Hinds: No word on repatriation of 15 bodies found off Tobago

File photo: Police in Belle Garden, Tobago in May, where a boat with 15 decomposing bodies was towed ashore. - Photo by David Reid
File photo: Police in Belle Garden, Tobago in May, where a boat with 15 decomposing bodies was towed ashore. - Photo by David Reid

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds is unable to say when the bodies of 15 people will be returned to their country of origin, four months after they were found in a boat off the coast of Tobago.

The bodies were found in the boat on May 28, by fishermen from Belle Garden, Tobago.

Police discovered they were from Mauritania, in northwest Africa.

In August, 5, the bodies were transferred from Tobago to the Forensic Science Centre, St James, for storage.

Staff at the centre expressed concern over potential problems in the storage of the remains, some of which they described as being "little more than skeletons."

Contacted for comment, Hinds said the Mauritanian government had been contacted, but he could not say how long it would take before the bodies were returned, given various considerations.

"Contact was to be made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the country from which we suspected they have come.

"It depends on contact with the other government, what the other government suggests to the Trinidadian government, concerns from family members in Mauritania, if contact is made with them.

"Also we have laws in Trinidad and Tobago for the disposal of bodies that are unclaimed after a period of time...All these factors will come into account."

An autopsy in July ruled the cause of death of the 15 was undetermined owing to the advanced state of decomposition.

Newsday also spoke to director of the Forensic Science Centre Derrick Sankar, who confirmed the bodies were stored at the centre but he did not know what the next step would be.

Responding to Newsday's questions via WhatsApp, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne said he was also seeking an update on the matter.

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"Hinds: No word on repatriation of 15 bodies found off Tobago"

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