Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains

Rebels claim bodies will not move ‘until experts arrive’ as Ukraine claims 27 more bodies found

The 192 bodies found after the Flight MH17 plane crash, have been bundled into black body bags and unceremoniously loaded into large refrigerated train cars, bound, it is understood, for the rebel heartland.

Rebel leader Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, claims that he has the bodies – which have been decomposing since Thursday - held in the train cars in the rebel-held city of Torez, 15 kilometres from the crash site.

Mr Borodai has given the unexpected explanation of removing the bodies from the site of the crash, where they have been lying rotting and exposed to the baking Ukrainian heat, “out of respect for the families,” and because “it is becoming inhumane in these conditions”.

“We couldn’t wait any longer because of the heat and also because there are many dogs and wild animals I the zone,” he told reporters, a statement that jars with  reports from the crash site of the rebels blocking investigations and even allowing the bodies to be looted.

Mr Bordai claims the bodies will not be moved “until the experts arrive,” and that the plane's black boxes will also be handed over to the Civil Aviation Authority.

But armed separatists in Torez have told the Guardian that they did not know when the train would leave. The train driver said he had no idea as to the destination of the train.

The bodies were reportedly moved by Ukraine’s emergency services who were working for the rebels under duress on Sunday.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groysman told a news conference that 27 more bodies, along with 20 fragments of bodies, have since been recovered from the site. He said the bodies that had been loaded into the refrigerated train wagons were being held before being sent home for burial.

The family members of those killed in the Malaysian Airlines MH17 crash were dealt a new blow as reports emerged that their loved ones’ bodies had been guarded by drunk rebels, looted, left exposed to the elements and even dragged around, before they were unceremoniously removed from the site on Sunday.

International anger is rising at the lack of dignity with which the bodies have been treated, while families of the victims continue to call for the bodies to be returned home.

For days the bodies from the crash scene were reported to have been left to rot in the sunshine, exposed to nearly 30C heat and occasional downpours of rain after their plane was shot down on Thursday.

“Some of the body bags are open and the damage to the corpses is very, very bad – it is very difficult to look at,” said Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the investigators at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Saturday.

“It basically looks like the biggest crime scene in the world right now, guarded by a bunch of guys in uniform with heavy firepower who are quite inhospitable,” he told reporters at the time.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the rebels' treatment of the bodies "downright disgusting," saying: "Shocked by images of totally disrespectful behaviour, downright disgusting. Absolutely urgent now is the rapid repatriation of victims," on Twitter. A cuddly toy monkey found in the wreckage A cuddly toy monkey found in the wreckage

On Friday Mr Bociurkiw said the officials, who have made on-going efforts to recover the bodies, were continually hampered with some of the rebels guarding the scene appearing drunk.

Ukraine’s officials had already accused the rebels of destroying evidence at the site and of allowing the victims to be robbed of their cash and credit cards, while the fighters stand accused of failing to provide full access to the scene to international observers, and of tampering with crucial evidence.

Mr Borodai denied the rebels had interfered with the crash investigation.

The Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans condemned reports of how the dead have been treated, 193 of which were Netherlands nationals.  

“We are already shocked by the news we got today of bodies being dragged around, of the site not being treated properly… People are angry, furious,” he said on Saturday.

But it is little comfort to the families left behind, and the relatives of the 10 Britons who died on the flight. Speaking to the Telegraph, Barry Sweeney, 52, from North Tyneside, whose 28-year-old son Liam was one of the passengers on the plane, said: “I am sickened by reports of what has been happening over there and I just want Liam home.”

On Sunday Malaysia Airlines released a full list of the passengers on Flight MH17, though the names of the Britons on the flight had already been released. John Allen, a lawyer and Andrew Hoare, a banker, died on the flight with their wives and five children. Robert Ayley, a father of two who lives in New Zealand and was travelling alone, was also on board.

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SEO Manager

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a white-ha...

Recruitment Genius: Operations and Administration Support Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading Solar P...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Support Specialist

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is changing the way at...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Web Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Web Designer is required to join a f...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor