Quake-experienced trio to ID MH17 bodies

20:34, Jul 24 2014

Three New Zealand police staff, who had major roles in identifying Christchurch earthquake victims, are heading to the Netherlands to identify bodies from the flight MH17 disaster.

The trio of Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) specialists join the major international effort by Interpol Secretariat General headquarters in France, which is co-ordinating the operation.

Kiwi Mary Menke, who based herself in Mallacoota, Victoria, and her Dutch husband Gerry were among the 298 who died in the crash, along with British-born New Zealander Robert Ayley, after the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down over the Ukraine a week ago.

The Kiwis spent yesterday travelling to the Netherlands, and are expected to be in Hilversum for three weeks while the identification process takes place.

Superintendent national operations manager Barry Taylor said the DVI experts had extensive experience in body identification, which is "an exacting, challenging process which takes time".

"New Zealand police have internationally recognised expertise in this field gained through events such as its work in Thailand following the Boxing Day tsunami and the Victoria bush fires," Taylor said.


The trio had "extensive involvement" with the Christchurch earthquake DVI operation.

The trio will join an international team headed by the Dutch authorities.

Interpol executive director of police services Jean-Michel Louboutin said this week the organisation would "continue to provide whatever support is necessary to ensure that the remains of all 298 victims are returned to their loved ones".

Countries which lost nationals on flight MH17 have been requested to gather ante-mortem data for the victims.

Taylor said the initial deployment may be followed by a second three-week rotation involving other staff.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand police have internationally recognised disaster identification expertise. "Our DVI assistance, which will be provided by NZ Police, is New Zealand's contribution to ensuring the victims are returned to their loved ones," he said.

The Press