Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Families speak of horror at chaotic recovery mission

Families in mourning are still waiting for their loved ones to be returned home, amid concerns that bodies have been tampered with and "thrown around like cargo"

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The Independent Online

Distraught relatives of the MH17 victims have spoken on the anarchy surrounding the recovery operation, the silence from Malaysia Airlines and the frustration they have at hearing of the 'inhumane' treatment of corpses.

Ten Britons, including one with dual South African citizenship, perished when the Boeing 777 they were travelling on from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down last Thursday.

The nephew of passenger Glenn Thomas has said his family is getting most of its information from the media.

Jordan Withers said they while they received communication last night, they had previously been “constantly ringing Malaysia Airlines with no joy.”

“It’s been very poor really. Quite upsetting,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He spoke of wanting government officials to work urgently in getting their loved ones home and said that despite offers, they would not want to travel to Ukraine to see the chaos for themselves.


“It's quite raw still and apparently you would fly into Kiev and an eight hour coach journey there to see scenes you've not even seen in a horror film,” Mr Withers said.

“Some of the scenes I've been seeing, people emptying bags and bodies - it's not something our family would be ready to see, and I don't think we will be for a long time.

“Seeing the news this morning, they have been loading them on to trains like cargo. And it's just degrading and inhumane. You wouldn't treat anyone like that. It's 2014, you can't believe it's still going on really. It's unbelievable.”

A number of world leaders whose citizens died in the crash have said that repatriating the bodies is their main priority.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that his first aim is to transfer the bodies currently being held in refrigerated trains 15km from the crash site – in rebel-held territory – to a location overseen by the Ukraine government.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans met with Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, today to discuss the hastening of returning victims’ remains.  Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also said it’s “imperative” that the deceased are brought home.

The father of a Newcastle United fan who died as he travelled with a friend to see his beloved team play in New Zealand, has said that he hopes his son is in one of the many body bags being loaded into trucks and refrigerated wagons, as he would hate for him to be lying somewhere without anyone to give him a cuddle.

Liam Sweeney, 28, was on the ill-fated flight with his friend and fellow football fan John Alder when the two, along with 296 other people were killed as their plane was shot out of the skies.

Barry, Liam’s father, said: “Without going into politics because I think the Government have to sort that out, I just want them basically to bring the 298 people who need to be brought home for this to close.

“I have seen a little bit of the news, I try to stop watching it only because it is upsetting, especially when you see body bags but I'm hoping Liam is in one of those because I don't want him to be lying there somewhere where there's nobody there to give him a good cuddle, you know.”

Victims of the crash: (L-R) Ben Pocock, Liam Sweeney and John Alder

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Sweeney said he hasn’t really had time to stop and think about the loss of his son.

He said that he’s fine as long as he’s talking to people and keeping himself busy but when he stops, the tears come. His wife and ex-wife, Liam’s mother, “are in bits,” he said. “They just can’t comprehend what’s happened.”

It comes as a UN resolution is set to be debated and voted on later today, which will demand “full and unfettered” access to the crash site with the co-operation from the rebels.

Further criticisms have been directed at Russian President Putin for failing to placate the pro-Moscow militants nor using his 'influence' to force them to step aside earlier or 'admit culpability'.

David Cameron has warned that should President Putin and his government not display a "radical" change in behaviour, draconian sanctions could be wielded against them.

Dutch forensic investigators have arrived at the crash site and have inspected some of the bodies in the refrigerated train wagons, amid claims that the rebels were obstructing the movement of the bodies.