Northern Ireland force kept body parts for decades

The Police Service of Northern Ireland was facing questions last night after it emerged that it stored body parts and tissue samples in nearly 70 cases of suspicious deaths without notifying relatives.

Dating back to some of the earliest days of the Troubles, the samples were revealed as part of a UK-wide audit of all police forces.

The PSNI said the body parts were retained between 1960 and 2005 and possibly included items such as skulls and organs. The samples had been retained, they said, as part of investigations.

Relatives are now being contacted, with police acknowledging the revelation will be an "incredibly difficult time" for the families bereaved over a 40-year period.

Last week, it emerged that Hampshire and City of London police forces kept samples in 89 suspicious-death cases without notifying relatives. The legislation was changed in 2006 making the retention of body tissue illegal.

Details of a UK-wide audit by police services on the retention of such human tissue are to be published on 21 May.