereabouts of the body of Karina Turner, and added that the Swiss authorities had confirmed that the body of Joan Turner would be returned as soon as possible.

The mix-up over the bodies is deeply distressing for the families and embarrassing for the British and Egyptian authorities. But the authorities faced numerous difficulties in the immediate aftermath of the massacre. Initial identification was carried out by tour operators First Choice but it was not possible to cross-check with the victims' passports.

Although full details have not emerged because of concern for family sensitivities, most victims suffered extensive injuries, which made identification difficult. Mr Turnbull said the visual identification was carried out by families under very difficult circumstances. "I have said before that in the circumstances of this tragedy identification by these means is never easy and one must not offer any criticism either of the procedure or of the identifying person."

The Foreign Office is investigating reports that the bodies of a British couple killed in the massacre were looted before they were returned to Britain. A spokesman said that Paul Wigham, son of George, 69, and Ivy Wigham, 71 asked for help in locating items of jewellery and a wallet which he said were not with his parents' bodies.